From the "Annual Project History Columbia Basin Project"
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
Bureau of Reclamation
Construction Railroad. A railroad connection to the Grand Coulee dam site was one of the first items of work to receive attention. Both the Northern Pacific and Great Northern Railway Companies located lines into the dam site as previously described in Chapter I, under "Surveys". The Northern Pacific filed for a permit to construct their line, but interjected conditional stipulations, requesting exclusive franchise rights. A hearing on the application was held by the Department of Public Works in Olympia, Washington, January 22, 1934, at which time the Government entered a petition of intervention, requesting issuance of the permit but without the exclusive franchise provisions. The Department considered the conditional stipulations of the railroad company to be invalid and ordered that they be excluded from the permit. As a consequence, the railroad company abandoned the project, and the Government thereupon decided to build its own construction railroad. Funds were made available in March, the line was surveyed in May, and right-of-way was acquired soon thereafter.
The line began at Odair, a siding on the Northern Pacific Railway, about two miles from Coulee City, and ran through the Grand Coulee, terminating at its north end in a transfer yard about two miles from the dam site. This section of line, 28.33 miles long, was located with maximum three-degree curves and one per cent grades, suitable for the operation of standard railway locomotives. The remaining two miles to the dam site was designed for the operation of gear-type locomotives, the maximum curvature being fourteen degrees and grades up to five per cent.
Specifications No. 572 were issued covering the complete construction of the first 28.33 miles of single-track railroad, including a delivery yard at Odair and a siding at the head of Grand Coulee. The schedule of work also included laying and ballasting track in the two-mile end section. Standard railroad designs were adopted with track to be built of 90-pound second-hand, or relay rail which was loaned to the Government by the Northern Pacific Railway Company, to be returned within ten years after completion of the present contract.
Bids were received May 17, 1934, and 22 contracting firms competed for the work. The canvass of bids showed the two low bidders to be L. Coluccio of Seattle, Washington, and David H. Ryan of San Diego, California. Certain irregularities appeared in the Coluccio bid which were of doubtful interpretation; consequently, the bids were further reviewed by the Comptroller General, with the result that the accepted total bids were:
David H. Ryan $235,570
L. Coluccio $236,925
The contract was awarded to David H. Ryan on July 17, 1934, and a notice to proceed was issued August 8, 1934.
Construction work progressed rapidly, and by the close of the year grading was completed, track was laid, and 90 per cent of it ballasted. Track laying in the two-mile end section was delayed, pending the completion of grading, which was being done under a separate contract. Sliding ground, in this section, made necessary certain revisions in location which retarded progress on the grading contract.
Governor Clarence D. Martin and Senator C.C. Dill were honored guests upon the occasion of "Driving the Golden Spike", which took place December 8, 1934.
Highway and Railroad. The final two-mile section of highway and railroad from the head of Grand Coulee to the dam site involved heavy construction because there was little choice as to its location. The line traversed precipitous canyon walls, dropping about 350 feet in elevation to the Government camp site. Grading involved extensive rock excavation and side-hill work in ground some of which later proved to be very unstable. The project included a railroad spur to the warehouse and power house, which necessitated construction of three switchbacks and a highway under-crossing.
Specifications No. 569 were prepared covering the grading and structures for a highway and railroad, the former to extend from the head of Grand Coulee to the proposed Columbia River Bridge, and the latter from the same beginning point to the proposed west-side power house. Included in the specifications was the grading of streets, parking areas and sidewalks in the Government camp site. The road and railroad were located on the same grade and parallel to each other for a portion of the distance above the dam, the highway then dropping, on a maximum ten per cent grade, to the camp site and the railroad continuing along the hillside, adjoining Government camp, on a maximum five per cent down grade. The combined highway-railroad roadbed was designed for a minimum width of 48 feet, sufficient for a standard gauge railroad and a 28-foot surfaced highway. The usual drainage and guard-rail structures were included, as well as one combination timber and steel overhead railroad crossing. Track laying and road surfacing were provided for in separate specifications.
Bids for the work were received April 5, 1934, when Crick and Kuney of Spokane, Washington, submitted the low bid of $220,676.50. Because of slides which had developed (referred to under "Excavation"), it became necessary to relocate a portion of the line--and notice to proceed was deferred until June 30, 1934. Immediately thereafter, the contractor commenced operating with the following equipment in use: 3 shovels, 2-yard; 1 shovel, 1 3/4 yard; 8 trucks, 8-yard; 7 trucks, 6-yard; 2 Caterpillar tractors with bulldozers; 5 portable compressors; 1 tractor and Le Tourneau scraper.
No special construction difficulties were encountered after grading work started, with the result that the contractor made very satisfactory progress. In October, the road was open throughout its entire length; and at the end of the year, the contract was 96 per cent complete.