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.

No comments:

Post a Comment