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Port gets $2 Million for Rail Yard

by Jim Szymanski
The Olympian, November 19, 2005

Federal appropriation coming in 2006, legislators announce

Army vehicles are loaded on rail cars at the Port of Olympia. Increasing the rail capacity to handle additional military and private shipping needs is a major focus for port officials. (Olympian file photo) OLYMPIA -- The Port of Olympia got a $2 million federal present that will help pay for its growing rail yard.

The 2006 Congressional appropriation was announced Friday by U.S. Rep. Brian Baird, D-Vancouver, and U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.

The port will use the money to install tracks to load cargo and stage trains for coupling, said Jim Amador, the port's marine terminal director.

"This will give us more loading and storage track," Amador said.

"Rail can be a more cost-efficient way of moving cargo." The port is moving toward more rail transportation because the cargoes it moves, including aluminum, metals and military trucks, tend to move by rail.

Rail is becoming a more popular transportation means compared with trucks because Puget Sound-area freeways tend to suffer from traffic jams or gridlock.

"Every rail car takes three trucks off roadways," Amador said.

The port has been installing dockside rail this year to speed the loading and unloading of cargo between ships and trains. The $2 million appropriation will allow the port to add storage tracks next year, which will speed the process of loading each car and coupling it to a longer line of cars.

The number of rail cars using the port has increased fivefold since 2002, Amador said.

As rails are added, the port will become more competitive in recruiting new lines of cargo, Amador said. In the past, he has mentioned transporting transformers for power projects and moving parts used in the construction of refineries as possible new cargo lines.

"There are things in the works," was all Amador said Friday regarding possible new port cargoes.

"This funding will help create jobs by enhancing the Port of Olympia's ability to process cargo," Baird said. "It will also reduce the port's dependence on local roads, alleviating congestion and headaches for commuters along the I-5 corridor."

Murray toured the port in February, when port officials lobbied her to seek federal funding to increase the port's rail capacity.

Port Commissioner Steve Pottle said he was surprised at the size of the port's appropriation.

"I did not believe we would get that much money," he said. "With Katrina and the war in Iraq, I thought we would struggle."

As ports in Seattle and Tacoma grow as container ports, Olympia has an opportunity to recruit niche cargoes that don't move in containers, Pottle said.

Jim Szymanski, business editor of The Olympian
Port gets $2 Million for Rail Yard
The Olympian, November 19, 2005

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