1,131 More Trucks

That’s how many more trucks per month will be required to sustain south coast timber company operations after the Central Oregon & Pacific Railroad shuts down 120 miles of its line between Coquille and Eugene.

Can someone remind me again of the logic of outsourcing highways to the private sector? Was the sterling example from private rail?

46 responses to “1,131 More Trucks”

  1. Your argument is flawed; this has nothing to do with “outsourcing”.

    The bottom line is that this railroad serves an area that is:

    1. Tough to maintain – it’s a mountain railroad,

    2. Has had a declining traffic base for decades,

    3. Is generally not supported by tax dollars.

    Just as the “rail” gang would hardly support taxpayer subsidy of a seldom-used roadway (Highway 35 is a prime example for me, receiving millions in dollars for flood damage for a road that is essentially nothing more than access to ski resorts), what is the rationale to support this railroad route using statewide tax dollars, in an area that has been economically depressed for two decades?

    Just within Oregon, there are two principal examples that we can look at – one successful, and one not successful:

    In 1986, the Port of Tillamook Bay, using Oregon Lottery economic development funds (I belive about $8 million), purchased the Tillamook Branch between Hillsboro and Tillamook from the Southern Pacific RR. To this day there is about three principal shippers; Garibaldi Hardwoods (a Weyerhauser company), Tillamook Lumber (a Hampton Lumber affiliate company), and Tillamook County Creamery Assocation. Plus a few smaller shippers.

    Fortunately Tillamook Lumber has access to a vast amount of timberlands, and was re-tooled to process smaller trees – it has been successful and ships a lot of lumber to this day. POTB has spent a lot of money on track maintenance.

    However, POTB is a VERY lean operation – the backbone of its locomotive fleet is now “museum-aged” – 1954-1956 era Electro-Motive Division SD9 locomotives, some models rebuilt not once but twice, and the railroad has had to scrap several of its engines to provide parts for the others. Discussion on some railroad forums have lead to speculation that the railroad can’t last much longer relying on these locomotives; the parts aren’t available, and they are worn out. The company doesn’t even have a locomotive shop – locomotives are repaired in the open-air just across the street from the Tillamook Air Museum, where retired locomotives are also parked, awaiting the day for parts to be plucked off.

    73′ centerbeam flatbed cars can’t be fully loaded, because the rails will only support 240,000 pounds of load – the cars are designed for 286,000 pounds. That means each car must be loaded 46,000 pounds under capacity because of the track conditions.

    And large portions of the track remain vulnerable to washouts, slides and other geological impediments that could shut the railroad down at any time.

    The second example is the Astoria Line – this could be described as a “public-private partnership”, with the Oregon Department of Transportation owning the land, and the Portland & Western Railroad owning the actual railroad on top of the land.

    From Portland to Wauna is successful – there is plenty of traffic, several sawmills and chemical plants, and an ethanol plant is under construction.

    From Wauna to Astoria is another story.

    When this line was acquired from Burlington Northern, a massive landslide shut the line down east of Astoria – P&W spent tens of thousands of dollars to clear the mud and stablize the slope, and reopened the line to fanfare including a ceremonial “first train”.

    Then, the line sat dormant.

    For a few years, the Lewis & Clark Explorer Train provided the rare sound of an air horn and activing the few railroad signals. The first year was promising (the line broken even) but the second and third years lost money. ODOT managed to break even on the purchase of the cars, only through the ConnectOregon project essentially selling the cars to the Wallowa-Union Railroad Authority in eastern Oregon. (Essentially the Legislature sold bonds backed by the lottery, put WUA’s name on the check and gave it to ODOT, who then gave it back to the Legislature who loaned the money to purchase the cars in the first place.)

    A couple years ago during a flood event, a levee broke and washed out part of the line. To this day, it hasn’t been repaired – the levee is owned by an inactive levee district so essentially there is no legal authority to repair it. Oh, and after all these years, there’s still no freight traffic in Astoria to speak of – the industrial waterfront district has been replaced with “cute, artsy stores” rather than rail served industries, and the former Tongue Point Naval Base is still largely vacant.

    Fortunately for ODOT, it received the land through a donation from BN.

    Could a public purchase of the Coos Bay Branch be successful? Possibly, if the Oregon International Port of Coos Bay or Coos County wants to buy it. ODOT has neither the money to purchase, nor the inclination to operate railroads, but will participate as it did with the Astoria and Oregon Electric lines, and to a smaller extent the POTB. The City of Prineville owns a railroad; so does Lake County. And the previously-mentioned Wallowa-Union Railroad Authority, which is a joint district of two adjoining northeastern counties.

    Unfortunately, right now the Coos Bay Port is going after the wrong tactics to pursuade RailAmerica to open the line. It’s considering filing a state lawsuit. In reality, it should be filing a complaint with the Surface Transportation Board, the federal agency who has responsibility over railroad line discontinuations and abandonments.

