Area rail plans are rumbling

    I have heard much about the railroad here lately. A while back you wrote that CORP wasn't taking trains over the summit to California. I saw trains are going to the coast again, and I hear the train blowing its horn every so often, so I figure something must be happening. Can you enlighten your readers?

    — Pete C., Medford

    In recent weeks, Central Oregon and Pacific Railway and Coos-Siskiyou Shippers Coalition representatives have met and come up with a plan to pursue Oregon Department of Transportation funding through a Connect Oregon IV grant. The state has set aside $40 million for transportation infrastructure.

    Bob Ragon, spokesman for the shippers coalition, said CORP, a RailAmerica unit, will seek a $4 million grant to improve tunnels between Grants Pass and Roseburg, with the backing of shippers in the region.

    The tunnel changes are needed to allow high-capacity cars, taller than the normal cars, to run on the line between the Rogue Valley and Eugene.

    "That means they either have to raise the roof or lower the rail, and it's basically cheaper to go down," Ragon said.

    The application is due Nov. 20, he said.

    Successful Connect Oregon grant applicants are generally notified during the following summer, with funds delivered in September or October, Ragon said. "So funding is at least a year away."

    In the meantime, he said, shippers are searching for grants that would allow upgrades to the railroad tracks in Northern California that would allow similar-sized cars to run between Weed and Ashland.

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