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On the tracks: oil cars stored outside of Othello

The Othello Outlook of Othello, Washington

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Any driver on SR 26 will have noticed the just over 100 oil cars parked on the rail line south of the highway near Thacker Road.

The cars have been situated there since about Oct. 10 and are being stored there by Frontier Rail. The cars come from oil fields in the Midwest and will be stored along the line until Nov. 9 or 10.

The rail line is owned by the Port of Royal Slope and acquired the title for the Royal Slope Railroad in August or September, Cathy Potter, Port of Royal Slope director, said.

The port recently entered into an agreement with Frontier Rail as the operator of the railroad. As they work through the process of submitting an application through the Surface Transportation Board, Frontier Director Paul Didelius requested to use the line to store the cars to generate revenue for the line.

This revenue will be used to rehabilitate and improve the line so that active rail traffic can return to the area. Frontier Rail operates in 10 different states, including Washington, Oregon, California and Idaho.

The port has been trying to find an operator to handle business along the line for some time now, with ARG Transportation Services of Eugene, Ore., expressing interest in operating the railroad. However, after a five-month survey of the potential business on the line, ARG decided to pull out of the agreement.

According to an article that ran in the Royal Register, the study established business on the line would be at around 200 cars of cargo annually. In the study ARG, estimated they would need around 750 care of cargo cargo annually in order to break even. The company operates lines in Oregon and Arizona but none in Washington. In the register article, ARG President Scott Parkinson said that if the company had operations within Washington, it might have been able to reduce costs by sharing staff and equipment.

The cars currently are sitting empty and came off of the BNSF mainline. Normally, they run between the refineries on the west coast and the oil fields; they were parked where they are because it puts the cars in a depression, preventing them from rolling and blocking any crossings.

With an operator on the rail line, the port hopes to have the line active again within the next few months. According to Potter, those with questions and concerns are welcome to contact her directly for more information.

The contact information for the Port of Royal Slope director and its commissioners can be found on its webpage www.portofroyal.com.



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Original Publication Date: November 5, 2015



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