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By Roger Harnack
Cheney Free Press 

Winona trestle placed

Rail section may reopen this month


Last updated 10/19/2023 at 5:50pm

Randy Warwick

Welders secure steel portions of the Rebel Flat Creek Trestle Saturday, Oct. 7.

WINONA – An important wheat link in the railroad network spanning Adams, Lincoln, Spokane and Whitman Counties is nearly complete.

"It's pretty much finished," state Department of Transportation's Rail, Freight and Ports division spokesowman Janet Matkin said Monday afterooon, Oct. 16, when asked about the status of the Rebel Flat Creek Trestle.

The trestle was destroyed Aug. 19 in the Winona Fire that charred 2,525 acres in Whitman County near the historic town of Winona. The fire started when a golden eagle got tangled in powerlines, Whitman County Emergency Management Director Bill Tensfeld said.

"From the ground, it looks like its done," Matkins said of the trestle, adding it should "reopen this month."

On Monday, Matkin wasn't prepared to announce an exact opening date.

Two weeks ago, contractors lowered the complete span into the gap left in the railway system over Rebel Flat Creek.

Replacement of the trestle will cost an estimated $2.8-$3.2 million when complete, she said, noting the former wooden span is being replaced by a pre-fabricated steel trestle.

The new trestle is also supported by 34 steel pilings and a steel cross-bracing.

Pre-fabricated deck sections were placed two weeks ago, and secured last week. Welding was underway last week on the steel components.

The railroad tracks were also installed on the new bridge last week.

"They are doing finishing work this week," Matkin said.

At this time, a dedication ceremony is only under discussion, she said.

The tracks are used by the Palouse River and Coulee City shortline railroad to move wheat, grain and other farm supplies to farmers and markets.

Previously, Alex McGregor, chairman of McGregor Co., called the trestle a vital link to move high-quality wheat from Eastern Washington to the world market.

The replacement of the trestle is not part of the recently announced $112 million Palouse River and Coulee City Railroad Project.

Although officials said the trestle's destruction in the wildfire focused attention on the aging rail system in Eastern Washington over the last couple months.

As a result, the federal goverment allocated $72.8 million for the upgrade of railroad beds, tracks and trestles across Eastern Washington to shore up the transportation system. In addition, the state kicked in $39.2 million for that project as part of the "Move Ahead Washington" transporation package.

During the announcement of those funds last month in Four Lakes, state Rail, Freight and Ports Division Acting Director Jason Biggs called the funding "transformational."

Author Bio

Roger Harnack, Owner/Publisher

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Roger Harnack is the owner/publisher of Free Press Publishing. Having grown up Benton City, Roger is an award-winning journalist, columnist, photographer, editor and publisher. He's one of only two editorial/commentary writers from Washington state to ever receive the international Golden Quill. Roger is dedicated to the preservation of local media, and the voice it retains for Eastern Washington.


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