Monday, April 21, 2008

Local Infrastructure Not Only a Local Option

NDTA did it again with an outstanding choice for its meeting topic so as to understand the strategic issues behind the South Sound Logistics Center (SSLC) proposal by the Ports of Tacoma and Olympia.

Today's meeting featured John Wolfe, Deputy Director of the Port of Tacoma and Kari Qvigstad, Marketing and Business Development Director for the Port of Olympia, both project leaders for SSLC for their respective organizations. Qvigstad also serves as President of the local NDTA chapter.

Eschewing the traditional method of telling the audience what they wanted them to know, both relied on questions from attendees. Overall, an effective approach as questions kept coming beyond the scheduled adjournment time.

The first, and understandably so, question was: "Why?" The answer, also of course, was a multipart response. Chief among those reasons was the expected volume growth as supported by terminal development and expansion by the Port of Tacoma, but also by private parties including the SSA/Puyallup Tribe's partnership. But often overlooked were other reasons like the infrastructure impact of 65-70% of cargo moves by rail outside the metro and that land availability for a rail yard competes with terminal development (terminals must be on shoreline, rail yards not).

To this set of reasons were added facts like cargo volume is predicted to triple by 2025, rail capacity is projected to fill by 2015 and population is shifting under the Puget Sound Regional Council Vision 2040 Plan, now under final development.

Of course, local citizens and economic developers must realize that our two Class 1 railroads are commercial enterprises subject to the demands of their customers and answerable to their stockholders in their national marketplace. Their capital investment will go where it produces the most benefit to the railroads, their customers and their owners - not to the wishes of a regional economy even if it is a cog in international trade.

For instance, it is generally understood that for various reasons a recent prospect for crowning Stampede Pass is not being actively considered. This is in spite of the pressure from coal unit trains forcing Port of Tacoma freight through Stampede Pass rather than along the Columbia River route as was common until recently. The reasons here are myriad, and count among their number the lack of participatory state funding.

As you might expect from a NDTA meeting, questions arose about military freight; although this question was more an rhetorical question that an inquiry. Fort Lewis is the sole Power Projection Platform on the West Coast. The Army has surface requirements in freight movements and infrastructure mandates to support that need. Federal cooperation might be sought, independent of any specific site.

There's Still No Decision

Popular Mechanics May 2008 issue has a cover feature on fixing American infrastructure. Within a special supporting story listing the 10 Things to Fix Right Now, we can appreciate the listing of the Alaskan Way Viaduct (in no particular order). While Chicago has the distinction of two projects on the list, those here might wonder why the magazine ever had to go out of state?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A Peel(ing) to the Core

Thanks to my membership of the LeMay Museum, I receive an online newsletter from Ken Martin's Sports Car Market. Always full of at least one entertaining article, the recent edition contained a gem.

For those of you who remember our earlier blog on the Opel mileage king, take a gander at this prize auto that makes a Mini look like a Suburban.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Which Little Truck Went to Market How

WSDOT has just released the 2007 Update for the Freight and Goods Transportation System.

A common resource for local jurisdictions, the study examines the volume carried by routes with the state. Freight Corridors are defined as those routes that carry four million or more gross tons of freight annually (coded T-1 and T-2). Codes go from the T-1 of more than 10 million tons per year to T-5, of at least 20,000 tone in 60 days.

In 2007, a total of 2,607 state routes were designated as either T-1 or T-2, 37% of all state routes. T-1 routes accounted for 1,093 miles, 16% of all state routes. This update also provides info about county road and city street classifications.

The study does NOT provide info on the users of the route system, their economic performance, performance requirements, system needs and future trends. Other planning documents and reports expand this analysis and can be accessed through the WSDOT Freight Systems Division.

Friday, April 11, 2008

New Commercial Driver's License Rules Proposed

The Washington Department of Licensing (DOL) is in the process of gathering stakeholder comments on a proposed rule setting minimum training requirements for applicants for a Commercial Driver's License (CDL). Under a law passed in 2007 (SHB 1267), the DOL is required to establish rules for professional training programs.

The new law exempts employer-trained drivers from this requirement. However, there has been some discussion of the training requirements eventually applying to employer-trained drivers as well. There is also a proposed federal CDL training rule, which is currently in its public comment period. That proposed rule does not exempt employer-trained drivers.

When the new Washington rules take effect, an applicant who has been trained by his or her employer will have to present a certificate to the DOL stating that he or she has the skills and training necessary to operate a commercial motor vehicle safely.

The Washington Retail Association has had several stakeholder meetings with the DOL regarding the new training requirements. The Department would like some feedback from retailers on this subject.

· How much time would retailers need for outreach efforts before the new rule goes into effect? The Department is suggesting six months.

· What would be the most effective methods for retailers to get notice of the new requirements?

· What would be the most convenient way for retailers to obtain the certificate for their CDL applicants? The Department has suggested it might make the certificate available on its website.

If you have any comments or questions, please contact Vicky Marin at (360) 943-9198, ext. 12.