Ag shippers say intermodal facility plans would give them more options

By DAVE WILKINS

Capital Press

Agriculture shippers in Idaho say they are intrigued by a proposal to build an intermodal rail facility in Boise.

The city of Boise and Boise Valley Railroad are exploring the possibility of building the transload and intermodal rail facility that would be the only one of its kind between Ogden, Utah, and Portland.

Agricultural shippers say they want to learn more about it.

The city and local railroad recently signed an agreement to fund a joint feasibility study. Officials said they don't know precisely how much the study will cost, but plan to put it out for bid soon.

The proposed shipping facility would be built on city-owned property in east Boise. It would allow freight containers to be moved from rail to truck and truck to rail.

Onion shippers in Idaho and Eastern Oregon might be interested in using an inter-modal/transload facility, said Ken Stewart, sales manager at Fort Boise Produce in Parma, Idaho.

In a typical year, more than 20,000 semi-truck loads of onions are shipped out of the region.

"Transportation gets extremely difficult out of our area at times," Stewart said. "There are times when trucks cannot be had. We would like to see some transportation alternatives."

Travis Jones, executive director of the Idaho Grain Producers Association, said it's difficult to know how the proposed facility would affect wheat and barley shippers in the area.

Grain is more of a rotation crop in Southwest Idaho than a staple, he said. Even so, when it comes to transportation options, "the more the merrier," Jones said. "We would be interested in finding out more about it."

An intermodal/transload facility could expedite overseas shipments of dry whey, officials with a major food processor said.

Glanbia Foods, which has cheese-making operations in Twin Falls and Gooding, ships about 75 percent of its dry whey overseas, with a side trip on trucks to an intermodal facility near Salt Lake City required before it's sent on to ports in Seattle or Los Angeles.

That adds about 800 miles to the trip.

"There are also quite a few shippers from this area that ship internationally, so I am sure it would be a huge benefit to them also," Janice Claire, Glanbia's logistics manager, told The Idaho Statesman. "I hope something works out on it."

Idaho and Wyoming are the only states in the West without intermodal facilities.

Boise Mayor Dave Bieter said his city's industrial park, with convenient freeway, air and rail access, would be a good place to build.

One freight train can carry the load of about 280 trucks, he said.

"This agreement represents a major advance for economic development in our valley," Bieter said in a press release.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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