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Officials say new intermodal rail terminal will take trucks off I-5

Chris Lehman
Equipment at the intermodal terminal will swap shipping containers between trucks and railcars. Once the facility is fully operational, the container transfers will be handled by an overhead gantry.

Officials cut the ribbon Thursday on a new intermodal rail terminal near Albany. Advocates said it could take hundreds of trucks off I-5 each day.

The 64-acre facility will allow the transfer of shipping containers from truck to train, and vice versa. The idea is to make it easier for Willamette Valley farms and businesses to ship products and get raw materials without having to send trucks to major ports in Seattle or Tacoma.

That's a huge selling point for Karla Chambers, co-owner of Stahlbush Island Farms in Corvallis.

Rod Stevens
This aerial photo provided by ODOT shows the intermodal terminal's location near Interstate 5 on the right and the main Union Pacific tracks near the center of the photo. The two concrete strips will eventually be the "track" for the overhead gantry crane.

“Our truck driver can make one trip up to Tacoma in one day, tying up an entire truck for a round trip, and they spend a huge part of that day sitting in downtown Portland," she said. "So this just cleans all of that up.”

Chambers said Stahlbush Farms exports frozen and canned fruits and vegetables. It also imports packaging material, meaning the intermodal terminal could be useful for both inbound and outbound products.

Chris Lehman
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said the intermodal terminal will help Willamette Valley farms and businesses by offering them a lower-cost shipping alternative.

"With diesel costs going up, labor costs going up, we need to help our customers get their prices down," she said. "This will make all of us in the Willamette Valley more competitive."

The $35 million facility was paid for with a mix of state and Linn County funds. It’s expected to open in January.

It's located in the town of Millersburg, just north of Albany. The terminal features three train tracks that will eventually be straddled by an overhead gantry crane.

"It doesn't eliminate trucks," said Gary Fernaux, director of sales for ITS ConGlobal, the company that will operate the terminal. "It greatly reduces the number of miles on the truck, including wear and tear on the highways and the emissions."

Fermaux said ITS ConGlobal, which operates more than two dozen similar facilities across the country, expects to handle about 150 skipping containers at the Millersburg location each day, with a goal of getting a truck driver in and out of the facility in about 30 minutes.

While not quite open, the facility was hailed Thursday as a game-changer by the dignitaries and members of the business community who gathered trackside to cut the ribbon on what will officially be known as the "Mid-Willamette Valley Intermodal Center."

"This is certainly a project that many people have dreamed of for many, many years," said Gov. Kate Brown.

Chris Lehman has been reporting on Oregon issues since 2006. He joined the KLCC news department in December, 2018. Chris was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and graduated from Temple University with a degree in journalism. His public broadcasting career includes stops in Louisiana and Illinois. Chris has filed for national programs including “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered.”