    Going back to “outsourcing” – well, do you think that Beaverton-Wilsonville Commuter Rail would have happened, if that railline wasn’t “outsourced” to the Portland & Western Railroad? Or the Willamina and Seghers lines being upgraded, and traffic increased on the Oregon Electric route? I’d like to think that 120 trucks a day not travelling on Highway 18 through McMinnville (from Willamina Lumber), thanks to “outsourcing” is a damn good deal. And another 50-80 trucks originating in McMinnville (Cascade Steel), and another 50-80 trucks originating in Newberg (SP Newsprint).

    As for whether government does best, I can always reiterate my example of TriMet’s “fine” management of public transit on the Barbur Blvd/99W corridor. Fortunately, ODOT does a damn good job maintaining what should rightfully be a city street (and without the use of property tax dollars, only gas tax dollars), and while I have no problems when I drive my private vehicle on the same road busses are often 20-30 minutes behind schedule for no apparent reason other than TriMet’s complete ineptitude towards running this form of mass transit as an efficient, customer-focused, and growing mode of public transportation.

  2. Erik: “Your argument is flawed; this has nothing to do with “outsourcing”

    I’m not sure that Chris presented much on an argument as posed a question. However it seems to me that the main point is that in the US most roads are owned and operated by the public. This is not true for our rail system.

    A huge consequence of this is that we lose the ability to control certain events and make decisions for reasons (like community viability) other than the bottom line.

    Second, I think that you underestimate the impact of this quick decision on a region of Oregon. This is more than about Coos Bay, it’s about a regional economy that has only recently started to get back on its feet.

    You may not like TriMet and you may think they are inept…but can you imagine them making a decision like Rail America’s? Essentially discontinuing a line with a couple of weeks notice? I think even you’d admit that is not likely.

  3. 3. Is generally not supported by tax dollars.

    I just wanted to note that the article specifies otherwise:

    “We asked specifically, ‘Are you going to abandon it?’ And there was no information,” said Taylor, noting that the state and federal government have given the company roughly $20 million over the past five years to work on the Coos Bay line.

    With regards to the outsourcing of our roadways, it seems to me it’s a different issue than our rail system. Our highways were built out with the public’s tax dollars, railroads were built by the private sector.

  4. “Our highways were built out with the public’s tax dollars, railroads were built by the private sector.”

    Given the age of that railroad, it was probably subsidized with land grants when it was originally built, so I wouldn’t say that the railroads were totally private sector.

    Getting back to the point, I believe the CORP line only ran a few trains a week, so not exactly a big money maker. The fact that they are shut down for want of $7M says a lot about their financial situation though. On the other hand, trucks [4 years ago, so it has probably gone up since then] run about $1/mile, and 1131 trucks a month going the 120 miles from Coos Bay to Eugene will either bankrupt the companies that are shipping via them, or run about $3M a year, (sounds like some of both,) so there obviously is some demand there.

  5. Many of the railroad branch and older now bypassed main lines in Oregon and elsewhere have been turned over to lower overhead smaller operators because the major railroads found them not profitable (money loosers). One of the other options was abandonment. In the latter case, local government officials were right there often in support so the right-of-ways could be turned over to trails thereby sucking up tax dollars for bicyclists and hikers that would use them for free. The Springwater Trail is a good example of this excessive spending, the non-user paid three bridges for example, and Metro also wanted the line over Cornelius Pass until a P&W railroad official stepped in with a plan for rail operations. Therefore it is no real surprise when the infrastructure on the rail lines fail. What is surprising with CORT is how quickly the shutdown took place with no reliable advance notice, especially since State dollars have been pumped into the line and replacing all the older style semaphore signals on the line has just recently been completed.

    In reality, Oregon is lucky that more lines have not been abandoned. The line to Lebanon, with only half of it, one way in, still in place is also in jeopardy failing. If the legislature can support the big ethanol scam by giving subsidies to farmers to grow corn or canola, and give big tax brakes to biofuel distilleries, they certainly can find dollars to maintain existing branch line railroad infrastructure that networks the smaller communities in Oregon with the rest of the world. Without many of these rail lines, the economy in these communities could easily collapse. Since money, public or hard earned by individuals does not grow on trees, there is a limited amount of financial resources available to go around. Therefore, from my prospective, it makes far better sense to invest lottery funds and tax dollars into keeping these lifelines to the small Oregon communities in operation rather than wasting public dollars on a thrill ride rail bridge from SoWhat to OMSI and a snail rail streetcar system that adds congestion to Portland streets and increases fuel consumption for motorists. Small Oregon towns need far more help their building and maintaining there economy than do big developers and book store owners require subsidies to enhance their already healthy profits.

  6. As a back up to I-5 between Eugene and the stateline, I would think ODOT should have an interest in this rail line. Maintaining freight service and supplementing it will passenger service at some point could relieve pressure on I-5, which is unlikely to ever be widened.
    The Eugene to Coos Bay link is essential if the SW sector of the State is to keep economically afloat, so look for the Port of Coos Bay to step in…aren’t they courting a private container port? That only works with a RR link.
    Railroads really are public utilities which need to be run by a public agency when the private sector throws in the towel…at least in most cases.
    And I am sure someone has calculated the total value of the public subsidy to western RRs beginning in the 1860’s. Those billions of dollars in land should carry some obligation to further the public good well into this century.

