Northern Columbia Basin Rail Project (NCBRP) – Washington State
The Federal Railroad Administration is administering a Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 Fostering Advancements in Shipping and Transportation for the Long-term Achievement of National Efficiencies (FASTLANE) grant to the Port of Moses Lake (Port) for the construction and restoration of approximately 8 miles of rail corridor in Port of Moses Lake, WA (Project). This Project will restore rail service to Moses Lake, the Grant County International Airport (GCIA), and to thousands of acres of current and future industrial lands along the Wheeler Industrial Corridor. Additionally, the Project will allow rail traffic to and from the GCIA industrial area to avoid passing through downtown Moses Lake. The Project will:
- Construct approximately 4.5 miles of new rail line connecting the existing Columbia Basin Railroad Company (CBRW) rail line in Wheeler to CBRW’s existing rail line just west of Crab Creek, and reroute traffic from the existing aging rail infrastructure to this new route (Segment 1); and
- Rehabilitate approximately 3 miles of existing track connecting Segment 1 to the Airport (Segment 3).
- In 2009, following an environmental review, including an Environmental Assessment (EA), the Surface Transportation Board (STB) authorized the Port to construct, acquire, and rehabilitate approximately 11 miles of rail line in and near the city of Moses Lake, WA, as part of the original Northern Columbia Basin Railroad Project (NCBRP).
- As part of the FY 2017 FASTLANE grant, the Port proposed to modify the previously approved alignment to reduce land use conflicts that developed since STB’s 2009 decision. The passage of a decade and new proposed alignment modifications necessitated the development of a Supplemental EA (SEA) for the Project. FRA agreed to be a Cooperating Agency with STB’s efforts in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), to fulfill the requirements of 42 USC 4321 et seq., Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) Implementing Regulations for NEPA (40 CFR Part 1500-1508), and FRA’s Procedures for Considering Environmental Impacts (64 FR 28545, May 26, 1999, as updated in 78 FR 2713, January 14, 2013).
- STB initiated a public comment period for the Draft Supplemental EA (DSEA) on July 11, 2019, the public comment period closed on August 12, 2019. STB received six comments on the DSEA; five comments were received from Federal and State agencies and one comment was received from the Port. Additionally, one letter with environmental comments was received from an individual.
- STB and FRA considered all comments received and responded to all substantive comments in Chapters 3 and 4 of a Final Supplemental EA (FSEA) released by STB on November 5, 2019.
- On November 26, 2019, STB authorized the Port of Moses Lake to modify the route and approved the Project, subject to environmental mitigation measures stated in the FSEA. They memorialized their approval in the form of STB Decision Docket No. FD 34936 on December 3, 2019, which became effective on January 2, 2020.
- On June 25, 2020, FRA issued its own NEPA decision document, a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI).
- On August 28, 2020, FRA approved the grant agreement for the Project. Construction of Segment 2, as described in the FSEA and FONSI, is not funded under the grant. Segment 2 is planned as a new 3.1-mile rail line that will extend from the existing CBRW rail line (Segment 3) to the eastern side of the Airport to provide extended access to the Airport industrial areas. Environmental analysis was completed for Segment 2, but at the request of the Port it was removed from the Project.