State commission to broadcast live its review of Malheur County’s rail project

UPDATE: This has been updated to correct the time of Thursday’s meeting. The session regarding rail matters starts at 2 p.m. Pacific, not Mountain, Time as originally reported by Malheur County Economic Development.

It’s been a busy few days as Malheur County officials prepare to make their case to get their hands on $26 million to build a rail shipping center in Nyssa.

The work of three years comes to a head Thursday afternoon when the Oregon Transportation Commission meets in Salem to hear why it should write that big check. If you like watching your government in action, you can tune in and watch as Malheur County’s team presents its case.

The commission meeting will be carried live via Youtube via this link HERE. The session concerning rail projects starts at 2 p.m. Pacific, but it’s unclear when the Malheur County project will be on. The commission is hearing presentations on three rail projects around the state. Watch the Enterprise for word of what happens, though no final decision is expected until the commission’s March meeting.

Those scheduled to appear before the commission Thursday include Grant Kitamura, CEO of Baker & Murakami Produce Co. and president of the Malheur County Development Corp., state Rep. Lynn Findley, vice president of the company; Greg Smith, Malheur County economic development director, and Jim Maret, Nyssa city manager.

Late Wednesday, Smith made public the latest letter from Union Pacific Railroad about its role in the Nyssa project. State officials have been concerned about the lack of commitment from the railroad.

In its letter, Union Pacific said it is “pleased to notify you that we are looking forward to working with you on developing rail service to Treasure Valley Reload Center.” The rail company said it accepted the rail design for the project, and listed its conditions for going forward.

The railroad said once conditions are met, including the start of construction, it would then work with the Nyssa center to determine what rail service would be provided to Nyssa and at what price.

“At no time prior to the completion of the process is UP agreeing to provide rail service,” the letter said.

Smith, who is managing the Nyssa project, will have a busy day at the Transportation Commission. He also is the lead executive for a second rail project, one that would be based in Millersburg, which is near Albany. State reviewers, as they did with the Nyssa project, questioned whether the Linn County project was economically viable.

The Linn County Board of Commissioners recently pledged to subsidize that project with $250,000 a year, according to the Albany Democrat-Herald. Read that newspaper’s report on today’s event HERE.

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