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Devonshire rail bridge in Montesano would get repairs under federal grant application

A year after anti-oil train advocates documented nearly every inch of potential infrastructure problems on the Devonshire rail bridge in Montesano, the railroad is teaming up with the Port of Centralia to apply for federal funds to do major repairs on the bridge. The port district in Lewis County is teaming up with Genesee & Wyoming, the parent company of Puget Sound and Pacific Railroad, to apply for $9 million in federal funding to improve rail infrastructure between Aberdeen and Centralia. The rail line would provide nearly $3.9 million in matching funds.

The Port of Grays Harbor is supporting the grant application.

“We’ve been constantly working to improve rail infrastructure within our industrial parks, and this is a grant opportunity with the TIGER fund, in conjunction with the G&W railroad, that will improve our Centralia yard and our Park II development dramatically,” Centralia Port Director Kyle Heaton said.

If successful, the railroad would use the funds to upgrade the Wishkah rail bridge in Aberdeen, raising the speed at which trains could cross it to 25 miles per hour.

“That will allow them, obviously, to get out of your town faster,” Heaton said.

The Devonshire rail bridge in Montesano, known as “Bridge 59” in the G&W system, would also get “major renovation work,” Heaton said. The bridge crosses the Wynooche River. Advocates against the potential oil exports coming by train through the Harbor took dozens of photos that show the bridge in a deteriorated condition. In August, officials with the railroad told The Vidette that they conducted a thorough inspection of the bridge and hired an independent contractor, who agreed repairs were needed — but the bridge was safe to still use. To go faster, some repairs would be needed.

Currently, there’s a “slow order” in place reducing the speed to 10 miles per hour on the bridge. The upgrades would raise the allowable speed to 25 miles per hour.

“The rest of the track on either side is 25, so you have to slow down for that one spot,” Heaton explained.

About 8,000 feet of rail siding, or “passing track,” would be added in Montesano, G&W project manager Patrick Kerr said. That would allow one train to pass another.

“This allows us to get cars in and out of the Port (of Grays Harbor) more efficiently and better, versus getting one all the way out, then going all the way in,” Kerr said.

Overall, the objective for the grant is increasing the efficiency of the rail system for the whole area. Puget Sound & Pacific operates the short-line rail through the Centralia and Grays Harbor areas.

The Vidette contrivuted to this story.