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PORTLAND — In about the same amount of time it takes for an office coffee break — 25 to 30 minutes, give or take — a semi-truck pulls into Northwest Container Services.
Then it is checked in depending on whether it is headed for export or if it’s an import unit, its 60,000-pound payload unloaded and a new container put in its place.
This scenario takes place about 600 times per day at the Portland facility, according to NWCS Divisional Vice President Gary Cardwell.
The same type of activity will occur on a smaller scale at the midvalley intermodal facility, expected to open in 2021 at the former International Paper mill site in Millersburg.
In July, the Oregon Transportation Commission awarded the project $24 million in Connect Oregon funding (state lottery income) with the goal of reducing truck traffic on Interstate 5 and decreasing carbon emissions, especially in the Portland metro area.
A similar facility will be built near Nyssa in eastern Oregon, primarily to reduce the cost of hauling agricultural products.
NWCS is in contract negotiations with the Linn Economic Development Group to provide operational and management services for the new facility.
Members of the Linn Economic Development Group — a subsidiary of Albany-Millersburg Economic Development Corp. — are Linn County Commissioner Roger Nyquist, Linn County Roadmaster and Millersburg resident Darrin Lane, former state Rep. Andy Olson, Rick Kenyon, James Ramseyer and former Albany City Councilor Floyd Collins.
The county purchased the 192-acre property for $10 million. Nyquist said the intermodal project likely will need 60 to 70 acres. The property is being appraised, and preliminary engineering work is underway.
“We are now determining how many acres will need to be divided off and dedicated to the intermodal project,” Nyquist said. “We have to keep growth in mind. We must plan for needs 30 or 40 years down the road. And, once the industrial park sites are built out, getting that land back will be more difficult.”
Linn County employees are securing the site.
“So far, we have removed fallen trees and repaired the perimeter fence, boarded up and cleared brush from around the old farmhouse,” Lane said. “We have restored water service to the administrative building. We are also removing heavy brush from around the inside and outside of the perimeter fence to improve security.”
NWCS sits on 90 acres less than 2 miles from the Port of Portland. The operation not only moves shipping containers to and from semis and railcars, it repairs the containers, truck chassis, refrigeration units and steam-cleans containers, has refrigeration plugs for 102 containers, and can hold up to 80,000 containers at a time. The company, founded in 1985, can transport by rail about 60,000 to 70,000 containers annually among Portland, Tacoma and Seattle.
Northwest Container has 13,500 feet of working rail line on eight tracks. Cardwell said the plan is to provide about 11,000 feet of rail line at the Millersburg site, allowing for straight-line movement north and south.
His staff numbers 65 in Portland and about 20 more in Boardman, Tacoma and Seattle. They can put 220 to 280 containers on trains 8,000- to 10,000-feet long and make three to four trips weekly to Seattle ports, another two to three trains weekly between Portland and Tacoma, and one train per week to Boardman.
Cardwell said he expects the Millersburg site will move trains three days per week.
“Right now in Portland, we’re open from 5:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.,” Cardwell said. “We will have 100 trucks waiting in line for us to open. They are trying to beat Portland traffic, and in many cases, they are trying to make two turns per day, if they are from the midvalley.”
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