  7. Terry,

    I agree with you! I think they should put a complete moratorium on building streetcars and MAX trains (which only benefit a small percentage of the entire state’s population) until the entire infrastructure (rail, bridges, highways, etc.) is improved statewide. Portlanders can walk a few blocks or ride one of numerous buses through downtown to get to their destinations. Now they’re talking about a transit bridge to top it all off – all the while infrastructure around the state deteriorates. What good is a fancy “toy train” system throughout Portland going to do its citizens if they don’t have a good way to bring goods and services into and out of the city? Rooftop and community gardens won’t feed the masses!

  8. Second, I think that you underestimate the impact of this quick decision on a region of Oregon. This is more than about Coos Bay, it’s about a regional economy that has only recently started to get back on its feet.

    So exactly what “impact” is worthy of government investment, and what “impact” is unworthy of government investment?

    It’s clear that, given the TriMet example, that the vast amount of demand for public transportatation in the Barbur/99W corridor does not warrant public investment if I were to listen to this blog (especially from Ross), despite the fact that this corridor carries in a matter of hours what is carried in one month between Eugene and Coos Bay – and that’s just the truck count.

    On the other hand there is now support for dumping millions of dollars in public investment, to support a far-flung community that has little economic base (ironic, that this type of community is the anti-Portland – not dense, not close to major resources, doesn’t support “livability”).

    So it’s OK to “pack them in” in Portland, but outside of Portland it’s OK to spread out? We demand building homes and businesses close together, except in rural areas where communities are allowed to exist on a whim without regards towards economic viability?

    If it comes down to the fact that humans have made these decisions, and that humans are imperfect creatures – just what is the criteria for which we will use taxpayer dollars to support public infrastructure, and for when we won’t? If the basic criteria is simply that “choo-choo trains are good and highways are bad”, then we better eliminate U.S. 101 – after all, everyone’s needs in Coos County can very easily be met by that sole railroad line to Eugene.

    Further, the investment made in the airport in Coos Bay must be immediately stopped.

  9. On the other hand there is now support for dumping millions of dollars in public investment, to support a far-flung community that has little economic base (ironic, that this type of community is the anti-Portland – not dense, not close to major resources, doesn’t support “livability”).

    While I agree that Coos Bay currently has little economic base, that is neither historically true or true in the terms of potential. It is close to major resources (renewable timber, coastal farmland, recreation, tourism facilities and most importantly, the largest coastal deep water port in Oregon)and has the potential to revitalize into a dense coastal population center.

    I hope the rail lines are improved to be able to handle frequent and heavy cargo container transport. In the case of Coos Bay, it is also one of the few occasions where I support building another major highway or even freeway to connect Coos Bay via Eugene and Bend to Ontario.

  10. Why not invest in Coos Bay and in Portland’s sustainable transportation system?
    Connecting OHSU…state’s only R&D center and City’s largest employer…with more corners of town is only logical.
    Coos Bay may turn out to be a better regional container port than Port of Portland….90 miles up a river.
    re TriMet to SW Portland and beyond…it might be worthwhile to ask the electeds in Washington County why they pushed for Commuter Rail over MAX out Barbur? Perhaps because it will connect Wilsonville, Tualatin, Tigard, Nimbus area with Beaverton and all the destinations E/W on MAX.

  11. So why not relocate all of Port of Portland’s operations down to Coos Bay and build a mega highway from Coos Bay to I-5 all the way to Ontario? (I think Psymonetta told me this idea when I was working with her).

    With all the $$ from the sale of expensive Port of Portland land they could build some awfully nice freeways and rail improvements throughout all of Oregon and satisfy the Portland NIMBYs concerns all at the same time. Then they could tear down that unsightly grain elevator by Rose Quarter and align the Amtrak to go on the east side only.

  12. Coos Bay just lost its train service. Its not turning into a major population center any time soon. Log exports depend on old growth forest and there isn’t really that much of it left. And it is way too far from any markets to make it as a major container port, no matter how big a freeway you build. If the exising industry can’t produce the money to repair and maintain the existing railroad, where are you going to find money to create a new freeway anyway.

    The Port of Portland is primarily a grain exporter. And the grain comes down the Columbia from Eastern Washington, Oregon and Idaho. The Coos River doesn’t get there.

  13. Ross, the existing industry in Coos Bay is not a good measure of economic capacity for the region.

    The port itself is well situated to provide better container entry for shipments headed for Idaho, Utah, and Nevada, not to mention Eastern and Southern Oregon. The only thing it lacks is decently developed rail. The reason it lacks decently developed rail is that the port itself was heavily weighted to outgoing shipments (of raw timber) shipped overseas for a number of years because the Port board was stacked (by the state) with individuals that had allegiances with the Port of Portland and an interest in directing business toward Portland. IE. it was intentionally subject to bad management and poor planning.

