Thursday, February 28, 2008

Who Cares? We All Should!

The Chamber’s Board of Directors was briefed by John Wolfe, Deputy Executive Director, Port of Tacoma about the proposed South Sound Logistics Center at today’s breakfast meeting.

Gleaned from his presentation, we can say the Port is responding to two forces:

  • the envisioned future competition from new trade routes being developed from Mexico, widening of the Panama Canal and Canadian ports
  • the short-term anticipated doubling to a 4-5 million TEU container volume within 5-6 years, from services such as the NYK relocation

The Port is now in the process of clarifying the regional need for the proposed SSLC as well as looking at alternatives to the Maytown site.

The Port views rail as a key component to support growth. The question before them is how to maintain service. They see a need for additional rail infrastructure. In assessing that need, they are evaluating the criterion for 8,000 feet of flat trackage for train configuration and queuing. Although other rail infrastructure is needed and will be accommodated here, there is no ability to place that footprint in Pierce County.

In looking at other alternatives than the Maytown site, the Port will be broadening its stakeholder outreach, better defining beyond present conceptualization how to develop the logistics center, continuing the exploration of other sites like those proposed by Lewis County and reaching out to community groups to assure their perspectives and concerns are evaluated and considered.

The Port’s target benchmark date to accomplish these tasks is June 1.

Wolfe was asked about perceptions that might exist in Thurston County that the Port is taking advantage of that community. He answered that the Port is partnering with the Port of Olympia. Effectively, our port is asking if that community wants to be involved significantly in global trade. Other actions taken by aspects of the Thurston County community, i.e. restricting warehousing development, makes this an unknown. When that answer is given, then we will know if the Maytown project is a viable option.

Wolfe was also asked if the Port is considering in-land options (100+ miles) like some ports in other parts of the country are developing. He answered that each set of options carries its own unique benefits. Presently, the railroads are saying they need local infrastructure where they can “land” trains.