The operators of the Kettle Falls International Railway have given notice that they will be abandoning the railroad.
“We’ve been given notice by OmniTRAX and BNSF (Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway) that they’re going to shut it down in 120 days,” said Mayor Brain Taylor, who hopes this is a tactic by the operator to close the deal.
“The last we heard from the shippers group, it appeared they were really close to an agreement.”
Taylor said council is optimistic that the threat to close is simply part of a negotiating strategy.
“They can make sure the deal closes,” he said.
“They’re basically covering their bets in both directions here. If they sell it, if they are able to make a deal, then great, but if they can’t make a deal then they’re closing it down. Whoever’s at the negotiating table at this time is saying, let’s wrap it up here or we’re out of here in 120 days.”
Taylor said that since the city isn’t part of the principal group they couldn’t really be sure what was going on.
“We’ve always said, ‘you bake a cake, we’ll come to the party,’ but they haven’t put anything out, in terms of a deal,” he said.
The city is still awaiting a business plan that would highlight how to keep the line running from potential operators.
Taylor said if the train route closes, the companies that depend on the line would have to switch to shipping by truck.
The two main users of the railroad in Grand Forks, are Interfor and Pacific Abrasives.
“Trucking is more expensive,” Taylor said.
“I’m hoping a loss of the rail would not mean a closure of Pacific Abrasives.”
The city had a report done by Davies and Company that looked at possible impacts of closure and options that the city could pursue.
The report cost the city $70,000.
Representatives from OmniTRAX and Interfor could not be reached prior to press time.
The story will be updated online when new information becomes available.