The Oregon International Port of Coos Bay yesterday announced its new subsidiary Coos Bay Rail Line Inc. (CBRL) will begin operating the 134-mile port-owned rail line between Danebo and Coquille, Oregon, Nov. 1.
The previous operator Coos Bay Rail Link (CBR) notified the port of its intention to divest its relationship with the port and cease operations on the line by October’s end. CBR owner ARG Transportation Services continues to pursue legal recourse because the company believes the port breached its contract with the short line, ARG President Scott Parkinson said in an email.
Earlier this year, mediation failed to resolve a dispute between the port and CBR about the direction of the line’s operation. ARG concluded that the port is determined to operate the line itself so the only choices to move ahead were ceasing CBR’s operations on the line or having the short line continue operations with “a cloud of uncertainty” surrounding the company’s relationship with the port, said Parkinson.
For now, the port has purchased locomotives and added 15 new staff members to manage the line’s operations on a day-to-day basis.
Owning and operating the line has many strategic advantages: The new subsidiary will benefit from greater commercial exposure and improved customer service, and can leverage the port’s financial and human resources, port officials said in a press release.
“In assuming an operational role, the port is preserving a transportation option that is integral to the economic fabric of the area,” said John Burns, the port’s chief executive officer. “We seek to enhance operation of the rail line by offering an increased level of customer service, coordination and communication for our customers while preserving critical jobs within our community.”
Since the line is more than 100 years old, blending routine maintenance with capital improvement projects will improve the route’s infrastructure, “which has been neglected by prior owners and operators,” port officials claim.
“Continued investments in the bridge, tunnel and track infrastructure are crucial to facilitate safe and reliable freight transportation to and from the region,” they said. “Over $60 million has been invested in the line’s infrastructure and there are several rehabilitation projects under way including the Coos Bay swing span bridge.”