Oregon sites vying for inland box hub

Written by Railway Age Staff

As a way to circumvent the highway congestion around the Port of Portland, neighboring sites are vying to develop an inland intermodal facility in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.

State lawmakers in 2017 approved up to $25 million in taxpayer funding for the hub, where containers of agricultural exports would be transferred from trucks to trains bound for Puget Sound ports in Washington state. The development would route trucks away from highway traffic in Portland.

Tacoma is served by Class 1 BNSF and Union Pacific, and short line Tacoma Rail.

Final proposals from the towns of Brooks and Millersburg – about 30 miles apart – were submitted to the Oregon Department of Transportation for evaluation, to be forwarded within four months to the Oregon Transportation Commission, which oversees the DOT and will select the site for the hub. The state economic development agency and a third-party review will also be considered part of the process by the Commission, which has no deadline.

“It’s a look whether it’s going to be sustainable, operatable over the long term,” said Erik Havig, planning manager at ODOT, which could request additional data. “It’s possible one gets it, or neither one.”

The Oregon Port of Willamette is proposing the facility be built on farmland in Brooks, about 185 miles from the Port of Tacoma, arguing that its closer proximity will attract imports, and ensure an adequate supply of empty containers for export shipments.

Millersburg, promoted by the Linn Economic Development Group is about 215 miles distant.

The Brooks proposal claims it will generate 11% more containers by attracting traffic from Clackamas and Yamhill counties. But the Millersburg group asserts its location offers improved economic and environmental benefits since rail is more cost-effective over longer distances and will reduce pollution and wear and tear on roads by taking more trucks off longer highway runs.

As an added advantage, the former paper mill site in Millersburg is already zoned for industrial development.

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