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ER: Port-rail group optimistic about port business plan
Thursday 6 Mar 2008, 07:31
Filed under: Humboldt, NCRA, Railroad, THA

Citizens for Port/Rail Development met at the Samoa Cookhouse Wednesday to talk shop on the recent developments and efforts afoot to boost shipping and jobs around the county’s deepwater port.

In a discussion of the business plan for a regional shipping terminal on Humboldt Bay approved by the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District last week, CPRD Chairperson Kaye Strickland said the group will continue to support the Timber Heritage Association.

THA has been strategizing for years on a long-term home for its many tons of historic timber-related machinery and equipment.

THA President Marcus Brown, a CPRD member, told the group Wednesday he was “absolutely jubilant” following the release of the Harbor District’s consultant TranSystem’s feasibility study last year looking at options to modernize the district’s aging Redwood Dock facility.

Both the consultant’s conservative and more expansive rail-dependant options for developing a container shipping terminal recognize a historic museum as a viable tourism component for the project and a potential entry point for visitors stopping over on cruise ships.

“That part is very positive for us,” Brown said.

TranSystems consultants said a developed terminal facility on the property could attract approximately 10 to 20 cruise ships bringing 30,000 visitors to the area each year.

The THA, which leases two buildings from the Harbor District, has received support from the district’s board of commissioners.

Brown said the roundhouse building adjacent to Redwood Dock the group is renting for its second one-year lease is the only adequate place that can accommodate the group’s various locomotives and large train equipment.

But it isn’t only the feasibility study Brown and the THA are finding positive.

During the Feb. 28 meeting last week, Commissioners Ronnie Pellegrini announced she wanted to initiate a discussion among commissioners over the possibility of donating some of the district’s Samoa-area property to the THA for its museum efforts.

Reached at home Wednesday, Pellegrini said she made the suggestion to fulfill the district’s obligation to provide recreation opportunities.

“I think there is huge community support for it,” Pellegrini said.

Also discussed during the meeting was the North Coast Railroad Authority and Harbor District’s joint application to the California Transportation Commission that is expected to be considered next week.

The project, which CPRD members view as another opportunity to restore rail service in the area, is seeking more than $19 million in Proposition 1B transportation infrastructure funding for their California Northern Freight Corridor Restoration Project.

According to the application document, the two-component rail and navigation project would provide improved rail and port service, create jobs and relieve congestion on North Coast roads and highways, as well as reduce the congestion of other California ports.

While the Harbor District’s portion seeking funding to address silting problems at the harbor’s dangerous entrance received unanimous support from commissioners, the NCRA’s part of the joint application was identified by a minority of commissioners as a poor project to tie its worthwhile venture.

Despite concerns raised by some commissioners and residents that it didn’t meet the criteria for the funding, Harbor District staff indicated they are optimistic the CTC will approve the project.

The CTC is scheduled to consider staff recommendations on the Trade Corridors Improvement Fund projects, which the application was submitted under, during its meeting in Sacramento March 12.

The CTC already held hearings on the TCIF funding in Los Angeles, San Diego, Oakland and Fresno last month and is scheduled to adopt the TCIF programs during its meeting April 8.

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