    Coos Bay does need new industry. A container port operation could help with that aspect of it’s economic development. And, state wide, we’re going to have to stop thinking of Bend as a place you drive through Portland to get to.

  14. The port itself is well situated to provide better container entry for shipments headed for Idaho, Utah, and Nevada, not to mention Eastern and Southern Oregon. The only thing it lacks is decently developed rail.

    How, how and how?

    A train from Coos Bay to Idaho MUST travel through Portland – and must travel THROUGH Albina Yard, through the North Portland Tunnel, before “turning right” into the Columbia Gorge (it can’t even use the line along I-84, unless it stops, runs the engines around, does another air test, and departs. Very inefficient.)

    A train from Coos Bay to Utah and Nevada MUST travel through Roseville, which has direct access to the Port of Oakland.

    There is no railroad line that connects Eugene with Boise. Never has been, probably never will be. The Port of Portland might be 90 miles up a river, so what? The Port of Seattle is 150 miles from the Pacific Ocean; the Port of Tacoma is another 30 miles inland from Seattle. Yet both of those ports seem to be doing just fine; the Port of Portland has plenty of traffic, and Coos Bay still ships very little if anything.

  15. “Coos Bay still ships very little if anything.”

    You seem unfamiliar with the Southern part of Oregon. 2.5 million tons isn’t in the territory of the Port of Portland, but it is hardly “very little if anything.” And for a portion of our state those 2.5 million tons mean jobs and community suvival.

  16. The reason Coos Bay never took off is because it’s too shallow for major ships. Big ships couldn’t go in there unless they dredged it significantly. And given that we live in a state of environmental extremism I really doubt that would fly. So I’ve revised my plan. Shut down Port of Portland and move everything to Tacoma and improve the rail links between Tacoma and Eastern Oregon!

  17. Greg wrote, astonishingly: The reason Coos Bay never took off is because it’s too shallow for major ships.

    From: Port of Coos Bay “About Coos Bay” Page

    The area is home to the Oregon Coast’s only commercial airport and the largest deep-draft port between San Francisco and Puget Sound.

    From: Wikipedia “Coos Bay” entry

    The Port of Coos Bay is the largest and deepest port between San Francisco, California and the Columbia River.

    From: Port of Coos Bay “About the Port” entry

    As Oregon’s Gateway, the port actively seeks ways to promote the use of Coos Bay’s deep-water port to enhance the economy and quality of life in the region and strives to build a diversified, healthy and stable regional economy along southern Oregon’s coast.

    From: From RedOrbit’s “Coos Bay Port Hopes to Land Big Shipping Hub” Article

    …it may come as a surprise that the U.S. arm of Danish shipping giant A.P. Moller-Maersk Group is considering Coos Bay for a terminal that would handle a new generation of megacontainer ships. APM Terminals North America Inc. could ultimately spend about $700 million building a modern shipping hub on the bay’s North Spit, Oregon legislators say.

    … the Coos Bay port commissioned a study this year outlining a terminal that could initially handle more than twice the Port of Portland’s current container volume. The terminal, which would open in about 2014, would eventually handle enough freight to fill a million tractor-trailer trucks a year.

    From: KTVZ.com’s article on Coos Bay Senator Joanne Verger’s re-election bid

    In just the last session, Verger pushed for, and got, approval of a $35-million project to deepen the Coos Bay Channel to allow huge container ships.

    Finally, a Google search for “Coos Bay” and “Too Shallow” turned up no relevant hits (to the practical depth of the Port of Coos Bay) in the top 10 results.

    – Bob R.

  18. Erik, again you’re confusing my comments about the Port of Coos Bay itself, and the existing support infrastructure. We all know the infrastructure is there. The reason why it isn’t there is the State favored the Port of Portland for decades, even to the point of undermining operations at the Port of Coos Bay.

    Geographically, without concerns for the non-existing infrastructure, the Port is better situated to serve Idaho, Utah and Northern Nevada….hell, even Denver.

  19. The port itself is well situated to provide better container entry for shipments headed for Idaho, Utah, and Nevada, not to mention Eastern and Southern Oregon.

    How is it “well situated”? There are two mountain ranges and no transportation links to those places. And even once you add the links, how many container ships are serving just those rural areas? Not many I would think. Here is a quote from one of the articles above:

    But the plan faces various obstacles. The rail line would require tens of millions of dollars in improvements, Callery says, and steamship companies tend to avoid ports that lack competing railroad companies.

    Ocean carriers also tend to invest in larger cities that offer markets for goods, instead of unloading containers that must mainly be transported thousands of miles inland. And the new jumbo ships require deep water — more than 50 feet deep, compared with Coos Bay’s authorized 37-foot draught.

    Yet international port experts such as Ogden Beeman, a Portland-based maritime consultant, say Coos Bay could actually surmount those obstacles given industry growth projections. “If they can overcome the rail situation and the channel-depth situation,” Beeman says, “maybe it’s viable.”

