Rail spur completion approaching

Replacing the spur that connects the Kootenai Business Park to Burlington Northern Sante Fe’s Great Northern rail line is the first on a long list of upgrades the Port Authority is working on to enourage new development in the park. (Seaborn Larson/The Western News)

The organization bringing new rail to the Kootenai Business Park has announced a tentative June date for completion.

“We may have trains coming in this summer” Tina Oliphant said.

Re-establishing the rail spur seemed too good to be true when they first announced that they received the highly-competitive Economic Development Administration grant for $750,000 in September.

Now, Oliphant, executive director of the Lincoln County Port Authority, announced to the County Commissioners on Wednesday that they plan to have a completion date by June.

Coordinating with BNSF and the port’s partial-funder could slow the process down, Oliphant said, but as of Wednesday, they’re right on schedule.

“All we can be is prompt as we can on getting stuff to them,” Oliphant said.

It’s been there for 40-50 years, but was shut down one and a half years ago because the curvature of the line was too tight for today’s larger rail cars.

The old line will come out and a new line will go in, heading west instead of east.

“The way that I look at it is that Burlington Northern’s line runs right through our backyard and we can’t access it,” Director of operations Brett McCullly said. “It’s like being on the interstate without an onramp, so you see all this commerce going by and we can’t join in. It’s really our biggest infrastructure asset that we have and can’t use.”

It will also allow the company, S.K. Fingerjoint, to ship everything direct, instead of trucking it up to Eureka and then having their product go on the main line in Trego.

McCully said that any future customers will benefit from that spur.

The project on the extension of the Old Champion Haul Road, which follows Libby Creek on the East side, is also underway. The proposed 8-foot-wide path would extend the existing old Champion Haul Road trail nearly two miles further, starting at East Fifth Street Extension, running south between Libby Creek and the Kootenai Industrial Business Park, and coming out behind Heritage Museum onto Highway 2. Oliphant and McCully said the tentative completion date for the trail, paid for by the Community Transportation Enhancement Program funds, will be sometime next year.

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