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Oregon Ports Build Passages to Puget Sound

by Thomas L. Gallagher
The Journal of Commerce, August 31, 2009

Rail, short-sea alternatives could change patterns on Columbia River

Two of Oregon's Columbia River ports are investing in innovations to get freight to the ocean and beyond as Portland becomes less popular with carriers and Puget Sound begins to pick up volume.

The Port of Morrow near Boardman, Ore., plans to spend approximately $10 million to build a main line rail siding and a container rail yard involving three and a half miles of track. A $7.9 million grant from the Oregon Department of Transportation's Connect Oregon II program would help pay for the project.

The Port of Umatilla, 23 miles up the river, will ask the federal government through a Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to help with a short-sea project that would send barges down the Columbia River and up the Washington coast to Puget Sound. "The cleanest and most fuel efficient method is water, and that's what is driving the Port of Umatilla," General Manager Kim Puzey told the East Oregonian. The Umatilla project could cost as much as $50 million, or if they have to do without an extension to their crane and a longer bulkhead, it could be as little as $31 million. It would also call for $30 million over three years in subsidies for shippers.

The reason for the projects is the declining popularity of the Port of Portland. Only two trans-Pacific container lines call at Portland today, down from 12 a few years ago. Neither Walmart, Umatilla County's largest importer, nor COLO Logistics, the county's largest exporter, uses the Port of Portland.

Thomas L. Gallagher
Oregon Ports Build Passages to Puget Sound
The Journal of Commerce, August 31, 2009

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