    This article was from last spring, now it seems they are moving in the opposite direction. Losing rail service rather than improving it.

  20. Pardon my typo, the second sentence in my first paragraph above should read “isn’t” instead of “is”.

    Thanks Bob for dredging up the facts! Coos Bay may be neglected and economically depressed, but it certainly isn’t shallow.

    I actually defend it mostly for emotional reasons. I grew up there when it was declining from merely “struggling” to downright depressing. It’s hard for me to go back there to visit my family because of the economic conditions there. I actually love the city(ies) and I still think that the location is ideal for establishing a highly urban place on Oregon’s coast. One thing our state does seriously lack is a real city by the sea. I think it could do wonders for our tourism industry. We have plenty of cottage coastal towns. We need one for the more urbane.

  21. The reason why it isn’t there is the State favored the Port of Portland for decades, even to the point of undermining operations at the Port of Coos Bay.


    OK, exactly how did the State of Oregon have anything to do with preventing “infrastructure” being built from Coos Bay?

    Read the book “The Southern Pacific in Oregon”; it’s readily available in the Multnomah County Library System.

    THERE IS NO RAILROAD DUE EAST FROM EUGENE. PERIOD. One was attempted in the late 1800s, it was abandoned during construction. The farthest east a railroad goes is to Lyons or to Sweet Home. The next railroad track is a north-south route through Bend. The Malheur Branch has been abandoned for 20 years (due to flooding and multiple washours) meaning the next railroad track is UP’s mainline to Boise – FROM PORTLAND.

    The state had nothing to do with that.

    The state had nothing to do with the fact that there isn’t a full wye at East Portland onto the Graham Line. A train coming from the south can’t get onto the Graham Line without entering Albina Yard; preferably it would continue through Albina Yard to North Portland and enter the Kenton Line. What did the state have to do with tha?

    What did the state have to do with the fact that the next available route east is several hundred miles south in Roseville, California?

    What did the state have to do with the abandonment of the Modoc Line?

    I fail to see your logic in how the State is responsible for the evolution of the railroad system that it doesn’t own or control. Yes, Coos Bay has a port. So what, McMinnville once had a “port” too. Was Oregon at fault for the Yamhill River becoming unnavigable (especially in the summer months when one can walk across the river and barely get their knees wet?)

    Salem had a port too, how was Oregon responsible for that? And how was the state responsible for the lack of operations at Port of Portland’s Terminal 1, and that Terminal 2 is largely vacant?

    Astoria has a port, how was the State responsible for it not developing? Or what about Tillamook? And Newport?

    And finally, given that Union Pacific’s transportation woes have even made national headlines, I’m not sure why one would want to choose a port that has access to only ONE railroad (the Union Pacific) when Portland offers access to two railroads, both Seattle and Tacoma offer two railroads, all of the California ports offer two railroads (all of which have access to both UP and BNSF), and Vancouver, BC has access to THREE railroads (BNSF, CN and CP).

    In Portland, if BNSF has a service problem the shipper can always re-route onto the UP. In Coos Bay, that can’t happen (well, technically it can, but UP can (and will) charge so much money that it never makes sense.) Likewise if there is a problem on BNSF’s “North Bank Road”, there are two alternate routes across Washington (Stampede Pass and Stevens Pass). If there is a problem on UP’s Cascade Line, the alternate route is down the Oregon Trunk – but this would add at least one more transit day for traffic out of Coos Bay.

    And finally as Ross mentioned – there is no traffic base in Coos Bay itself. A lot of those containers coming off in Portland – where do they go?

    Fred Meyer.
    And the dozens of smaller businesses in the Portland metro area that rely on shipments from Asia for production.

    In Coos Bay, none of that exists. Nor do I find any reason that any of those companies would want to locate in Coos Bay. Fred Meyer is one of the largest container users of the Port of Portland. Why would they want to use Coos Bay?

  22. Why should they spend billions improving Coos Bay when there are no major cities anywhere near there? A shallow port out in the middle of nowhere surrounded by mountains…. sounds about as logical as a “bridge to nowhere” in Alaska! Dredging this shallow estuary would be an environmental calamity. It would decimate the fishing and crabbing industries there. The far superior ports in the bay area and Tacoma are better suited for this new generation of supertankers (which need 50+ feet of bottom clearance, Coos Bay today only has 30). I would much rather see them spend the billions on a better freeway and railroad to Tacoma and phase out all the ports in Oregon altogether.

  23. Erik, you’re really failing to get my point which is really very simple. The political climate, and yes dealings at the state level, have historically directed Port business toward the Port of Portland, for decades…heck, even centuries. I know (anecdotally I admit, since it’s mostly recollection of conversations between adults, that I heard as a child. My grandmother worked for management at Weyerhaeuser and my grandfather was a civil engineer for the BLM in Coos Bay.) that the Port of Portland commission often had control over who was appointed to the Port Commission in Coos Bay at the State level. The cards were generally stacked against Coos Bay, historically, and that made it more attractive for the railroads to center their operations in Portland, as well. The railroads didn’t make their development decisions in a vacuum.

