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Transportation commission ponders ag priorities

Matthew Weaver

Capital Press

Ag companies and researchers recently spoke to the Washington Transportation Commission about priorities for the industry. The biggest need is continued improvement of infrastructure for the region to maintain its competitive advantage on the world market, Washington State University transportation economist Ken Casavant says.

The Washington State Transportation Commission recently heard from ag stakeholders about the industry’s needs.

Deputy director Paul Parker said the commission wants to know how the system is working for agricultural customers as it updates its long-range plan. The focus of an April 16 meeting in Pullman, Wash., was on the Palouse region.

Ken Casavant, Washington State University transportation economist, said his recent research efforts focused on the relationship between infrastructure investment and international trade.

If continued investment drops off, the region’s competitive advantage will decline, Casavant said.

Potential deterioration in the aging infrastructure is the biggest concern, Casavant said.

In Eastern Washington, most agricultural products go to export, making good transportation vital,said Dick Hatterman, general manager of Co-Ag in Rosalia, Wash.

“We need to get to the coast, and we need multiple modes of transportation to do that — it’s not just highways, rail or the river, it’s a combination of all three,” Hatterman said.

All three modes have their own need for upkeep and issues that need to be addressed, he said.

State-acquired railroad lines were affected by long-term deferred maintenance, said McGregor Company president Alex McGregor. The state is working to provide a good regional system, but there’s much work remaining, he said.

McGregor called for funding for maintenance and continual improvement on the state-run lines.

“We’ve heard over the years hopes and expectations from lawmakers that we as agriculture in this region would be supportive and make a real commitment to that rail system,” he said. “We have been, and are continuing to make substantial commitments to service on those lines. We’ve all invested for the long, long haul.”

The commission will use the information in its update of the state transportation plan, and pass it on to legislators in an annual report published each January, Parker said.



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