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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

SRTC Rail Symposium- Everything You Need To Know About Freight and Rail

Sorry for the unannounced blogging hiatus yesterday. I was tied up all day with the Rail Symposium we hosted. No, it wasn't the model train show, as one participant suggested, but it was an interesting day, even if we weren't playing with toy trains like Thomas here.

For the symposium, we brought three national railroad experts to town; Art Shoener, John Ficker, and Avery Grimes. My sister-in-law said they sound like a 60s folk trio; 'Avery, Ficker, and Grimes- the Rail Boys.' And they were a fun bunch of guys, making what could be a somewhat dry subject pretty interesting.

It started with a breakfast for the Inland Pacific Hub Advisory Committee, as they are overseeing the study into what it would take to develop a multi-modal global gateway in our area to increase international commerce. Freight rail and international commerce go hand in hand after all.

At the breakfast, they gave an overview of what they would go into later that day in the Symposium. Ficker talked about on-time delivery and how only about 5% of containers that come into the U.S. on ships are inspected. Kind of scary huh? That's because realistically it would be impossible to go through every item in every container.

Grimes explained the difference in class 1,2 and 3 railroads and talked about actual 'Railroad Colleges' that more and more people are attending to get their foot in the door to get a railroad job.

Shoener talked about shipping and explained that Mexico has three main exports to the U.S.- appliances, automobiles, and alcohol (mostly beer). He also said that Washington has a unique opportunity to build a deep water port at Grays Harbor.

After the breakfast the Rail Boys toured some local industry, then reported for duty for the 1 p.m. Rail Symposium at the Convention Center. At that event, they talked more about how there will be a huge hiring boom in the next five years for railroads as baby boomers start to retire, how many areas on the east coast only allow trucks on freeways during overnight hours, and how most rail cars aren't even owned by the railroads, but by shipping and car rental companies.

They promised to get their power point presentation to us, so I will post it here as soon as I get it so you can immerse yourself in freight rail goodness.

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Kootenai Metropolitan Planning Organization (KMPO) is the Metropolitan Planning Organization for Kootenai County, Idaho. Federal law requires urbanized areas with populations exceeding 50,000 people to have an MPO. KMPO was formed in 2003, to provide coordinated transportation planning within Kootenai county for the public, cities, small towns, the county, the state, transit providers, and the Coeur d'Alene tribe.

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