    I’m not disagreeing with you about the non-existence of the infrastructure. But I think it’s silly to assert that we shouldn’t build new infrastructure because there currently is insufficient or non-existent infrastructure. We need more direct, central, east-west cross state transit, both rail and highway. Especially with the development that is going on in Bend. If we’re going to align that transit with a Port, then it makes sense geographically to align it with Coos Bay.

    To say that there is no demand /industry to support the other ports (especially in the case of Coos Bay which is an exceptionally navigable and deep port)is a little dubious. The demand did/does not exist because it was directed away from the other ports to support the development and economy in the Portland area. If port use hadn’t been historically redirected, the creation of infrastructure and the location of industry would have been more attractive around those other ports, and ports like Coos Bay probably would see more use today, due to those developments.

    So, we have a world class city here in Portland. Fantastic. It’s partially due to the port being favored all of these years. But, at this point, with the potential to develop other industries in Portland and less focus on the shipping industry, I’m saying that there’s nothing wrong with spreading the wealth a little and getting another world class place (on the sea) out of it. Coos Bay is a beautiful place, and during boom times, it was a vibrant city.

  24. OMG, Psymonetta, I can’t believe you’re actually advocating for GROWTH outside of Portland! What has gotten into you? :)

  25. Greg, at no point have I ever asserted that I think growth should only occur in the Portland area. I do however think that areas of growth should be strategically planned state wide. Coos Bay just happens to be one of the areas where I think growth is appropriate, and could even be innovative and dynamic.

  26. It would work if Coos Bay didn’t have high mountains all around it. They would have to tunnel under the mountains to get to the freeway and I don’t think that would work because they’d hit magma. Tunnels under mountains work okay in Europe because those mountains aren’t volcanically active. When I was in Switzerland I couldn’t believe how many long tunnels there were! Wouldn’t it be cool if we could go underneath the mountains to get from the valley to central Oregon?

  27. Portland cannot now and will never be able to handle current generation of container ships, let along the next. Maybe Coos Bay offers some advantages…its not 100 miles in land, its not congested, it is surrounded by lots of water and trees (2nd growth), key raw materials unique to the NW. We are talking about pretty modest sums of $ to keep a rail line open from Coos Bay to Eugene…its an essential public utility.
    Regarding the Eugene-Weed, CA segment, that has value for all residents on the westside of the mountains…better access for freight and people to Roseburg, Medford, and south. That should be taken over by ODOT as a backup to I-5.

  28. Lenny,

    You still have the problem of tall mountains all around. Running a railroad or freeway over (or through) mountains is very costly. I say we move it all to Tacoma and spend the $$ on substantial improving freeway and railroad all throughout the PNW.

  29. OK, so if I put aside the fact that the infrastructure that exists is not suitable…

    Why develop Coos Bay? Isn’t it the majority opinion of this forum (not necessarily mine) that growth should be confined to high-density, “sustainable” means? That in itself relegates growth to major cities like Portland, Salem, and Eugene. (Bend, too, but I cringe when I say that.)

    What is there in Coos Bay to encourage growth? Heck, anyone can plop a freeway, a railroad, an airport, anywhere. Even in Christmas Valley, Jordan Valley, Burns (another extremely economically depressed area), Willamina, Astoria, Klamath Falls – you name it. Coos Bay might be a nice location (close to the water) but so is Lincoln City and Newport, and Cannon Beach and Seaside.

    (There’s also California.)

    With an endless supply of money, we could build all kinds of things – a grid system of freeways AND high-speed rail connecting all parts of Oregon. You know what? We don’t have the money.

    We can barely keep our schools functional and our highways properly maintained. Most of the state lacks any type of decent public transit. Jackson County doesn’t have a functioning library system and Curry County has a bare-bones Sheriff’s Office.

    Business is going to locate in the area of least resistance, and unfortunately there is a lot of obstacles to Coos Bay. I don’t see any valid justification to throw millions of dollars into buying a railroad, rehabbing it to Class 4 standards, and then pushing a railroad (never mind the environmental impact statement!) through the Cascades to Bend, Burns and Boise.

    Let me bring this down to a local level. There is a demonstrated need for improved highway capacity in Yamhill County, and it’s pegged at $400 million dollars for less than 20 miles of highway. The state says we can’t afford it. Coos Bay is asking for greater investment and with less justification. When the Newberg-Dundee Bypass gets built, let’s talk. When Curry County has the money they need for a fully functioning government, let’s talk. When Portland’s mass transit system serves 100% of the region with discrimination, let’s talk. When Oregon State Police has 1,000 Troopers on the road, let’s talk. Otherwise, if the shippers want to keep the railroad open they will find a way. Obiviously they want something for free and I am not sympathetic to “corporate welfare”.

  30. Q: What is there in Coos Bay to encourage growth?

    A: the largest, safest, deepest sea port between San Francisco and Astoria.

