under coal bank slough

Overview: The Port is currently working on a project to replace the Coalbank Slough Rail Bridge with a new fixed bridge.  The 102’ bridge was originally built in the early 1900’s and functioned as a swing span bridge.  The swing span mechanism in the bridge failed in 1986 while it was owned by Southern Pacific. Since 1986, the bridge has been locked in the current position and has operated as a fixed bridge.  To construct the new bridge, the Port plans to spend $3.5 million from an ODOT Lottery Bond. The key issues related to this project are as follows:

1.     Failed Sub Structure – The sub structure of the bridge was failing prior to the Port of Coos Bay acquiring the bridge.  The existing structure does not meet Federal Rail Administration requirements. 

2.     Federal Rail Administration (FRA) load ratings – A 2012 mandate from the Federal Rail Administration requires that all railroads develop a bridge management and operational plan.  The FRA dictates that all rail bridges must be load rated.  The Coal Bank Slough bridge will not meet established FRA load ratings.

3.     Cost of Repairs – The Port has completed various assessments on the bridge and has found that it is not cost effective or economically viable to continue making repairs to the existing bridge to bring it into compliance

4.     Fixed Bridge vs. Swing Span Bridge – A cost analysis of a swing span bridge vs. a fixed bridge has shown that a new swing span bridge could cost as much as $10 million, while a fixed bridge will be approximately $3.5 million.  Additionally, navigation in the slough past the bridge heading toward Bunker Hill has been height restricted for over 30 years following the mechanical failure of the swing span function. 

5.     Coast Guard Permit – To replace the existing bridge with a fixed bridge, the Port must obtain a permit from the US Coast Guard allow a restriction in this navigable waterway.  The swing span bridge had a USCG permit, but it has since expired.

Coast Guard Permitting Process: The Port has begun the process of obtaining a navigable waterway restriction permit.  Part of this process includes notification to property owners along Coalbank Slough that could be impacted.  The Port sent out approximately 150 letters to property owners to provide notification of the project and request written comments.  Two responses were received providing feedback.

A second letter will be sent out to the property owners along the slough, providing notice of a public meeting.  The Port will host the meeting to provide further information about the project and the benefits of the project, answer questions and receive public comment.   The meeting date has not been set yet.  Once it has been scheduled, notice of the meeting will be published in the World, as well as on our website, www.portofcoosbay.com. 

Benefits of this project:

·       Replacement of the old bridge with a new fixed bridge will bring it back into FRA compliance for load ratings and improve the rail line

·       A fixed bridge is significantly more economical to construct

·       Removal of the old bridge will provide the Port with the opportunity to remove old wooden and steel beam material from the slough, improving water quality and fish habitat

·       The project is fully funded through a State Lottery Bond

·       Coalbank slough has not been utilized as a navigable waterway in over 30 years so there will be no impact to maritime traffic.

·       Half of our rail traffic originates south of the Coalbank Slough bridge, so it is imperative that we keep it operational, safe, and functional.

The Port of Coos Bay is committed to making necessary improvements along the rail line to ensure that our customers’ freight can move in and out of the South Coast.  Our rail line provides a cost effective and environmentally sound mode of transportation for some of the region’s leading businesses.  It is essential that we keep our bridges in good condition to further our efforts to promote sustainable development and enhance the economy of the Southwestern Oregon Region.