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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Washington Sen. Patty Murray tours Longview port after influx of federal grants for green projects

Washington Sen. Patty Murray poses for a photo in her office on Jan. 16, 2020, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.  (Tyler Tjomsland/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
By Sydney Brown (Longview, Wash.) Daily News

LONGVIEW, Wash. – The Port of Longview’s ongoing rail expansion efforts and continued worldwide supply chain issues took the forefront at a roundtable discussion U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., hosted Wednesday afternoon in Longview.

Murray toured the Longview port during a series of roundtable discussions with agency leaders across the state about how they are using their federal dollars for projects benefiting infrastructure and port capacity.

“I just think there are amazing opportunities here and I love that you’re thinking about them and planning for them,” Murray told port leaders. “And I want to do my part.”

The visit came after President Joe Biden on Tuesday signed into law a bill dubbed the Inflation Reduction Act to, in part, fight climate change and likely direct billions of dollars nationally into green transportation and infrastructure. Murray earlier this year also supported the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which invested $450 million across the state in port infrastructure projects that would focus on cutting greenhouse gas emissions and reducing environmental impacts on the community.

In Longview, the port has been consistently busy with wind energy, grain and soda ash materials, said Port Chief Executive Officer Dan Stahl. Financially, it has reported record income in recent years.

Stahl said much of the federal funding will go toward expanding capacity as the port gets busier with no signs of stalling, especially as industries nationwide continue to face supply chain shortages.

The Industrial Rail Corridor Expansion, which port officials say will eventually triple rail capacity by building new tracks that connect the main line to the terminals, is one project boosted by those federal grants. Last year, lawmakers helped secure $2.5 million toward the project. The expansion last year also got a $16 million grant through the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity package.

Lisa Hendriksen, director of planning and environmental services, said they plan to start construction by late 2024 and finish by 2027.

“It’s the largest project we’ve ever done,” Hendriksen said. “Our customers really, really need that growth.”

As part of the expansion, the port also secured federal funding to help with the cost of building an overpass to deal with the expected increase in volume that will come from having a larger rail corridor. The first phase of the expansion costs around $74 million, Hendriksen said.

Stahl said Murray’s efforts in Congress also helped them get a competitive federal grant that will help fund a feasibility study on whether the port could deepen and add a turning basin, which support larger vessels traveling along the river.

The study, which will be partly funded by the Kalama and Longview ports through an interlocal agreement, costs $2.2 million. Half of those expenses will be covered through another federal grant secured by local lawmakers.

“It really makes everything more efficient and safer for those ships,” Stahl said.

Murray’s discussion with the port was one of several planned Wednesday. Murray also visited Camas, Vancouver and Olympia to address other projects across the state.

In Camas, Murray was joined by U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., to tour a local semiconductor manufacturing facility, talk about the bipartisan CHIPS and Science Act signed into law earlier this year and address how the Inflation Reduction Act will allow Medicare to lower prescription drug costs. In Olympia, Murray held a roundtable to discuss how lawmakers and local leaders can add more affordable housing options.