Wash. state legislators: Where is rail service for Quincy, Wash.?
Fourteen members of the Washington state legislature have written a letter to the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway over their concerns that BNSF has been slow to honor a written pledge to bring rail service to an inland port in Quincy, Wash.
Rep. Judy Warnick, whose office wrote the letter, said BNSF has yet to enter into a service agreement with the Port of Quincy to provide intermodal rail service in Central Washington. In 2002, Quincy, a small, agriculture town smack dab in the middle of Washington, sought and received written support from BNSF for the development of an intermodal rail terminal and track that would connect to BNSF’s lines.
Since then, more than $10 million in local, state and federal funding has been spent to develop and construct the intermodal terminal. Private agriculture and cold-storage firms have set up shop awaiting rail service, and Yahoo! and Microsoft are setting up huge server centers, hoping to use the rail line running through Quincy to bring server equipment shipped from abroad through the Pacific Northwest seaports.
“This terminal is a vital component toward the development of new companies locating in Quincy and the Columbia Basin,' Warnick wrote. 'It’s one of the primary reasons Columbia Colstor opened its $25 million, 250,000-square-foot international intermodal refrigerated warehouse at the terminal.
“The Port of Quincy worked in good faith with BNSF, who had given assurances that it supported intra-state intermodal service, and had even provided written approval for the port’s rail connection to BNSF lines. Now that the terminal is ready and millions have been spent for development, BNSF is dragging its feet. We’re very worried the railway could pull out altogether, leaving Columbia Colstor, the Port of Quincy and its clients, and our local shippers without rail shipping access and with no other recourse.”
In the letter to BNSF, the lawmakers urged the railway “to increase its efforts to work with the Port of Quincy to find competitive and timely options for intermodal rail service to and from Quincy, Wash.”
The legislators stated that the terminal was developed with the help of the Washington State Legislature “to provide agricultural and industrial shippers a rail transport alternative from Central Washington to the Puget Sound as well as to alleviate truck congestion on Interstate 90 and in the Seattle/Tacoma Metro area.
“We are very concerned about BNSF’s apparent change in position regarding intermodal rail service to and from Quincy and the potential adverse impacts that the lack of service will cause for Central Washington shippers,” Warnick wrote.
Although BNSF and Port of Quincy officials have had ongoing meetings as recently as three weeks ago, the rail company very recently told potential clients that it had no intention to service Quincy.
“That’s extremely troublesome to us, given that all of this money has been spent for development of the terminal line with a good-faith understanding that BNSF would be there when we needed them,” said Warnick. “There’s a tremendous amount of development in Quincy predicated upon what appeared to be a strong commitment by BNSF to provide this intermodal service. In fact, Microsoft just held its ribbon-cutting ceremony today on its 470,000-square-foot data center, and more development in Quincy is pending. It’s vital that we determine BNSF’s intent and that we can get it on board to service the Quincy terminal.”
In a story on Quincy's port in the April American Shipper (pages 80-82), one agriculture shipper advocate said it's not surprising BNSF is paying little attention to Quincy.
'The railroads' focus is not on export cargo and especially not on ag exports,' said Peter Friedmann, executive director of the Agriculture Ocean Transportation Coalition. 'The railroads are putting investment in intermodal facilities, and in fact are reducing investment in agriculture exports.'