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Train coming? Port in talks to buy land near Wheeler Road

by CHARLES H. FEATHERSTONE
Staff Writer | April 14, 2021 1:00 AM

MOSES LAKE — The Port of Moses Lake has begun assessing the value of land along Wheeler Road it hopes to acquire for the port’s proposed railroad expansion.

According to Milton Miller, facilities manager at the Port of Moses Lake, the port hopes to get a stretch of land five miles long and about 100 feet wide along Wheeler Road, from Central Terminals, just west of Road N Northeast, to just east of the intersection of Kinder Road and Stratford Road, for the first segment of the railroad project.

Miller said the port is looking at talking with 23 landowners as part of the project. However, construction needs mean the port will also have to have short-term leases on additional land for staging and storage as the new rail is built.

If all goes well, Miller said construction on Segment 1, as the Wheeler Corridor project is called, should hopefully begin this time next year.

“We can’t put the project out for bid until we own the ground we’re building on,” Miller said.

In addition, the port hopes to begin rehabilitation work on Segment 3, the long stretch of track from Stratford Road into the port itself, once the Columbia Basin Railroad (CBR) transfers ownership of that line to the port.

“That should be much easier, since there’s only one owner,” Miller said.

The Port of Moses Lake hopes to enter into an agreement with the CBR to continue to operate trains on the new and refurbished line, Miller said.

“The port is not looking to get into the business of being a railroad,” he explained.

The port has received $30 million in grants — $10 million from the federal government and $20 million from the state of Washington — to pay for the project, which has been planned for years.

The goal of the project is to provide rail access to the port while by-passing the railroad that comes through downtown Moses Lake. The CBR connects Moses Lake, Othello and Warden to the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway in Connell.

Miller said Segment 2, which will extend rail to larger industrial customers like Moses Lake Industries and SGL Carbon on the east side of the port is currently on hold.

Charles H. Featherstone can be reached at cfeatherstone@columbiabasinherald.com.