The Chelatchie Prairie Railroad has been owned by Clark County since 1987 and runs 33 miles from Vancouver to Yacolt
VANCOUVER – Governor Jay Inslee approved Tuesday the 2019-21 transportation budget that includes $1.5 million for improvements to the Chelatchie Prairie Railroad. The investment from the Washington State Legislature will fund roadbed rehabilitation of the Clark County-owned railroad to replace deteriorated crossties, ballast, and undercutting, in addition to surfacing between milepost 0.0 to 14.12.
The Chelatchie Prairie Railroad has been owned by Clark County since 1987 and runs 33 miles from Vancouver to Yacolt. The first 14 miles has freight service operated by Clark County’s freight operator, the Portland Vancouver Junction Railroad (PVJR). The railroad provides access to I-5, I-205, the Port of Vancouver and Portland.
During the original construction of the line in the late 1800’s, lighter gage steel was used, tie density per mile was lower (2800 ties per mile vs. 3,000 today), and ballast subbase was inadequate. Railcars in the 1800’s weighed 40,000 pounds while modern cars weigh 286,000 pounds. While new steel is needed, the life of the railroad can be extended by improving the subbase with replacement ties as well as additional ballast.
“Investing in the Chelatchie Prairie Railroad will increase efficiency, improve safety and enhance economic development opportunities for Clark County,” said Eric Temple, president of the PVJR, further “we are grateful to Senator (Linda) Wilson and Representative (Larry) Hoff for requesting the funding in the transportation budget and to Representative (Sharon) Wylie and the entire House and Senate transportation budget negotiating team for their support.”
Budget negotiators included Senator Steve Hobbs, Senator Curtis King, Representative Jake Fey and Representative Andrew Barkis.
Temple added, “Maintaining the Chelatchie Prairie Railroad as part of the national rail network supports a transportation mode that is more energy efficient and less polluting per ton-mile moved compared to other modes such as trucking. Continuing rail services will prevent the release of over 304 tons of carbon emissions.”
Early on, Clark County and PVJR decided on a strategy for the railroad line to remain
operational using grants and public funding combined with a local match to increase economic revitalization and development of existing and new industrial parcels along the Chelatchie Prairie Railroad and provide environmental sustainability through continued truck-to-rail diversion with the new track improvements. Maintaining the system will improve public and system safety and will maintain rail transportation services to zoned industrial areas along the rail corridor.
Information provided by Portland Vancouver Junction Railroad.