Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp. said Monday that bidders have until May 24 to make an offer on 277 miles of Inland Northwest rail lines for sale west and south of Spokane. A sale could close as soon as July 31.
As announced earlier, the lines offered for sale include a 108-mile branch from Cheney to Coulee City, Wash.; 122 miles from Marshall, Wash., to Arrow, Idaho; and 47 miles from Palouse, Wash., to Bovill, Idaho. The branch between Moscow and Arrow is abandoned; between Harvard, Idaho, and Bovill is shut down.
Washington state officials have said the lines are worth $5 million to $8 million. At least three companies have expressed interest: Blue Mountain Railroad, Montana Rail Link and Washington Central.
State officials said BNSF likely would abandon the lines if no buyer is found. Jim Sabourin, spokesman for the Ft. Worth, Texas-based railroad, said the company has no plans for abandonment.
BNSF said that it will strike reciprocal switching agreements with the short line carriers. The company it wants to sell the track, structures, right-of-way and station grounds, while retaining mineral, water, pipeline and fiber optic rights.