CONWAY — The Port of Skagit is looking into building a rail transloading facility to ship agricultural goods at property it owns in Conway.

Bell Lumber & Pole had leased the property up until recently. Bell Lumber & Pole was the port’s first tenant when the port was created in the 1960s, said port spokesperson Linda Tyler.

She said the port is searching for a new use for the 33-acre property. One idea is a rail transloading facility to ship agricultural products, which would support Skagit’s agriculture industry, Tyler said.

A transloading facility is where goods are transferred from one mode of transportation to another, such as from truck to rail.

The port has launched a brief survey to assess preliminary feasibility and market demand for such a facility.

“We want to get a sense of what are people shipping right now and how are they shipping (it),” Tyler said. “If they’re not shipping, would it be an opportunity to expand their business if a facility like this is located in Skagit?”

Don McMoran, director of the Washington State University Skagit County Extension, said there is interest in the agricultural community for such a facility.

He said moving agricultural products by rail is more efficient than doing it by truck, and a shortage of truck drivers is a concern.

He said some Skagit potatoes and grains are already shipped by rail, but trucks are the primary mode of transportation.

“I think there’s some excitement and I’m hopeful that we’ll get a facility in Skagit County,” he said.

After the survey, the port plans to gather cost information on a rail facility, Tyler said. She said the port’s Conway property has an existing side track from the BNSF Railway main line, though the track will likely require upgrades.

“We’re hoping to have some idea of feasibly by early fall after completing review of the site,” she said. “That info will help guide next steps moving forward.”

— Reporter Jacqueline Allison: jallison@skagitpublishing.com, 360-416-2145, Twitter: @Jacqueline_SVH

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