The Port of Olympia and Port of Tacoma Commissions have voted to adopt an Interlocal Agreement to form a strategic partnership that will improve regional rail system capacity, establish a center for warehousing and distribution and create a major South Puget Sound employment center.

The Port of Olympia Commission approved the Interlocal Agreement at its regularly scheduled public meeting on July 17, and the Port of Tacoma Commission approved the Agreement at its public meeting on July 18.

The Interlocal Agreement calls for the two ports to cooperatively purchase, plan and develop a South Sound Logistics Center on a 745-acre site in Thurston County, along Interstate 5. Under terms of the agreement, the two ports have until December 31, 2007 to sign a final Joint Operating Agreement.

The vision for the land - located south of Olympia near Maytown, Washington - may include facilities designed for handling the growing volume of international and domestic cargo, moving through the region via truck and rail.

“This land provides a strategic opportunity for our two ports, and our entire region, to work together to create additional rail capacity and efficiency through the South Puget Sound and the entire state,” said Port of Olympia Commission President Steven C. Pottle. “Freight mobility and the economic benefits of maritime commerce do not end at county lines. We must work together regionally to improve our transportation system.

“The real payoff of this project will be family-wage jobs, not just for Thurston County, but for the entire South Puget Sound,” said Pottle. “This cooperative project shows how ports can work together to create broad, regional economic opportunities. And I am confident that this project will help bring additional private investment to our area.”

The property is a former industrial site that now has permitting in place for gravel mining. The property is near rail tracks used by BNSF Railway, Union Pacific Railroad and the Mountain Division of Tacoma Rail, a division of Tacoma Public Utilities.

According to the Interlocal Agreement, the objectives and intended benefits of the joint project include:

  • Expediting regional and statewide movement of goods;
  • Reducing traffic impacts on local and interstate roadways;
  • Increasing the capacity and operational efficiency of both ports;
  • Expanding job opportunities for residents of Thurston County and Pierce County;
  • Improving rail service and access for both ports;
  • Reducing the environmental impact of diesel emissions, due to more efficient freight movement;
  • Stimulating private investment in industrial, manufacturing and office facilities; and
  • Enhancing the financial performance of both ports.

Container traffic through the Puget Sound region is projected to grow from its current level of 4.2 million teus to more than 8 million teus by 2015. Breakbulk cargo volumes, which have grown significantly over the past five years, are expected to double within the next 20 years, according to a Washington Public Ports Association

2004 freight mobility study.

“Numbers like this underscore the need for creative regional solutions to handle increased freight volumes and continue to keep South Sound competitive in an international arena,” said Port of Tacoma Commission President Connie Bacon.

The proposed South Sound Logistics Center will provide a centralized, rail-served location for manufacturers, distributors and cargo handlers.

Co-locating businesses that use the state’s rail and highway networks at this center means that trains and trucks can avoid multiple stops every day at widely dispersed business locations to receive or deliver rail cars or trailers. Instead, those businesses will be served at one location.

“The result is less time spent by trains stopping and starting on the main rail lines,” said Bacon. “Reducing the time spent moving cargo from one point to another increases available cargo handling capacity throughou