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The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) yesterday released the details of a rail plan it developed with the Palouse and Coulee City (PCC) Rail Authority. Created to benefit state farmers through improved rail service, the plan lists recommended maintenance and repair projects, as well as policies that would help increase farm-to-market rail transportation.The department has identified necessary infrastructure projects for the 297-mile, state-owned PCC rail system that are projected to cost $58 million. Track rehabilitation ranks high among the plan's goals."The plan indicates that private and public investments in the rail system have not kept pace with preservation and maintenance needs," WSDOT officials said in a press release. "Trains now must run at slower speeds in some areas due to rail conditions."The longest short-line system in the state, the PCC route comprises three branch lines used to carry freight through Spokane, Lincoln, Grant and Whitman counties. WSDOT contracts private railroads to operate each of the branches: the Palouse River and Coulee City Railroad operates the PV Hooper Branch; the Eastern Washington Gateway Railroad operates the CW Branch; and the Washington and Idaho Railway operates the P & L Branch.WSDOT devised the plan after meeting with a variety of public-private rail constituents, in addition to assessing the market's needs at several public meetings held last fall. WSDOT will solicit public comments on the plan at two meetings to be held March 18 and will continue to accept written comments until April 2.
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