The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) has raised serious concerns about the future of the Treasure Valley Reload Center, an ambitious project aimed at revolutionizing the transportation of agricultural products from the Treasure Valley region. In a recent letter addressed to Malheur County Economic Development Commission (MCDC) Executive Director Shawna Peterson, ODOT has called for urgent action to address critical issues that threaten the project’s viability.
The Treasure Valley Reload Center, identified as a priority project under the Connect Oregon program in House Bill 2017 (2017), has the potential to offer a cost-effective and environmentally friendly solution for shipping agricultural products, including onions, to various parts of the country. The project began with a bill from Greg Smith and Cliff Bentz, both members of the Oregon State House at that time, that was ultimately passed by the Oregon legislature and signed by Gov. Kate Brown in 2017. The $5.3 billion state transportation bill earmarked $26 million for the Malheur County facility that was under construction in the city of Nyssa.
In the intervening years, a number of milestones have been reached, with agreements having been made with service providers and construction contractors. However, recent developments have prompted ODOT to voice reservations about the project’s completion and successful operation.
In the letter, ODOT acknowledges the project’s potential but emphasizes the need for decisive action. “ODOT recognizes that, if successful, this facility could provide a valuable, cost-effective, and more climate-friendly alternative for shipping onions and perhaps other agricultural products from the Treasure Valley area to other parts of the country,” the letter stated.
A central concern highlighted in the letter is the substantial funding gap, which currently stands at approximately $5.5 million, even after receiving additional financial support from both the Legislative Emergency Board in 2022 and the 2023 Legislature. This funding shortfall casts a shadow of doubt over the financial feasibility of the project.
Furthermore, the project has faced another significant setback as the initially selected operator, Americold, opted out of the project. This development underscores the urgent need to appoint a new operator with the necessary expertise and commitment to oversee the facility’s operations.
To address these pressing issues, ODOT is urging the MCDC, in collaboration with Shawna Peterson, to take immediate steps. “ODOT asks MCDC to enter into an agreement with an operator for the facility and develop a financing plan to close the funding gaps prior to expending any more funds or moving forward with the project,” the letter emphasized.
The ODOT letter further underscored the importance of a clear plan and schedule for completing these critical steps. While recognizing the significant investments made thus far in the Treasure Valley Reload Center project, ODOT emphasized that the project could not be extended indefinitely and that a definitive determination of its viability was necessary.
In the letter’s concluding remarks, ODOT expressed a commitment to seeing the project through to completion. “ODOT would like to see this project completed and successfully operated,” the letter stated. “However, we have reached the point where these decisions need to be made soon.”
As ODOT and MCDC work together to address these challenges and chart a course forward, the future of the Treasure Valley Reload Center hangs in the balance. Cooperation among all stakeholders, including Shawna Peterson, will be essential in determining whether this ambitious project can become a reality.
OnionBusiness will keep readers informed as project executives provide updates on the project’s future.