The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) on Dec. 15 celebrated the grand opening and completion of the $35.5 million, 64-acre truck-to-rail Mid-Willamette Valley Intermodal Center.
Nearly 200 supporters attended the ribbon cutting ceremony for the project, which will be operated by ITS Conglobal and serve as an intermodal center for the valley’s natural resource-based economy. Trucks will bring cargo in international containers to the facility so it can be transferred to rail cars, which then head north to marine terminals in Seattle and Tacoma–bypassing busy Interstate 5 congestion along the way. Tacoma is served by Class 1 BNSF and Union Pacific (UP), and short line Tacoma Rail.
“Union Pacific looks forward to serving Mid-Willamette Valley Intermodal Center customers through our innovative freight rail franchise,” said UP Senior Director of Public Affairs Aaron Hunt, commenting on the “many benefits the project will bring.” “Moving Mid-Willamette valley products by rail will reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and prevent further congestion on Oregon and Washington highways.”
Located in Millersburg, Ore., a small community in the heart of western Oregon’s agricultural country, the Mid-Willamette Valley Intermodal Center is being funded through ODOT’s Connect Oregon program and will reduce GHG emissions by taking trucks off the roadways and using rail instead, said the agency, which added that the intermodal center will “give farmers and others another option for getting goods to market and may reduce shipping costs, while also giving the local economy a boost with potential new businesses and services.”
State lawmakers in 2017 approved up to $25 million in taxpayer funding for the hub. Final proposals from the towns of Brooks and Millersburg–about 30 miles apart–were submitted to ODOT for evaluation. Millersburg, which is located 215 miles from the Port of Tacoma and promoted by the Linn Economic Development Group, was selected as the site for the hub. As an added advantage, the former paper mill site in Millersburg was already zoned for industrial development.
“In 2017, we chose four projects to receive ODOT’s Connect Oregon funding, based on the multiple benefits these projects would bring us. I’m proud to say we made a great choice–the right choice,” Governor Kate Brown said. “Working together, we have created a success we can all be proud of.”
“We’ve never developed a major freight intermodal transfer hub,” said ODOT Director Kris Strickler. “Connect Oregon has never taken a site used for something else and turned it into a non-highway-funded transportation facility. I’m particularly proud of this project because of what it demonstrates: that the public and private sectors can do great things when we work together for good.”