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Logistics, funding needed to transport goods from Hillsboro

by: TRIBUNE PHOTO BY CHASE ALLGOOD - The ramp from the Sunset Highway to I-405 southbound is a major choke point for freight trucks going to the Portland International Airport.Increasing congestion on the freeway route from Hillsboro to the Portland International Airport is causing shipping problems for Washington County high-tech manufacturers.

Finding the funds for even cost-effective, short-term fixes also is a problem, however, as revealed at Monday’s meeting of the Washington County Coordinating Committee.

Future sessions of the Oregon Legislature are going to have to come up with much — if not most of the funds — said members of the committee, which represents local governments in the county.

“This is really something we’re going to have to present to the Legislature over and over again,” said Tualatin Mayor Lou Ogden.

Ogden made his remarks while discussing a recently completed study of transportation problems along the route to the airport, from U.S. Highway 26 to Interstate 405 to Interstate 5. The “Portland region westside freight access and logistics analysis” was commissioned by Greater Portland Inc., a regional economic development organization. It was prepared by DKS Associates as part of the Greater Portland Export Initiative, which is intended to greatly increase exports from the region.

Among other things, the study found that the region’s export economy is heavily dependent on the computer and electronics industry located in and around Hillsboro. Those companies, which include Intel and Lattice Semiconductor, account for more than half of the value of the region’s exports and support other businesses as well.

But the study found that transporting goods from the Hillsboro area to the Portland International Airport is difficult and getting harder. Congestion along the freeway route has increased substantially since 2005, when it was last analyzed as part of the “cost of congestion study” commissioned by the Value of Jobs Coalition, a business advocacy organization.

“Where the previous study noted that 3 p.m. was a general cutoff time after which reasonable freight movement could not be expected, this time has now been pushed back to 2 p.m.,” according to the new report.

As a result, many freight truck drivers headed to the Portland International Airport from Hillsboro are using Cornelius Pass Road after 2 p.m. This is a problem, the report explained, because the portion of the road in Multnomah County is narrow and winding and poses a safety hazard.

The report proposes three specific strategies for increasing the efficiency and reliability of freight shipments in the afternoon. One is to install technologies on area roadways to better measure and report actual traffic times. Another is to create a dedicated travel lane on freeway on-ramps for trucks, to reduce wait times at metered lights. The last is to improve the

response to accidents to clear them faster and reduce


Although the report does not include any cost estimates for the strategies, they would be cheaper than building new freeways or rail lines.

The report also noted that several governments would have to be involved in the strategies, including the state of Oregon and Metro, the elected regional government. Businesses that stand to benefit from the potential improvements also could help support them, according to the report.

The report is in addition to a comprehensive westside transportation study funded by the 2013 Oregon Legislature. It will examine congestion problems and potential solutions throughout Washington County. That study is just beginning, however.

The new report focused on five computer and electronics manufacturers in the county. They were FEI Company, Intel, Lattice Semiconductor, Oracle and TriQuint Semiconductor. In addition, representatives of seven dispatch and transportation companies were interviewed. They were Expeditors, Javelin Logistics, Kintetsu Worldwide Express, OIA Global Logistics, United Van Lines, Jet Delivery and FedEx.

The study found that a large portion of the manufacturers’ products are trucked to Portland International Airport, even though they are not always shipped out of there by air. Instead, much of the cargo is consolidated into other truckloads at various locations at the airport and driven to a variety of destinations, including airports in the rest of the country that might be able to offer more direct links to domestic and international markets.

“While not all C&E goods fly out of PDX, the freight consolidation area, generally located north of Columbia Boulevard and south of the terminal, is home to several firms that support international and domestic service by handling and combining C&E goods before trucking them north or south of the Portland region for consolidation at other airports,” read an excerpt of the report.

The study also found that two other methods of reaching the Portland airport are impractical — using MAX trains and flying out of the Hillsboro Airport. Although MAX goes to the Portland airport, it does not reach the consolidation areas. And the Hillsboro Airport does not have adequate facilities for loading shipments on airplanes.

The study is scheduled to be presented to other government agencies and transportation advisory committees in coming months.

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