By Mike Benbow Herald Writer
EVERETT — A $3 million railroad spur that could provide more efficient handling of cargo at the Port of Everett was approved Tuesday.
The port’s commission agreed to authorize the agency to seek bids for construction of 2,500 feet of track that would connect its piers and other facilities with the Burlington Northern Santa Fe’s main line.
The line would also be used to send oversized containers with jet parts to The Boeing Co.’s Everett plant in the event of a problem with port’s barge pier in the Mukilteo area.
Much of the money will come from the federal government’s Department of Homeland Security. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., also helped secure $1.2 million in federal funds for rail recovery. “As we work to create jobs and reinvest in Washington state, it is vital that our ports remain secure and open for business,” Murray said in a news release.
The port will contribute 25 percent of the project’s funding, getting its money through low- and no-interest loans from the state Department of Transportation.
The project was designed to provide backup rail capacity in the event of a disaster at other Puget Sound-area ports. Because of its location near Seattle and Tacoma and its ties with the aerospace industry, the Everett port was considered to be of strategic importance to keep freight moving, port officials said.
The engineering work is nearly complete and the work could begin in April, with completion in September.
John Klekotka, port engineer, said the rail spur will make the port more efficient in handling bulk rail cargo, especially cement imported from Asia by the Lehigh Corp.
The port can load several cars now, but then has to have Burlington Northern bring in a new group of rail cars. “We don’t want to have to rely on the railroad to do the switching,” Klekotka said of the new spur.
In addition to more efficiency, the spur should allow the port to move more goods by rail instead of by truck.