Everett, Wash. – “As they said in Star Trek, to boldly go where no man has gone before … or in our case, to boldly go where no Port has gone before,” said the Port’s Chief Financial Officer as he asked for the Port Commission’s approval of the Federal Rail Rehabilitation Improvement Financing (RRIF) Loan last week.
On October 23, the Port Commission approved a $5.949 million RRIF loan with the U.S. Department of Transportation Build America Bureau for two key infrastructure projects that support the Port’s Seaport Modernization efforts. The Port of Everett is the first Port to make it through the complex loan process.
“I’ve been proud to work with the Port of Everett to secure federal investments to ensure the Port continues to meet the demands of the 21st century economy, and I’m thrilled to see the federal government bring even more resources to the table. This investment will help complete vital modernization projects and support an important economic hub in Washington state,” said U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
“You can’t have a big league economy with little league infrastructure. Safe and efficient rail infrastructure supports thousands of jobs in Washington state. This loan will help the Port of Everett expand rail capacity and alleviate local road congestion, an issue Snohomish County knows well,” said Congressman Rick Larsen (D-WA).
The two projects financed under the RRIF loan were the Port’s Terminal Rail Improvements Phase II and the Cargo Transit Shed Relocation Project. These two projects, which are now complete, increased the Port’s on-terminal rail footprint from 9,200 lineal feet to 12,500 lineal feet, and provides nearly 40,000 square feet of covered warehouse space for rail loading. Given the Port’s location on the BNSF mainline, enhanced on-terminal rail capacity and more seamless ingress and egress is vital to ensuring efficient freight mobility on the mainline from Seattle to Canada and east along the northern corridor.
“Completing critical infrastructure upgrades like this will better position the Port and its facilities to handle the larger vessels and heavier cargoes and other opportunities on the horizon,” said Glen Bachman, Port of Everett Commission President.
The loan is attractive because it is interest only for the first five years of the investment, stretches up to 30 years, and is fixed at the current treasury yield of 3.32% and does not include a pre-payment penalty.
The RRIF program, which includes $35 BILLION in available funding, was streamlined as part of the 2016 Grow America Act. Specifically, the Act said it “… will strengthen RRIF by reducing the cost of obtaining a loan, making RRIF more accessible, a vital tool for short line and regional railroads.”
“This funding will help fund a key port in Washington state to handle more cargo, thereby helping our country remain competitive in the increasingly global economy,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao in an agency release.
Since 2002, USDOT has issued 35 loans totaling more than $2.7 billion across 27 states. Most loan applicants and recipients were passenger train service providers, such as Amtrak, or large railroad corporations.
“USDOT has very attractive infrastructure financial tools that the Port would like to access to support our international trade and economic development,” Port of Everett Acting CEO Lisa Lefeber said. “Navigating the complex permitting, regulatory and financial requirements to close a federal loan requires advanced planning, diligence, lots of patience and back-up plans. Even though it is a relatively small loan amount, we stayed course because if successful, it would open up opportunities for larger projects in the future. Our diligence paid off, and we now have a financial contract framework to apply to other projects and USDOT loan programs in the future.”
The Port utilizes rail to support U.S. exports and imports, including the aerospace, construction, manufacturing, energy, agricultural and forest products industries. The project allows the Port to safely and efficiently transport goods from ship to shore, with cargo arriving and departing the terminals utilizing rail as well as trucks. The use of rail service for the cargo shipments has the potential to eliminate at least 429 million commercial truck miles off of the local roads and highways. Additionally, these projects will retain and help grow the Port’s 13,614 direct trade-related jobs, and provide approximately 145 construction jobs.