A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Millersburg reloading center: Still waiting

Written May 9th, 2023 by Hasso Hering

Equipment was displayed at the Mid Willamette Valley Intermodal Center on Dec. 15, 2022, during a ceremony to mark the center’s completion.

Five months after Gov. Kate Brown and others celebrated the completion of the Mid Willamette Valley Intermodal Center, the Millersburg reloading center has yet to handle its first cargo.

Last week I wondered whatever had become of the multimillion-dollar center, so I asked.

Gary Furneaux, the MVIC project lead with ConGlobal, the operator of the facility, said there’s been a problem with empty containers. The problem is they have not been available.

Here’s what he said in an email:

“Industry conditions and fierce competition are major factors in why we have not processed a container yet at the MVIC. A shift in global trade has resulted in a decrease in available empty container inventories.

“Specifically, reduced imports into the U.S. mean fewer empty containers available for exports. Currently, the shipping lines are unable to meet their current container commitments to existing export customers and are not in a position to commit to MVIC.

“Using diverted empty containers from the Midwest still remains our long-term plan, but there are several options being progressed to address current market conditions.  We remain operationally prepared to begin operations and will continue to pursue options until market conditions improve.”

In the meantime, the Millersburg center remains closed, and its employees are working elsewhere.

Furneaux explained: The Millersburg terminal manager is on temporary duty working on projects in California and Arizona. Terminal operators and mechanics are on temporary duty at ConGlobal’s Corvallis office.

“We have them come by the facility weekly to check on the facility and start up the equipment,” Furneaux said.

Building the 64-acre reloading center, including new rail lines, cost an estimated $35.5 million and was funded mostly by the state of Oregon and partly by Linn County.

The center was built to reload freight from trucks to trains, and and vice versa.

As Linn County said in a press release at the time of the Dec. 15 grand opening, the center was intended to reduce costs for farmers, shippers and others using the facility, while also reducing the number of trucks on Oregon highways.

While it hasn’t worked yet, maybe it will when the container issue is resolved. (hh)

20 responses to “Millersburg reloading center: Still waiting”

  1. Cap B. says:

    Gawd! This is embarrassing, I would think. Sounds like a boondoggle, and it seems looking into container availability should, rather than just assuming they would be there, have been on top of the lists of all the principle people in this venture.

  2. Anony Mouse says:

    I suppose someone in government did a cost-benefit analysis to determine the economic merit of this “investment.”

    It appears the assumptions made are making an ass out of you, me, and everyone else.

    But, hey, given Hasso’s definition of “free” it’s free money, until the bill comes due.

    Nothing to see here…move along folks….

    • Bob Woods says:

      Give it a rest Gordon.

      The free market takes a hand no matter what anyone plans for. Right now, that means a shortage of containers. Come late summer when grass seed needs to be shipped, some entrepreneur will have those rail cars available.

      If not, the value of grass seed will likely go up, as happens when things in demand are in short supply.

  3. khs says:

    Well, the project lead explained clearly what is going on. Anyone involved in bigger companies and industries know that things are not that easy and smooth unlike arm-chair experts.

  4. Hartman says:

    Heck…even Rome wasn’t built in a day.

  5. Matthew Calhoun says:

    Glad to see the comments section is back to its old self. And now that the mouse from North Carolina has been unmasked…

    • Anony Mouse says:

      You think you know but you really don’t.

      I’ll keep the mystery alive only because I’m entertained by your certainty.

      But I digress from the topic Hasso identified. He allowed your silliness and Woods’ invective.

      I wonder if he’ll allow my softly stated retort?

  6. John says:

    I understand no empty containers for locals to fill up and ship out, but what about all full containers that were to come in from Portland? I thought the plan was to rail them from the Portland terminal to here and then put them on trucks for local distribution. To reduce all the trucks and long lines in Portland as well as a more efficient economical and environmental method to move them around.

    Are they saying that there is no local delivery of the containers now? Or was the amount of incoming and needing to be distributed exaggerated before the tax money was spent?

    It is a shame it is not being used as we see trucks full of containers driving right by on I5 every day.

    The other part of the land there that is still owned by Linn County is a big eye-sore. It is not being maintained allowing it to be overgrown.

    • Al Nyman says:

      I don’t believe you realize the Port of Portland is shutdown and there are no containers coming from the Portland Terminal whatever you are referring to. And what business in the area uses a large number of containers. The container problem is due to China taking them back empty and the only way to stop it is putting a tariff on empty containers leaving the country which I don’t see the Biden Administration doing. I also question the wisdom that the railroad is going to deliver the containers to Seattle as they lost all shipments of lumber 50 years ago, other than the East Coast, as a truck could deliver the load to LA or wherever in 24 hours while the railroad was still trying to make up a train. Unless there is a storage facility for outgoing containers, the time it takes the railroad to make up a train precludes it being delivered to Seattle in a timely manner.

      • Ray Kopczynski says:

        “I don’t believe you realize the Port of Portland is shutdown…”

        Hmmm… If you go to their website and link to Terminal 6, they sure indicate they are in business. Probably not up to pre labor-strike time, nevertheless…

        • Al Nyman says:

          Sorry Ray but they won a $100,000,000 judgment against the longshoreman’s union. Hyundai, which was the last major container shipper, pulled out because of the union slowdown and caused the lawsuit. I own a company in Vancouver, WA and all containers are coming from Seattle.

          • Ray Kopczynski says:

            Understood. But you said the port was shutdown. Not so according to their website…

  7. Staci says:

    First in to celebrate was Nyquist but he’s really busy getting paid more than the Governor and doing school board admin firings to manage the county business

    • Bill Kapaun says:

      Elaborate. Be precise.

    • sonamata says:

      This is the only article on the facility I’ve read without praise for Nyquist and Olson and their economic genius. The Linn County Commissioners are teflon. It’s absurd the chair is also on the school board in a county with more than 100K people.

      The oversight and transparency at the county level is a joke:

      – An employee embezzled $235K over 8 years before she was caught. Another employee embezzled $6K. Two former employees sued Linn County for $1.5M over whistleblower retaliation after reporting financial discrepancies. It was settled out of court.

      – There was a ransomware attack on their archaic IT infrastructure that brought the website down for days, and data from county servers were leaked. The website was insecure for years before the attack happened.

      – When a commissioner candidate started recording their PUBLIC meetings, they hassled them about “privacy concerns” – the recording was perfectly legal. That interaction is why they started posting agendas and (heavily redacted) meeting minutes online. Less than five years ago, you had to go to the courthouse and pay for a paper copy of the meeting minutes.

      We deserve better.

  8. TLH-ALB 1 says:

    Their “excuse” is BS…
    The “shortage” is in the believability of their BS. Those in the know…know the truth.

  9. John S. says:

    Just made a trip from Albany to Seattle yesterday on the Amtrak. Umteen containers stacked along the route. It would be easy to relocate them down stream. So the thought comes to mind that whoever possesses extra containers doesn’t want to give them up to service existing customers.
    It would seem straw shippers are locked into their shipping port of choice without the availability of local containers.
    On another note the big backlog at Long Beach a year ago had shippers choose East coast ports to get product to store shelves.

    It would appear someone dropped the ball.

  10. Dennis says:

    If we build it they will come. LOL

  11. Aaron Gibson says:

    I love it when a plan comes together. Excellent job, to all those involved. You should be very proud of all the hard work for this to come to fruition.


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