Friday, February 7, 2014

Great Northern Corridor Coalition Launched

By Mark Edward Nero

Representatives from seven states throughout the Pacific Northwest and the Midwestern US have formed a collective called the Great Northern Corridor Coalition to promote regional cooperation, planning and shared project implementation to improve the movement of rail freight.

In addition to BNSF Railway, coalition members include the Washington state ports in Everett, Grays Harbor, Longview, Pasco, Quincy, Seattle, Tacoma and Vancouver; the Port of Portland; the Washington Public Ports Association; the Port of Northern Montana; and the departments of transportation in Washington Idaho, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota and Wisconsin.

The members are participating in a major effort to improve rail freight movement across the Great Northern Corridor, which spans the northern tier of the western United States to Chicago. The corridor traverses the Puget Sound area and Lower Columbia River and passes through Washington State, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Currently, more than 203 million tons of freight move annually over the corridor, which is a complex rail freight transportation network that directly serves 27 million people and traverses hundreds of miles of critical agricultural areas, like the Columbia Basin, Wenatchee Valley and Yakima Valley in Washington State.

Without the Great Northern Corridor, the more than 203 million tons of freight currently moved by rail would take about 4.8 million long-haul trucks annually to move.

“This interconnected system of rail, highways and ports is vital to shippers in Washington State and other states along the Great Northern Corridor,” Port of Quincy Commissioner Patric Connelly said.

In a prepared statement, the Great Northern Corridor Coalition says it will work to strengthen the corridor in order to promote economic growth for neighboring communities and “accommodate the demand for safe, efficient and environmentally sound transportation services.”

The first step of the Coalition’s process includes conducting a SWOT – Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats – analysis to identify opportunities to improve the operations and infrastructure along the corridor.

The study will be conducted by Olsson Associates, Parsons Brinckerhoff and The Beckett Group with funding through the Federal Highway Administration Multistate Corridor Operations and Management Program, as well as funding from coalition partners.

After the analysis is complete, the results would be used to develop viable strategies and projects to improve multimodal transportation system management and operations. The analysis is expected to be completed by fall 2014 with analysis of identified projects and initiatives beginning immediately thereafter.