NYSSA, Ore.— Construction of a rail reload center that will benefit the area's onion shippers will get underway next month near Nyssa, Ore.
The state-funded Treasure Valley Reload Center will move onions and other commodities from trucks to railcars for shipment east.
Greg Smith, of the Malheur County Development Corp., said he and the board in mid-September signed a 20-year operator lease with Americold Logistics LLC.
The board also finalized an industrial track agreement with Union Pacific Railroad. In it, Union Pacific agrees to service a rail spur and provide construction and long-term maintenance of the rail crossing on Gem Avenue.
The board advised Steve Lindley Contracting, of Union, Ore., to start site work following a groundbreaking ceremony at 11:30 a.m. Oct. 1 at the site, east of Highway 201.
Lindley in late August was selected from among four bidders. The company’s base bid was $5.2 million. Its “additive-alternative” bid was $3.4 million.
Smith said the first amount covers immediate needs; the second covers future work that will be approved and funded as demand warrants.
Both bids were below engineers’ estimates.
Earlier, the 14 area companies that are part of the Treasure Valley Onion Shippers LLC reached an agreement with Americold on volumes and costs.
Smith said rail, shipper and lease agreements “had to be completed sequentially in order to make it work.”
Excavation “will be the first of four segments of development, with the goal to be ready to ship onions by the end of next summer,” he said.
Other construction steps include laying gravel and aggregate, installing water and wastewater systems, placing rock ballasts to support track and trains, and preparing the building site and completing the approximately 60,000-square-foot structure.
“In year one, we anticipate more than 900 railcar movements out of the Reload Center,” Smith said. About 4.3 truckloads of onions fit into a railcar.
For the project, the 2017 Legislature approved a $26 million Connect Oregon grant from the state lottery. The Oregon Transportation Commission early this year approved it and started releasing funds.
Smith said the 2021 Legislature approved an additional $3 million for a water line from Nyssa to the building. The line will go through the industrial park, which will also benefit.
The cost estimates include about $10 million to $12 million for rail spur development, $6 million to $8 million for the building, $6 million for excavation and $1.5 million to $2 million for professional services including design and permitting.
The lease calls for Americold to pay Malheur County Development Corp. $2,500 a month and take ownership after 20 years. The county can charge additional fees if needed to cover costs such as depreciation or maintenance.
Meanwhile, Americold is upgrading one facility each in the Midwest, on the East Coast and in the South to handle onions and store them. He said these investments, to cost around the same as the Reload Center building, mean new markets can open where trains may not stop otherwise.
Southeastern Oregon and southwestern Idaho produce more than one-third of the country’s fall-winter storage onion crop.