Port of Benton Ends Rail Network Operator Lease

Image via Port of Benton.

The Port of Benton has ended its lease with Tri-City Railroad Co. for operation of the port’s 16-mile Southern Connection rail line between Center Parkway in Kennewick and Horn Rapids Road in north Richland, port officials confirmed June 29.

The Washington seaport said that it terminated the lease after Benton County Superior Court ruled in May that the rail company was in default for not properly maintaining the rail system.

Part of the final settlement agreement that took effect June 17 involves the port assessing existing tenants at 2579 Stevens Drive and starting new lease negotiations in anticipation of becoming the primary lessor on Aug. 1.

Meanwhile, the port is working on a contract with railroad contractor RailWorks Corp. for rail inspections and rail line maintenance until the port can find a new line operator. Advance Signal & Contracting also plans to take on signal maintenance and inspection.

“Please note that although the Port of Benton owns the rail and trackage commonly known as the Southern Connection, for all legal intents and purposes the Port of Benton is not considered a railroad, and as such, will not be taking over any operations of the port trackage,” the port said in a June 29 press release. “We appreciate your patience and open communication throughout this process.”

By Karen Robes Meeks