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100 Years of Commerce

Beginning in the late-1800s, logging trains worked in remote forested areas bringing logs to rivers and the Coos Bay, Oregon, harbor.  Coal moved by rail from mines in the region to sailing ships and later steam ships for export to San Francisco.  Coos Bayís maritime commerce has been an anchor for employment and stability for generations of families in the region for more than 100 years.

Ultimately, the building of the Coos Bay rail line created more opportunity.  Products moved by rail from Oregon's Willamette Valley and Roseburg to Coos Bay for export. Rail moved products that came to Coos Bay by ship and from local manufacturers to markets across North America.

As Oregonís economy expanded, ebbed and diversified Ė southwest Oregonís regional prosperity has been built upon the essential infrastructure of the port and rail line.

This 134-mile rail line has supported Oregonís economic vitality, providing businesses with direct, efficient and cost-effective access to regional, national and global markets for generations. To this day, rail remains the most efficient, cost-effective and environmentally sound way to move freight via ground transportation. 

Then came September 2007.  Following decades of neglect and underinvestment, Central Oregon & Pacific Railroad and its out-of-state hedge fund owners and management closed the rail line with one dayís notice to shippers.

The investors wanted to tear up the line and sell it for scrap.  They did not see the economic and societal value of maintaining freight rail service. The immediate economic impacts of this closure on south coast communities, including Douglas County communities, was severe.

Recognizing the severe impact the rail line closure was having on local business and families, the Oregon International Port of Coos Bay reached out to community members and business partners. Following community and regional discussions, the Port met with state and elected officials and developed an action plan. The Port spearheaded a legal effort to acquire the railroad and reopen this shipping option.

Acquiring the railroad was a lengthy process that was successful due to the unified effort of regional businesses and state and federal officials. The Port filed a feeder line application with Surface Transportation Board (STB), resulting in the railroad immediately filing an action to abandon the line. The Port spent one year and $1.5 million in legal fees pursuing the application and defending against abandonment.

The Port of Coos Bay acquired the freight rail line in 2009-10, following an STB decision. The sale totaled $16.6 million, with the Port utilizing a $4.6 million state loan and $12 million reallocated from the Coos Bay Rail Bridge repair fund. In 2010, the Port received a $7.8 million ConnectOregon III grant and a $13.5 million Transportation Infrastructure Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) II grant to begin rehabilitation of the rail line. In all, the Port has raised $31 million for the effort to repair trestles, bridges, rail, ties and ballast. Once this current phase of work is completed, the rail line will have been restored to a mix of Track Classifications 2 (25 mph) and 3 (40 mph).

Today, service is restored and rail shipments interchange at Eugene, Oregon, with the Union Pacific Railroad, and other regional shortline rail operations.  The rail line is operating as the Coos Bay Rail Link - CBR, and serves the Coos County, western Douglas County and western Lane County region of southwest Oregon, linking the Coos Bay harbor to the North American rail system.

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