NW Seaport Alliance Expands Domestic Intermodal Capacity with New Rail Lease

A BNSF train in the Pacific Northwest. Image: Northwest Seaport Alliance.

At a July 6 meeting, Northwest Seaport Alliance commissioners voted to approve a 16-acre lease to BNSF Railway Co. that would allow BNSF to develop and operate a domestic intermodal facility at Lot M in the Tacoma Harbor.

The new BNSF facility would increase cargo volumes moving to and from the Seaport Alliance and inland U.S. markets via rail. The adoption of the lease positions the NWSA as a port directly served by two mainline railroads in the domestic movement of containers.

The Seaport Alliance is a marine cargo operating partnership of the Seattle and Tacoma seaports.

“Growing the NWSA’s domestic intermodal volumes has long been a goal for the Seattle and Tacoma gateway,” NWSA Co-Chair and Port of Tacoma Commissioner President Don Meyer said. “The new facility will increase job opportunities while reducing truck emissions associated with moving cargo to inland markets.”

BNSF currently operates a domestic intermodal facility in Tukwila serving the Seattle Harbor. The new Tacoma intermodal facility could bring additional key rail assets to the Pacific Northwest region with the potential for more than 50,000 container lifts in later years.

“The new Tacoma South facility builds upon our joint initiative with J.B. Hunt to substantially improve capacity in the intermodal marketplace while also meeting the expanding needs of our customers,” BNSF Group Vice President of Consumer Products Tom Williams explained. “Our collaboration with the NWSA will help support greater warehousing and distribution needs in the fast-growing greater Seattle area.”

Currently, cargo movement occurs by truck to more than 40 transload facilities in the Puget Sound or directly by rail to inland locations.

“The increase in domestic rail movement adds more jobs to Seaport Alliance-licensed facilities while reducing fuel consumption and air emissions that are caused by trucks throughout the Puget Sound region,” the Seaport Alliance said in a statement.

Operations at the new facility were expected to begin in August.