Recalling huge financial and perishable crop losses suffered when Tacoma and Seattle waterfronts were substantially closed by longshore labor disputes in recent years, there is interest among Eastern Washington agricultural producers in an apparent proposal by Northwest Seaport Alliance to expand to the Tri-Cities area.

Washington Ag Network, a radio news program serving the farms producing sector east of the Cascades, is reporting that the Alliance marketing combine might build a receiving station for produce shipments that are currently trucked over the mountain passes. They could then be sent via rail lines (both BNSF and UP) to dockside export loading operations at Port of Tacoma and Port of Seattle.

“We’d set up a facility where that same farmer would be able to truck his container or pickup an empty container, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so there wouldn’t be any limiting factors,” said Mike Reilly with NW Seaport Alliance. 

Reilly added that an Inland Port would reduce the amount of truck traffic traveling over Snoqualmie Pass, not only making the roadway safer, but improving the carbon footprint of Northwest producers. While he did not put a price tag on construction, he did say the plan is to improve operating costs of agricultural operators who are currently using truck only transport.

Update: Alliance spokeswoman Tara Mattina responded after this Daily item posted with more details: 

“We are exploring the idea of a short-haul rail service for agricultural exports between the Tri-Cities area and Seattle/Tacoma,” Mattina emailed. “If that rail service works, it might lead to an inland port concept, but that is just a rough idea at this point.

“We’re gathering data from the cargo owners and working on a feasibility study that we hope to have done around August. We also would need interlocal agreements in place to do business outside of Pierce and King counties, our jurisdictional boundaries.

“Once all those pieces are in place, we might consider trial rail shipments. We’re aiming for the end of the year, if all goes well,” the NW Seaport Alliance spokesperson stated.