The state Transportation Department wants more information within the next two months regarding whether a proposed rail reload facility north of Nyssa will be viable. (The Enterprise/File).
SALEM – The state Transportation Department is dialing up the pressure on a local rail reload center proposal by setting new deadlines to show substantial progress.
Erik Havig, the planning section manager for the Transportation Department, presented a concise – but short – briefing to the Oregon Transportation Commission Thursday on a set of new deadlines for Treasure Valley Reload Center.
The state wants the Malheur County Development Corp., the public business created by the Malheur County Court to oversee the rail center, to deliver answers on several key questions by April 23 and May 3.
The answers will be crucial to whether the state approves the Nyssa project and releases $26 million for its construction.
By April 23 the state wants Malheur County to provide proof it is in negotiations with a company to become the operator for the facility. Also by April 23 the state wants county to furnish a memo that sketches what type of rail cars will be needed for the facility and who will provide the rails cars. If a railroad is to provide the rail cars, the state wants the development corporation to provide proof of that and how the rail cars will be provided. The state also wants to know where the rail cars will come from.
By May 3, the state also wants written proof that the business plan for the rail center is acceptable to Union Pacific Railroad.
“What we will do with that information is ODOT staff will look at it,” Havig told the commission.
Once the deadlines are met, said Havig, then transportation and commission officials will review the information and make a final decision, perhaps at its May meeting.
The new deadlines came after a February meeting of the transportation commission where an array of questions was raised about whether the reload center plan was economically sustainable.
The rail shipping center is seen by county and city officials as an economic game-changer. At the rail shipping center, farm products are trucked in and loaded onto trains that can make a run to the East Coast in days. Each train holds several hundred truckloads of goods, lowering freight costs and speeding delivery.
Now, development corporation members are working on another major challenge regarding shipping rates and the volume of commodities the center will handle.
Potential shippers are hesitant to give a firm commitment because they want rate prices. Union Pacific won’t set its prices until it determines how much volume there would be at the Nyssa facility.
Grant Kitamura, the president of the development corporation, said officials are working “very hard” to meet the deadlines set by the state.
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