Coos Bay rail line Bridge Rehabilitation
The Coos Bay Rail Line is a shortline class III railroad owned by the Oregon International Port of Coos Bay and operated through a management agreement with Coos Bay Rail Link, a division of ARG Trans, Inc. The 134-mile-long line provides connections to the North American rail network for manufacturing operations in Coos, Douglas, and Lane Counties, and for marine terminals in the Coos Bay harbor. The line began operations in 1916, passing through several owners until it was shut down in 2007 due to safety issues related to deferred maintenance. The line was acquired in a feeder line proceeding before the Surface Transportation board in 2009, and was returned to service in October of 2011.
Since acquiring the line the Port of Coos Bay has invested over $31 million to restore bridges, tunnels, and rail structures after decades of neglect and deferred maintenance by the previous owners. Another $22.5 million has been committed to continue the rehabilitation efforts on the line to ensure continued service. Since restoration of service, the line has seen an increase in revenue car loads from 2,480 in 2012 to a peak of 7,509 cars in 2014. Revenue loads for 2015 reached 7,341 cars, and the traffic on the line is expected to maintain at around 7,500 cars annually until additional industries are brought into service along the rail corridor.
The line traverses 121 bridges between the interchange in Eugene and end of line in Coquille. The bridge structures vary in type and configuration, but include (3) steel swing span bridges, a variety of steel truss, though plate girder, and deck plate girders spans, concrete box spans, and a multitude of timber trestles. Many of the structures were first built when the line was constructed in 1914 through 1916, and many of the steel structures are now 100 years old. While most of the bridges on the line meet Federal Rail Administration mandated rating criteria for current operation loads and train speeds, several structures limit train speeds. These structures must be constantly inspected and repaired to remain in service, and require significant improvements and upgrades to meet the optimal targeted train speed of 25 miles per hour.
The proposed project is the construction of improvements or replacements for selected key bridge structures to upgrade capacity on the line; to meet FRA mandated load rating requirements; to increase overall safety and reliability on the line; and to extend the useful life of the selected structures for 20 years or more of continuous operations. The project builds on repairs made in 2010 to return the line to service, and other upgrades made to meet current FRA standards. The planned work includes improvements on all three of the Swing Span bridges, replacement of the Vaughn Viaduct Bridge near Noti, Oregon, replacement of the Coal Bank Slough bridge in Coos Bay, Oregon, and capacity upgrades to steel structures between Coos Bay and Eugene to meet planned train load capacities and speed targets necessary to maintain continued traffic growth on the line.
Load ratings for the three swing span bridges on the line were completed in 2014, and ratings for the remaining steel structures were completed in 2015. The rating reports identified improvements to the swing span structures necessary to meet FRA criteria for planned operations, including a design revision to the existing floor systems on the Umpqua and Siuslaw swing span structures necessary to meet current American Railway Engineering and Maintenance of Way Association (AREMA) standards. The reports also indicated the current configuration of the Vaughn Viaduct and Coal Bank Slough bridges would not meet FRA criteria, prompting efforts to replace those structures. The Vaughn Viaduct replacement project has passed 30% design and is currently being permitted. Additional improvements to other structures have been identified to improve capacity on sections of the line to meet projected needs for expected traffic levels over the next 5 years. Construction on these projects is planned to begin late 2016 or early 2017, depending on permitting and funding criteria.
The overall project is currently estimated to cost $24.4 million dollars. The Oregon International Port of Coos Bay intends to fund the project through a combination of grants, loans, and revenue generated by rail line operations. Currently, the Port has committed $7 million from the Oregon Lottery Bond backed grant authorized in 2013, $3 million in funds from the Oregon Lottery Bond backed grant authorized in 2015, and $400,000 in Rail Revenues to the Project. The Port intends to seek a Federally funded grants for the remaining $14 million necessary to complete the project.