Washington Transportation Budget Looks To Fund Central Washington Rail Project
Rail service in central Washington is expected to improve thanks to a $14.5 million inclusion in the 2023-2025 Transportation Budget. The funds will be used for the Connell Rail Interchange project north of the Tri-Cities. The $14.5 million includes $10 million in funding already appropriated by the Legislature in 2015, plus an additional $5 million in the 2023-25 biennium for an actual total of $14.5 million that would be available, reflecting the approximately $500,000 in funds that have already been expended for design and engineering since 2015.
The $14.5 million in funding, if approved of by the Washington State Legislature, would fully construct/complete what many in the farming community call an important infrastructure project. The Connell Rail Interchange is where the Columbia Basin rail line intersects with BNSF Railway’s Lakeside Subdivision line, which runs between Spokane and Pasco. The Columbia Basin rail line goes through the heart of the Columbia Basin in eastern Washington and serves Moses Lake, Wheeler, Schrag, Warden, Othello, Royal City, Bruce, and Connell in Grant, Adams, and Franklin Counties. Supporters of the Interchange say over the past several years, a significant amount of economic development and growth has been occurring in communities on the Columbia Basin rail line, especially in Grant and Adams Counties.
Because of that, the Columbia Basin rail line has become one of the busiest rail short lines in Washington State, hauling thousands of loads of various agricultural, industrial commodities and other cargo annually for 60 active rail shippers in the Columbia Basin, which employ nearly 7,000 people in Grant and Adams Counties. The Connell Rail Interchange was built nearly 100 years ago, and the configuration of the interchange is outdated and inefficient. Consequently, the Connell Rail Interchange needs to be upgraded and improved to accommodate current and future growth in rail cargo that is flowing to and through Connell. As the track and infrastructure design for the Connell Rail Interchange Project is 100% completed, this important infrastructure project is ready for construction.
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