Merkley, Wyden, DeFazio Announce Major Federal Grants for Oregon Infrastructure

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, along with Congressman Peter DeFazio, today announced that the federal Department of Transportation is awarding two major grants to Oregon ports.

The Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) grants will go to the Port of Morrow and the Port of Coos Bay. The Port of Morrow in Boardman, OR, will receive $19.4 million, while the Port of Coos Bay will receive $20 million, both for rail investments.

“This is huge news for Oregon’s rural infrastructure,” said Merkley, who has used his position on the Senate Appropriations Committee to fight for federal investments in Oregon’s communities. “These grants are a huge boost to developing the rail infrastructure we need to make Oregon’s economy even more competitive in the 21st Century.”

“This big-time investment in Oregon’s ports and rail infrastructure will have a tremendous impact on the Oregonians living and working in Morrow County, as well as for Oregonians in communities along the Coos Bay Rail line from Coquille to Eugene,” Wyden said. “You can’t have a big-league economy without big-league infrastructure, and I am gratified to have worked with the delegation to achieve these significant wins for jobs and the economy in rural Oregon.”

“This is great news for Southwest Oregon,” said DeFazio, expected Chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure for the 116th Congress. “These funds will be used to improve the rail line and help major employers in the Coos Bay area get their goods to market. This is exactly the type of federal investment we need to improve our long-term economic viability  and put Americans back to work rebuilding our vital infrastructure.”

The Port of Morrow will use its funds to extend its existing rail network from the Union Pacific mainline to reach four marine terminals on the Columbia River. These enhancements would enable the transloading of commodities directly between barge ships and railcars to create cost-effective shipping options for new and existing industries at the Port.

“These resources provide a huge shot in the arm for the Port of Morrow and the local economy throughout northeastern Oregon,” said Ryan Neal, Executive Director of the Port of Morrow. “As Oregon’s second largest port, this expansion of our rail and marine terminal network carries benefits for our entire state. We are very thankful for the strong support shown by Oregon’s congressional delegation of our project.”

The Port of Coos Bay will use its funds to replace or upgrade three swing-span bridges along the 134-mile Coos Bay Rail Line between Eugene and Coquille in order to meet Federal Railroad Administration-mandated load rating requirements. Additionally, the Port will use funds to upgrade steel structures between Coos Bay and Eugene to increase train load capacities and speed targets necessary to maintain continued traffic growth on the line. These will increase overall safety and reliability of the line, and extend the life of the upgraded structures for 20 years or more of continuous operations.

“We greatly appreciate the wonderful support we received from the Oregon Delegation, which was key in our receipt of the BUILD grant,” said John Burns, Chief Executive Officer, Port of Coos Bay. “This project will make improvements to critical infrastructure on the Coos Bay Rail Line, ensuring sustainable freight rail transportation for southwestern Oregon businesses into the future.”

Merkley has used his seat on the Appropriations Committee to triple national funding in 2018 for the BUILD grant program—formerly known as TIGER grants—from $500 million to $1.5 billion. With more overall funding available, Oregon now has a greater chance of winning funding for multiple projects each year.