State looks for information on viability of reinstating program
OLYMPIA – Washington produce growers could have another option for getting their goods to market, if there is sufficient demand to revitalize a rail-shipping program that was discontinued four years ago.
The Washington State Department of Transportation is seeking information from railroads and intermodal logistics companies to help determine if sufficient demand and expertise exists to revive a defunct state program that once supported a pool of refrigerated rail cars.
A request for information was released Wednesday, March 30, seeking proposals from parties interested in restoring the Washington Produce Rail Car program. The deadline for submissions is noon Monday, May 2.
Federal funding may be available to help support the program, and input from the freight community will help WSDOT determine if it will pursue such funding. “Both the number and quality of submissions is important to this process,” said WSDOT Freight Rail Policy & Program Manager Chris Herman. “We’ll be looking at the level of demand, as well as assessing the experience of each submitter in managing temperature-controlled fleets and meeting strict service requirements for perishable shipments.”
Designed to ensure a pool of temperature-controlled railcars was available to meet demand during peak growing and shipping season, the Produce Rail Car program originally launched in 2006 with federal and state funding. The program was suspended in 2012 when several privately-owned companies were expanding in the market. However, one of those competitors is no longer operating this service and WSDOT may be able to help fill the void if it proves to be economically viable.
The availability of temperature controlled rail or intermodal equipment is vital to transporting Washington-grown produce to markets beyond the state’s borders. According to Matt Harris of the Washington State Potato Commission, “Efficient movement of our perishable commodities is critical to the livelihood of potato growers in Washington state.”