Vital Rail, Economic Link Restored Between Southern Oregon Coast and the Willamette Valley
In September, 2007, the southern Oregon coast economy suffered a significant blow with the closure of the Central Oregon & Pacific Railroad, which runs between Eugene and Coos Bay. The closure hurt a number of Oregon manufacturing companies and created uncertainty for many Coos Bay area businesses.
The Port of Coos Bay rallied to buy and reopen the rail line with the financial backing of the IFA, the Oregon Department of Transportation and the federal government, portions of the line began reopening in October 2011, and in November 2012, the first Coos Bay Rail Link engine arrived in Coos Bay. By October 2013, the Coos Bay Rail Link moved a record number of 512 loads on railcars the best month since the railroad began re-opening two years prior.
The rail line's closure impacted more than 700 manufacturing jobs that depend on the line. That's about 40% of manufacturing employment in the affected area. Approximately 6,000 rail cars moved goods from the region to national markets annually.
The Infrastructure Finance Authority helped the Port of Coos Bay secure funding in several ways. The first step in the process was to submit the Feeder Line application, the IFA helped with $50,000 from the Port Planning and Marketing Fund and $350,000 from the Governor's Strategic Reserve Fund.
To help close the transaction and purchase the rail way, the IFA helped the Port secure two Special Public Works Fund loans totaling approximately $12.6 million. These loans provided the Port with sufficient funds for purchasing the line in the summer of 2009. The Port has since secured additional state and federal funding to pay for repairs and move toward its goal of reopening the line in 2010.
Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-Springfield) announced on April 15, 2011, that $2.5 million in federal funding has been made available to the Oregon International Port of Coos Bay to rehabilitate and repair the Coos Bay Rail Line. Also in the spring of 2011, the Port selected ARG Trans to operate the rail line. ARG Trans is an experienced rail-related transportation enterprise founded in 2003 when it acquired its principal subsidiary, San Pedro & Southwestern Railroad (SPSR), from RailAmerica. The railroad's chief sources of traffic are agricultural chemicals, feed grains and building products. In addition, SPSR operates a transload facility serving southeast Arizona.