    See Lenny’s comment above regarding the container industry looking to Coos Bay as a viable port for the next generation of container ships. So, it seems like for that particular industry, Coos Bay is the area of least resistance.

    I leave out the huge potential for tourism and recreation, along with housing development, since you seem to think that’s not a reasonable argument.

    Greg, regarding your comments about the mountain ranges, the highest peak in the South Coast Mountain Range is around 4300 ft., likewise for the Calapooyas. There’s also quite a bit of “lowlands” associated with both ranges. As far as magma is concerned, the only potentially active volcanic area in route is the Newberry Caldera. It’s entirely possible for the route to go overland at that geographic location. No tunneling necessary.

  31. I agree with Erik, the idea of a Coos Bay megaport is ludacris.

    A: the largest, safest, deepest sea port between San Francisco and Astoria.

    And how much bigger and deeper is the Puget Sound than Coos Bay? Coos Bay looks like a mudpuddle compared to S.F. Bay or Puget Sound. You also didn’t take into account a lot of port operations are going down to Mexico and coming up here via the “NAFTA superhighway” or rail. In Mexico its a heck of a lot cheaper than up here where the unions are greedy. We need better highways and land transport in Oregon, not reinvent the wheel where it won’t even be used!

  32. A: the largest, safest, deepest sea port between San Francisco and Astoria.

    I wonder what real value that has since there do not appear to be either producers for exports, markets for imports in the vicinity. I agree with Lenny that there should be an effort to keep the railroad operational. But it is not clear even a massive investment in new transportation infrastructure is going to allow Coos Bay to compete as a major west coast port. It sounds a lot like the boosterism by the Port of Portland. More dream than reality and more wishful thinking than hard analysis.

  33. Again – a container port NEEDS something to attract it. It doesn’t have local business, and it doesn’t have viable outlets for those containers to go somewhere. The railroad ENDS in Eugene. As I have stated twice, the only way to go in Eugene is left or right. You can’t go straight in Eugene. You can imagine all you want, but it isn’t there.

    There are few decent highways into Coos Bay as well; another obstacle towards a container port. Astoria at least has a better (and sea-level) highway AND railroad to Portland with direct access to the BNSF mainline; plus since the route is ALREADY OWNED by the state it also has access to UP. Yet Tongue Point has failed to develop as well despite all of those benefits.

    As for the housing/tourism angle of Coos Bay – why hasn’t it happened yet? There is plenty of housing/tourism in Newport, Lincoln City, Tillamook, Cannon Beach, Seaside, Gearhart, Warrenton and Astoria. Unlike those communities Coos Bay even has scheduled air service but the other cities are growing even with a two hour plus drive to Portland International Airport.

    If you have an emotional attachment to Coos Bay and want it to succeed, why aren’t you in Coos Bay making a difference? Why aren’t you partnering up with developers to buy land, put houses there, encourage business, etc.? Coos County only grew 0.2% between 2000 and 2006 for a reason, when Clatsop County grew 4% and Tillamook County 5.2%.

  34. A lot of those containers coming off in Portland – where do they go … Nike.

    Actually I don’t think Nike imports anything through the Port of Portland. They contract with manufacturers to make shoes to a particular specification. They are imported through Los Angeles or whatever other port is convenient Then they are routed to whatever retailer is going to sell shoes at that particular price point. In essence, no one from Nike ever sees or touches the shoes. It just designs, brands and markets them. I would not be surprised if some of the lower priced models for places like Walmart are just produced to a price point with a swoosh stuck on.

  35. Erik,

    I’m not in Coos Bay partnering up and developing because I don’t have that kind of capital. I’m in Portland to develop my professional life and gain some wealth. My family is solidly working class, and a few of them are still doing okay in Coos Bay. There are no opportunities for me there…beyond working at my Grandmother’s bar. Even if I could get a job in the public sector in Coos Bay, it wouldn’t be challenging enough to keep me interested. Should things turn around in the area, I would definitely consider moving back or having a second home there, if I’m ever able to afford that sort of luxury.

    You’re still arguing against building infrastructure because there is a lack of infrastructure. That really seems counter-intuitive to me. If Maersk and other companies are vetting the Port of Coos Bay, I say that there is ample reason to invest in the area and secure that opportunity for economic development.

  36. I forgot to add…why hasn’t the tourism aspect happened in Coos Bay yet?

    It’s a function of aesthetics. Unlike cute little towns that really only rely on tourism and cottage industry for their local economy, Coos Bay was built by larger industry and the development pattern in Coos Bay reflects that. Now that there is a lack of big industry, the town is half closed, is economically depressed and looks it. Despite the fact that they have some of the most beautiful beaches, dunes, gardens and river/estuary/slough country around, most people don’t get past the initial aesthetic shock of entering Coos Bay via HWY 101 or 42 and seeing that depression. It certainly effects me, even more so because I’ve seen the city in a more vital state.

    The only thing that will fix it is revitalizing the city by bringing back industry and employment.

  37. Psymonetta –

    I agree Coos Bay is a gorgeous area. I think the real challenge is for a vision that does not look to the past.

