Rail site expansion opens local import-export access

A Kansas-based company plans to pick up where Union Pacific Railroad left off and complete an intermodal ramp in Wallula, bringing increased transportation capacity via rail.

The project will open up routes to Northwest docks and as far east as Chicago through a lease and purchase agreement for the former Railex site.

Future plans by purchaser Tiger Cool Express could include an expansion into additional markets, such as the Interstate 5 corridor and Mexico.

“In 10 years, or maybe sooner, the Tri-Cities could be spoken of as a global logistics hub right there with Rotterdam, Hong Kong and Singapore,” said Ted Prince, chief strategy officer and co-founder of Tiger Cool Express. “You’ve got land, you’ve got labor, you’ve got water, and you’ve got electricity.”

Prince said the state has been asked to build an intermodal ramp in Eastern Washington for decades but concluded it was a project for the private sector.

“We’re the private sector here, and the citizens of the whole Tri-Cities will benefit from this,” he said.

He said this region reminds him of the Inland Empire decades ago but with one key advantage.

“The only difference is with our facility you can run a conveyor belt by rail from the port in and out without putting trucks on I-90 and Snoqualmie Pass, and that not only helps the driving public and reduces noxious emissions, it makes the truck drivers happy. Truck drivers hate the pass,” he said.

Prince also points out deficiencies with other U.S import sites that lack adjacent land to expand on or the reliable infrastructure to operate planned distribution centers for mega-retailers like Target and Walmart.

“You know, people have opened 2 million-square-foot facilities then to be told, ‘We’re sorry, there won’t be any electricity there for another year or two.’ ”

He added, “I used to work for an ocean carrier and the Pacific Northwest was a very important geography for us. We used to run barges down the Snake and Columbia rivers for exports of french fries, peas, beans, lentils and hay. It costs more to move the hay from the Tri-Cities to Tacoma than it does from Tacoma to Asia. So, anything we can do to reduce those costs for domestic transportation, it makes that Washington export much more competitive.”

Prince said his industry also solves a lot of the supply chain issues currently faced by exporters.

“If they can actually get a box (shipment container) because often they get a promise of a box, which may not be delivered, which may not make it to the port, which may not make it on the vessel – we can solve all of that by moving it by rail,” he said.

While no purchase price has been disclosed, Tiger first announced plans to acquire the property in 2021 and the lease and purchase agreement includes the former Cold Connect warehouse and property at 627 Railex Road.

The 200,000-square-foot facility shuttered early in the pandemic, citing Covid-related troubles and taking 170 jobs with it.

Now renamed the Tiger Tri-Cities Logistics Center, the building was originally built as part of a public-private partnership with the Port of Walla Walla dedicated in 2006.

The plans to build out the intermodal ramp and purchase the shuttered warehouse have the support of Port of Walla Walla Executive Director Patrick Reay.

“We’re hopeful they’re wildly successful in reestablishing use of a real asset that the public owns and which the port constructed years ago. We’re excited about the prospects. Working alongside them and supporting them is critical to the region,” he said.

Hundreds of millions of pounds of produce are already shipped on the rail line yearly using rail cars. Prince touts the efficiency offered versus the highway system.

“Right now they take an import from Seattle and truck it to the Tri-Cities and then truck it back empty. Then, the hay exporter goes to Tacoma, picks up that empty, trucks it back to the Tri-Cities, and then moves it back loaded. So, you’ve got four moves of 250 miles. With rail, you can then truck the import 12 miles to the distribution center, bring the empty back to us and we’ll hold the empty for the exporter who’s ready and does the same thing. All of a sudden, you’ve taken 1,000 truck miles off the road.”

Source : tricitiesbusinessnews.com/ For more Details

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