Clearwater County Commissioners, held a teleconference call with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and the Office of the Secretary of Transportation (OST) regarding the progress made toward the resurrection of the rail lines from Jaype to Lewiston. Mike Williams, owner of the Bountiful Grain Craig Mountain Railroad was not in attendance as anticipated.
Frustration grows as the group has not met since November of 2019, and has made no progress whatsoever on the line.
Clearwater County was awarded the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery or (TIGER) grant of $3.24 million from the Office of the Secretary for the U.S. Department of Transportation (OST) in 2017 for repair of the Jaype to Lewiston Rail Line Project.
As described in the application submitted by BGCM Railroad, the project included the repair of three bridges along the rail line from Jaype to Lewiston, removing debris from 18 bridges and repairing three washouts along the 30 mile Jaype line. The project would also include the replacement of 46,00 ties, add 36,000 tons of ballast, surface about 73 miles of line, clean approximately 50 miles of ditches and replace five public crossings and 10 private crossings.
Several obstacles, including continued deterioration of infrastructure and the remaining environmental documentation, threaten the county’s ability to meet the grant’s obligation deadline of Sept 30, 2020.
Commissioners were assured that OST was committed to seeing the project successfully completed and asked how they could be of help.
Commissioner and Chairman Rick Winkel stated that due to the lack of communication and commitment of the railroad, they were less inclined to accept the grant. Much time and effort have been expended by the county over the past several years with little to no action on the railroad’s part.
Winkel pointed out that the Department of Transportation has helped the county on numerous occasions with maintaining the county’s infrastructure and he did not want to tarnish the relationship or consideration for future grants because of the way this project has fallen apart.
Commissioner John Smith agreed that at this point the county would like to back out of the grant, as quickly and courteously as possible so the funding may be redistributed to a project that is ready to proceed. He also stated that he appreciated all the support and guidance offered by the FRA and OST in trying to make this project successful and hoped it would not negatively impact the county’s future with other potential grants.
Chris St. Germaine, Clearwater County Economic Development Specialist will help draft the letter requesting the funds be redistributed to another deserving project.
It was the decision no one wanted to make, but imperative for the county’s future.