Union Pacific promises to provide service to proposed facility

Union Pacific wrote county officials Wednesday it will provide service to a proposed rail reload center north of Nyssa. (The Enterprise/File).

VALE – Union Pacific Rail has pledged to ship onions from a proposed rail center north of Nyssa but told local officials it may not be able to ship the commodity at peak times or reach all destinations.

In a Wednesday letter to Greg Smith, Malheur County economic development director, Union Pacific also said it will provide its basic rail service – and not the express package – to the reload center.

The rail reload facility is seen by many as a potential economic game changer for Malheur County. Previously, county officials touted the facility could ship farm products quickly across the country. The state set aside $26 million in taxpayer dollars for the center.

The railroad also stifled hopes the facility would become a shipping center for other commodities.

“Asparagus, sweet potatoes, apples, plums, hemp, mint oil and peppers will need to be further reviewed and approved by UP Shipment Quality and UP’s Pricing team before UP can agree to transport those commodities,” Union Pacific said in its letter.

The railroad said shipping apples “is more likely to have a viable rail option” than the other products.

The railroad also said it “cannot commit to providing UP equipment (rail cars) for seasonal onion volumes. During high-volume seasons, UP must balance the equipment needs of all customers and cannot make a commitment for the proposed location at this time,” the letter said.

County officials have conceded that point, and told state officials they are pursuing other options to bring rail cars to Nyssa but no firm deal is in place yet.

Even shipping onions could be problematic, said the railroad.

“Seasonal onion volumes present UP with resource challenges that may affect service. As with equipment supply, during high-volume seasons, UP must balance the service needs of all customers. As customer shipping patterns and volumes are outside of UP’s control, our resources may be strained,” Union Pacific wrote.

The railroad also quashed ambitions for intermodal service, which typically involves large cargo containers. The railroad said it wouldn’t provide that to Nyssa.

It noted that “hay and straw commodities were requested to move” through Nyssa.

The Union Pacific letter is Malheur County’s ongoing bid to convince state officials the railroad is committed to serving the proposed reload center.

For weeks, the state has pressed the county for more certainty about rail service.

The state also wants the county to confirm it is at least in discussions with a potential operator for the facility. Last week, the Malheur County Development Corp. – the public company created by the county to oversee the facility – verified it was in tentative discussions with AmeriCold Logistics to run the center. County officials also hope that AmeriCold Logistics can help find rail cars for the reload facility.

Reporter Pat Caldwell: [email protected] or 541-473-3377.

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