  38. You’re still arguing against building infrastructure because there is a lack of infrastructure. That really seems counter-intuitive to me. If Maersk and other companies are vetting the Port of Coos Bay, I say that there is ample reason to invest in the area and secure that opportunity for economic development.

    So your sole argument is we should build it and they will come?

    OK, I also want a freeway to be built that would connect Lincoln City with I-5 via McMinnville. After all, a freeway would work to encourage industrial and commercial growth in Newberg and McMinnville, help the Grande Ronde Tribe encourage economic growth in their reservation area other than the casino, and encourage more tourism in northern Lincoln County.

    And let’s extend Highway 22 as a freeway from Salem to Bend, and continue it to Ontario. U.S. 26 should also be turned into a freeway from Bend to Portland, including the original Sunrise Highway proposal so that Gresham will have two freeways.

    U.S. 101, 97 and 395 should all be turned into north-south freeways.

    And a new freeway should be built linking Lewiston, ID with I-84 near La Grande.

    These projects will help encourage economic growth and development throughout the State of Oregon, provide redundant transportation options, reduce congestion and provide more locations for industrial siting and new jobs for all Oregonians.

  39. No, Erik! You have it all wrong…. Tear out all the freeways and put in MAX trains and streetcars everywhere. That will surely attract lots of people.

  40. Erik, my sole argument is not “if we build it they will come”. My argument is: we have a natural resource (port) that companies want to come to, except it lacks infrastructure that requires a relatively small investment (in rail) that has a high probability of producing a significant socio-economic benefit to the region and the state as a whole. So, let’s make that investment… and then once we see results, look into expanding other infrastructure like the highway access to the area.

  41. OK, I also want a freeway to be built that would connect Lincoln City with I-5 via McMinnville. After all, a freeway would work to encourage industrial and commercial growth in Newberg and McMinnville, help the Grande Ronde Tribe encourage economic growth in their reservation area other than the casino, and encourage more tourism in northern Lincoln County.

    Can someone explain why there have been no capacity improvements on 18 and 99W through Yamhill County but they get a freeway-like highway with overpasses for 22 east of Salem to Stayton even though there isn’t nearly the population or traffic as along 99W? Highway 22 east of Salem looks more like the Sunset Highway freeway with barely the traffic as 99W!

  42. a relatively small investment (in rail)

    No, it’s not a “relatively small” investment.

    You’re talking about a complete rebuild of 120 miles of rail just between Coos Bay and Eugene – THAT’s the cheap part.

    Then you’re talking about a BRAND NEW, NEVER BEFORE BUILT, UNGRADED railroad line from Eugene to at least Burns before you hit a previously graded railroad line.

    I believe you are completely underestimating what it will take to develop rail out of Coos Bay. To Eugene – yes, that won’t take much. Beyond Eugene is a different story. Right now, in Eugene you turn left to Portland or right to Sacramento. Why add a day or two of shipping transit time when the steamship can just dock in Portland or Oakland and have a straight shot to destination?

    You also underestimate the environmentalists objections towards building a new railline through the Cascades. Yes, rail might be “cleaner” than highways, but a railroad requires a much straighter and leveler path (3% is the absolute maximum for a decent, modern railroad; it should be kept to no more than 2% and preferrably around 1%) than a freeway that can climb a 9% grade and make sharper turns.

    There is a reason why the routes along the Columbia Gorge have been successful – it was a natural cut through the Cascades. Thanks to the Government’s damming of the river, both the UP and the SP&S received federal dollars to straighten out the lines (where they would have been flooded by slackwater). The ex-Great Northern line, in comparison through Cascade Tunnel/Stevens Pass, is restricted due to ventilation matters in the nearly eight mile tunnel (and when it was built it was electrified territory, as was the Milwaukee Road’s line in Stampede Pass).

    But you still haven’t answered the question – why not Astoria, or Tillamook, or Newport – three other cities that have natural ports; and Astoria whose harbor was actually built by the U.S. Navy and the docks/moorings still exist but are unused? Why not build freeways across Eastern Oregon to unlock the thousands of acres of land that could be used for new factories? What about McMinnville – a major city in the Willamette Valley and the only one that doesn’t have four-lane highway access out of it despite a population of over 30,000? (Despite the fact that much smaller towns like Banks, North Plains, Aumsville, Stayton, and Rickreall have freeway access); Lebanon and Sweet Home have expressway access along with Corvallis and Philomath, and Scappoose and St. Helens?

  43. These projects will help encourage economic growth and development throughout the State of Oregon, provide redundant transportation options, reduce congestion and provide more locations for industrial siting and new jobs for all Oregonians.

    While I don’t entirely disagree, all the roads that you mentioned could be built to expressway standards for much less cost. The difference is the lack of a grade-separated interchange at every intersestion, but rather only where they’re needed.

    Oregon limits its roads and parking, by choice. It’s not all bad that we do, but it does to varying degrees limit the capacity of I-5 due to a lack of connections with other major highways.

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