Washington Rail Systems to Receive $76.8M in Infrastructure Upgrades Thanks to Cantwell-Championed Program

Palouse River & Coulee City Railroad – a vital corridor for WA-grown wheat – gets $72.8 million to help safely transport bigger, faster rail cars; Tacoma Rail gets $4.095 million to swap two diesel cars with electric cars & reduce dangerous emissions

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the U.S. Federal Railroad Administration announced two investments in Washington state’s rail system infrastructure that will improve efficiency of a major agricultural corridor in Eastern Washington and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Tacoma.

The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) received $72.8 million to design and construct upgrades along the Palouse River & Coulee City Railroad (PCC).

“Thanks to this funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, our State of Washington wheat will reach local and international markets faster. The legislation nearly tripled funding for freight rail infrastructure, allowing the Palouse River & Coulee City Railroad to make this upgrade that will allow trains to safely travel twice as fast on sections of the 297-mile route. The railroad is a critical part of the Washington Grain Train program, which serves over 2,500 farmers and moves tons of grain to ships at deep-water ports destined for overseas markets,” Sen. Cantwell said.

This PCC project is part of a multi-phase effort to improve the railroad system so it can handle heavier, faster rail cars and better withstand extreme weather conditions. Grant funding will help replace light-weight worn rail and rotten railroad ties, as well as rebuild dilapidated roadway crossings and surface tracks. Federal funds will cover 65% of the total project cost.

The PCC serves a critical part of the wheat supply chain in Eastern Washington. This project will help ensure rural Eastern Washington agricultural products remain competitive in the global marketplace, by helping products reach customers faster. Rehabilitation of this freight corridor is important to maintain the region’s economic viability. By keeping rail shipments available and competitive, this project will reduce road maintenance, enhance economic development, improve the environment, and bring long-term jobs to rural communities.

Additionally, Tacoma Rail received $4.095 million to replace two high-polluting diesel electric switcher locomotives with two zero-emission battery-electric switcher locomotives, in addition to the installation of corresponding onsite charging infrastructure. 

“This Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding will allow Tacoma Rail to operate the first ever zero-emission locomotives in the State of Washington, which is great news for everyone who works or lives near the Port of Tacoma. Tacoma Rail will replace two diesel locomotives that are nearly 60 years old with two battery-electric locomotives and charging infrastructure, which will reduce maintenance costs and eliminate 1,240 pounds of diesel particulate matter each year to improve local air quality,” Sen. Cantwell said.

This Tacoma Rail project will advance freight rail electrification technology in the region, as well as reduce toxic diesel emissions and greenhouse gases, which contributes to local and regional climate action goals.  The Federal Highway Administration also provided $3.645 million for the project and Tacoma Rail is providing a 34% match.

Both these grants come from the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) Program, which funds projects that improve the safety, efficiency, and reliability of intercity passenger and freight rail.

The U.S. Department of Transportation is providing $1.443 billion in CRISI grants to 70 projects across the nation this year, a 290% increase in funding from last year thanks to the $1 billion provided to the program in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

As chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, Sen. Cantwell championed the funding increase and expanded the CRISI program to allow for rehabilitating, remanufacturing, procuring, or overhauling locomotives, provided that such activities result in a significant reduction of emissions, thus making the Tacoma Rail project eligible.

Sen. Cantwell also wrote letters of support to the Federal Railroad Administration to advocate for both projects. Her letter championing the PCC project is available HERE and her letter championing the Tacoma Rail project is available HERE.