All ports are workhorses. Not all are innovators.
This past November, the Port of Everett in Washington state became the first port in the country to receive financing from the USDOT’s Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing program. The $5.95 million federal loan added 3,300 feet of on-terminal working track and nearly 40,000 square feet of covered warehouse space for rail loading.
“It’s pretty exciting,” said the Port’s acting CEO Lisa Lefeber. In an unusual turn, the rail projects were completed before the loan came through. Everett Port officials stuck with the federal application process as more rail upgrades will be needed in the future, Lefeber said.
The new track and warehouse are part of the Port’s modernization plan — a set of initiatives that is part of a broader transformation that includes building a lively mixed-use waterfront community with housing, hotels and office space.
“The idea is to have a working waterfront to the South and recreational to the North,” Lefeber said.
Best known for its handling of components for the nearby Boeing aircraft plant, Everett’s working port facility, like others around the country, is retooling to handle bigger ships and heavier cargo.
This summer, workers broke ground on the $36 million Southwest Terminal Wharf modernization project. The terminal was constructed by Weyerhauser in the 1970s to accommodate forest product shipments, and has a load capacity of only 500 pounds per square foot — not enough to handle heavier breakbulk loads for Boeing and other customers.
Boeing uses the Port for breakbulk shipments for its 747, 767, and 777 aircraft.
Upgrades made to the Southwest terminal will double load capacity to 1,000 pounds per square inch. The plan also calls for two 100-foot gauge rail mounted gantry cranes, dredge and upgrade paving, shore power, lighting and other utilities.
“It is a critical project, and will keep us in the shipping business for the next 50 years,” Lefeber said. Snohomish County is growing, she added, and the emerging Arlington-Marysville Manufacturing Corridor will bring an influx of new business to the region. “The more capable our seaport, the more services we’ll be able to provide.”
To the north, construction is moving forward on housing and recreation developments, most notably a 65-acre mixed use community known as Waterfront Place Central. The latter will include the Fisherman’s Harbor District, a 12-acre development of apartments, hotels, restaurants and shops. The 266 apartments under construction will be the first residences ever built on the Everett waterfront.
Also under construction is a 142-room hotel, slated to open in 2019. There are several public spaces, including a trail along the Everett waterfront, and a plaza that celebrates the port’s history and partnerships. The project will link to the public marina, one of the largest on the West Coast.
Port of Everett commissioners have been planning to transform the former industrial area into mixed use since the 1980s, after the city’s mills — its economic engine — shuttered.
“When the commissioners made the decision, mixed use was a unique and groundbreaking idea,” Lefeber said. “Today, a lot of ports are working on having balanced waterfronts.”
The US DOT rail funding application might also be considered unique and groundbreaking. Being the first Port to navigate the application process “was an effort in determination and patience,” Lefeber said. But the impact reaches beyond the Port of Everett.
“There is $35 billion of loan money available in this rail program; it’s very attractive financing, “ Lefeber said. “By going through with this process, we’ll be able to break it open for some of the other ports.”