(The Center Square) — A railway improvement project that generated a letter-writing campaign has been included in Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s proposed budget for the 2023 – 2025 biennium.
Nearly 40 letters in support of the Connell Rail Interchange Project were sent to Inslee and the state Office of Financial management and Department of Transportation by various cities, counties and businesses, according to a statement by the Connell Rail Interchange Coalition.
Inslee’s budget proposal includes $14.5 million for the project, $10 million in funds appropriated by the Legislature in 2015 and $5 million for the upcoming biennium. About $500,000 has already been spent on engineering costs, the Coalition stated. The budget must be approved by the state Legislature in its 2023 session.
The Connell Rail Interchange in Connell, Washington, is the intersection of the Columbia Basin rail line and BNSF Railway’s Lakeside Subdivision line., which runs between Spokane and Pasco.
Improvements to the nearly 100-year-old interchange are needed due to increased traffic, according to a statement from the City of Connell.
“The existing railyard configuration is outdated, undersized, inefficient and cannot accommodate today’s modern train service requirements. The current yard configuration causes congestion at primary street crossings that bifurcate the city center,” the undated statement reads, adding that it will move the busy rail switching yard away from residential areas and school transportation and emergency response routes.
The reconfiguration is also intended to improve the efficiency of rail operations, enabling inbound and outbound trains to switch between the BNSF and CBRW lines without blocking one another. This requires a minimum of three tracks of 8,600 feet each, according to the Connell statement.
Plans for the new track and infrastructure design are complete, according to the Coalition statement, and will be fully funded if the proposed budget is approved by the Legislature.