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I appreciate media interest in the current process as to awarding lottery funds to develop an intermodal facility in the Mid-Willamette Valley. Here is some background information.

An intermodal facility provides an opportunity for shippers to send and receive freight by rail, usually in containers. Such a system reduces truck usage of highways, saves on fuel, and reduces carbon emissions, all through the use of rail for shipping.

The City of Lebanon first looked at developing an intermodal facility back in 2008, but the recession stifled that project.

With the closure of container shipping operations at Terminal 6 at the Port of Portland, shippers have been relying on the Ports of Seattle and Tacoma for their imports and exports. Generally, in the Willamette Valley this has meant sending trucks back and forth on Interstate 5 at substantial expense, and contributing to significant congestion in the Portland area.

In 2016, the Oregon Shipping Group was established and began advocating for improvements to Oregon’s transportation system to better move goods into, through and out of Oregon. The Oregon Shipping Group specifically advocated for a Mid-Willamette Valley intermodal facility during the 2017 Legislature.

As it stands today, the Oregon Shipping Group is the facilitator for two intermodal projects which are still under consideration by the Oregon Department of Transportation. We recognize the potential for sites in Brooks, Lebanon and Millersburg. And we recognize that each site proposal has its strengths and weaknesses.

Some have wondered why we proceeded to present proposals for two sites. Our view is that the state is best served by having the opportunity to evaluate all quality prospects, and we are working with two communities to present the case for each of them.

My analogy would be to a motor vehicle company supporting a racing team in an auto race. They will do what they can to put in two or three cars and drivers — and may the best one win. Here we are presenting two intermodal plans revolving around two communities. Our thinking was that ODOT and the Transportation Commission would be given the opportunity to choose the best proposals to enter the final round.

Ultimately the winner will be the Oregon economy, Oregon businesses and those who travel by road in the Willamette Valley. Whatever intermodal facility is built, it can help our farmers export their crops more efficiently and reliably.

We have a great opportunity with the Mid-Willamette Valley Intermodal Facility to help make all these things happen. Our Oregon Shipping Group will remain engaged to make the most of this opportunity.

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Kevin Mannix is the director of the Oregon Shipping Group, which is representing two sites seeking to host an ODOT intermodal facility in the mid-valley: the Oregon Port of Willamette in Brooks, and LIFTS Oregon (Linn Intermodal Facilities and Transfer Stations) in Lebanon.