Central Washington Town Aims to Be Inland Port for Global Shipping

Port of Quincy

QUINCY, Wash. — Imagine this: Trucks haul shipping containers to Quincy. Trains tote those same containers to ships in Seattle. Those ships deliver the containers to Pacific markets.

Sounds simple, right? But this shipping idea — now percolating among national truck, rail and steamship companies — could ease cross-mountain transport complicated by fickle winter road conditions and Puget Sound’s extreme traffic congestion.

“It’s an old idea that’s gaining new traction,” said Patrick Boss, spokesman for the Port of Quincy. “And we’re ready to go. We’ve got the facilities ready to start tomorrow.”

Informal talks are under way, said Boss, to transform the Port of Quincy’s mostly idle shipping terminal into an “inland port” for delivering trucked containers by rail to West Coast docks.

Quincy port officials touted the proposal last week as one solution for reducing traffic congestion, speeding deliveries, increasing shipped quantities, shrinking carbon footprints and boosting investment in warehouses, storage yards and shipping services.

As proposed, trucks from around eastern Washington and beyond would deliver containers loaded with dry goods — hay, beans, corn, wheat and other grains — to Quincy’s Intermodal Terminal, where they’d be loaded onto westbound trains.

The intermodal terminal is a shipping transfer hub formerly used to deliver Washington State fruit and produce by rail to Midwest markets. That service ended in 2014 with the terminal now sitting idle most days. Waste Management has proposed using the terminal as a rail-to-truck transfer site for trash headed from western Washington to the Greater Wenatchee Regional Landfill near Pangborn Memorial Airport.

Boss said the latest shipping proposal surfaced in February when representatives of the Northwest Seaport Alliance, a partnership of the ports of Seattle and Tacoma, gave a presentation to agriculture and shipping managers in central Washington on the value of establishing one or more inland ports. Facilities in Quincy and Benson County were mentioned, Boss said.

Now the discussion has broadened, said Boss, to include the International Longshoremen’s Association, trucking and rail shipping companies, steamship lines and agriculture producers.

“We’ve already received inquiries from wheat shippers in eastern Washington,” said Boss. “They’re talking 100 containers per week going to Seattle ports with no wasted time sitting in traffic, messing up shipping schedules.”

Now it’s up to the Port of Quincy to “keep the dialogue going and come up with some serious options” for shippers, Boss said. “We need commitments from all parties involved, then rates and schedules need to be figured out. There’s still a lot of work to do.”

He added, “But the impetus is there. Interest is growing. Things are starting to happen.”

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