Spokane Journal of Business

Group forms to save West Paoins rail supr

BNSF to abandon branch; short-line operator sought; track relocation is studied

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In an effort to preserve rail access to industrial areas on Spokanes West Plains, a committee formed by a variety of business and governmental interests here is exploring ways of rerouting the Geiger rail spur at a cost estimated between $2 million and $6 million.

Spokane economic development consultant Joe Tortorelli, who also serves as vice chairman of the armed forces committee of the Spokane Regional Chamber of Commerce, chairs the committee, which held its first meeting last month.

Tortorelli says the rail-spur committee is working with Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Co., which is terminating its operation of the Geiger spur, to find a short-haul railway operator that would be willing to operate the line on either a temporary or permanent basis.

Continued service is needed to maintain rail-shipping access for a number of industrial operators along the north side of McFarlane Road, he says. Rail access also is sought for undeveloped industrial areas south of McFarlane within the boundaries of Spokane International Airport.

In the meantime, the committee will begin exploring ways to continue operation of the spur and possibly relocate it, Tortorelli says.

The BNSF main line extends west from Spokane and crosses U.S. 2 at the northwest edge of Fairchild Air Force Base. The Geiger spur runs from the main line there to the east along Fairchilds northern boundary. It then turns south and runs just inside the bases eastern boundary to the north side of McFarlane Road. It runs along the north side of McFarlane before terminating at Hayford Road.

The committee will look at ways to construct a new spur that would connect the McFarlane Road section of track to the Palouse-Coulee City line, about three miles south of McFarlane, he says. That would allow for an abandonment of the section of the old spur thats located on Fairchild Air Force Base, where its presence creates security concerns, Tortorelli says.

The industrial concerns served by the McFarlane track include Northwest Industrial Service LLC, Seaport Steel Inc., Metals Fabrication Co., Garco Building Systems, and E-Z Loaders Boat Trailers Inc., he says.

  • Rob Strenge

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