Port of Benton Officials Prepare for Rail Growthby Kristi Pihl
Bellingham Herald, November 7, 2012
Port of Benton officials know ConAgra Foods Lamb Weston's future automated frozen food facility at the Horn Rapids Industrial Park will add cars to the port's rail.
Anticipated rail volume growth is why the port and consultant Tangent Services Inc. of Portland have been planning ahead for how to deal with increased wear and tear.
The port's 13 miles of rail from Columbia Center Boulevard to Horn Rapids Road can handle current use, said Scott Keller, the port's executive director.
"The track itself is in excellent condition," he said. "But we can't expect it to stay that way if it quadruples in use."
Keller said the port needs to meet with the city of Richland and railroads to plan ahead on how to pay for rail improvements.
Tangent Services told port commissioners Wednesday that they should consider asking Union Pacific and BNSF Railway Co. to pay for wear and tear, Keller told the Herald. The port also will pursue state and federal grants.
Volume is mild now, and Tri-City & Olympia Railroad maintains the rail in exchange for offsetting its lease with the port, Keller said. But if use increases, that will be more difficult for the company to do.
Lamb Weston's frozen food storage facility would add rail traffic in and out of the area, said Roger Wright, contract engineer for Port of Benton and city of Richland's economic development office. The potato processor known for its french fries traded Columbia Point property to the city of Richland for property at Horn Rapids.
Lamb Weston plans to hire a company to build and operate its frozen storage facility, said Wright of RGW Enterprises in Richland. One of the possible plans includes 16 acres of building.
And more growth in rail volume is possible. Wright said the city alone owns about 500 acres of land in the Horn Rapids area that could be developed by businesses that need rail access.
A proposed capital plan includes upgrading some of the rail, installing an additional warning device at the Steptoe Street crossing for southbound vehicles and upgrading several crossings to concrete panels, which Keller said withstands wear and tear better than the current asphalt surface.
The port already plans to rebuild an old, wooden railroad bridge on Columbia Park Trail in 2013. A $2.2 million state grant will cover the entire cost of replacing the bridge with a metal one and updating it to current needs.
Benton, Kennewick, Pasco Ports Contemplating Key Projects in 2013 by Kristi Pihl, The Bellingham Herald, 10/22/12
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