Moses Lake tracking proposed rail service

MOSES LAKE - A proposed state project aimed at improving direct rail service to the Grant County International Airport could attract new industry to Moses Lake and perhaps more jobs to the Basin, port and state transportation officials said this week.

With land ready for industrial development, Moses Lake's is primed for growth, said Albert Anderson, industrial development manager for the Port of Moses Lake.

There's a total of 1,000 acres of land zoned for light or heavy industry near Moses Lake. Half of the property is near the airport and the other half by the industrial Wheeler corridor east of town, he said.

The airport has rail service from Wheeler, but a train must follow an older rail line from Wheeler to the airport. The older route is indirect, and a direct 5-mile trip ends up being about 12 miles, he said.

The state Department of Transportation completed a feasibility study of the proposed project in 2004, and should finish an environmental assessment by Oct. 2008, said Andrew Wood, deputy rail and marine director of the state agency.

The project is still in its early stages, and hasn't been funded, he said. A cost estimate also hasn't been generated, he said.

The project also entails building a new line from Wheeler to Parker Horn in Moses Lake, and extending the Columbia Basin Railroad's track to industrial area south and east of the airport.

An open house is set today where people can learn more about the proposal and talk with transportation officials.

The Yakima-based Columbia Basin Railroad is a short-line railroad which ships freight from towns including Moses Lake, Warden, Othello and Connell.

Railroad President Brig Temple said a future phase of the proposal will examine connecting Moses Lake's rail service to Burlington-Northern service in Ephrata. That line crosses the Cascades.

w Lynne Lynch: 509-488-0657;