Railroad renovation planned if grant, loan win approval
Spokane County officials hope to give their Geiger Spur railroad a $416,808 renovation next year.
The project depends on approval of a grant and a low-interest loan from the state Department of Transportation.
Assistant county engineer Chad Coles, the project manager, said plans call for removing abandoned track from Fairchild Air Force Base and rebuilding a 2.3-mile section of badly deteriorated track.
The county is obligated to remove the abandoned track from Fairchild as a condition of a complicated arrangement to save the rail line while eliminating what the Air Force considered a security threat.
Ballast rock contaminated by creosote-soaked railroad ties is to be removed along with the abandoned track. Coles said the rock will be removed in 3-inch layers until no contamination remains, and one “lift” is expected to solve the problem.
Cross ties removed from the base will be reused on the section of track to be rebuilt, which counts as a $49,600 county contribution to the project.
Coles said the county has applied for a $187,208 state Department of Transportation grant and a $180,000 loan to cover the balance. He said interest on the 15-year loan is expected to be less than 1 percent.
County officials hope the grant and loan will be approved next month, and work can begin next spring.
All but $127,388 of the nearly $6.2 million spent on the project so far also has been paid with grants and low-interest loans, Coles said. Rerouting the spur line two years ago required construction of some 3.5 miles of new track.
The Geiger Spur connects with the CW line of the Palouse River & Coulee City Railroad, which is now owned by the Department of Transportation.
Coles said next year’s renovation project is expected to reduce the county’s $36,000-a-year average maintenance cost to about $11,000 a year.
Commissioners have instructed Coles to negotiate with the track operator and two large metal fabrication companies that use the Geiger Spur to determine a new arrangement for covering the maintenance cost.
“The $36,000 a year, the county can’t afford to do that forever,” he said.