Construction to reopen the Siskiyou rail line nearly complete
Rail line may see first trains in early November
Video of Siskiyou line under construction:
Major repairs to the Siskiyou Rail Line are on schedule so that the line will see its first trains as early as the first week of November.
Freight service on the historic line, which first opened in December 1887 and runs 95 miles from Ashland to Weed, stopped in 2008.
The Siskiyou Summit Railroad Revitalization project is repairing and revitalizing a 65-mile section of the 296-mile stretch of the short line railroad, including rail, tunnels, ties and bridges as well as upgrading its freight capacity to handle the 286,000-pound industry standard for rail cars.
Currently, timber companies and other southern Oregon manufacturers must ship by freight rail north to Eugene to meet the Union Pacific line into the Southwest.
In 2012, a $7 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant was awarded to the Oregon Department of Transportation and California’s Siskiyou County for the Siskiyou Summit Railroad Revitalization project. Central Oregon and Pacific Railroad (CORP) provided a 25 percent match. Additional funding came from Douglas and Jackson counties.
Don Seil is the project development general manager for the Genessee Wyoming Railroad Pacific Region, the parent company of CORP, which is based in Salem.
“Opening the line will provide major opportunities for southern Oregon and northern California shippers,” said Seil. “The basic plan is five-day-a-week service between Weed and Medford. So, if you live in Ashland, you’ll see two trains a day, one in each direction.”
Seil said each train will be loaded to 12 to 14 cars in length.
“If you moved here after 2008, it will be a new experience,” said Seil.
Improvements on this section of line in southern Oregon and northern California will renew and improve interstate freight rail options and business competitiveness, help retain and increase regional employment to manufacturing and wood product industries which provide family wage jobs.
Rail service has been shown to be both safer and more efficient, reducing congestion by 3.5 trucks for each rail car used.
The Siskiyou Line dates back to the late 1880s and is the original rail link between San Francisco and Portland until the Cascade Line opened from Eugene through Oakridge and Klamath falls to Weed in 1927.
“The southern Region is the third highest truck volume region, but has the lowest density rail corridor.”
~ Oregon Rail Tunnel Assessment, Shannon and Wilson, Inc. Consultants.