Port of Portland
Expanded marine facilities will increase capacity

Record cargo volumes and a rising number of air travelers in and out of Portland International Airport are driving expansion projects by the Port of Portland, which is trying to keep pace with growth and remain competitive.

Within the port’s marine operations, several expansions are under way to handle existing customers and attract new ones, says Sebastian Degens, marine planning and development manager. “If we’re going to stay competitive, we need to continually invest and modify our facilities to meet changing designs and larger ships,” he says.
A $16-million expansion at Portland Bulk Terminal’s potash facility at Terminal 5 will allow the tenant’s annual exports to grow from 2.5 million metric tons to 3.5 million. The expansion includes a $12-million, 97,000-sq.-ft. addition to an existing storage building. It also involves a $4-million rail loop, the facility’s third, which is designed to increase Portland Bulk’s receiving capacity.

Growing global demand for potash led Portland Bulk’s owner, Canpotex Limited, to initiate the expansion. According to port officials, the company also was encouraged by progress on the Columbia River channel deepening project.
Work to deepen the channel to 43 feet began in June,2005. The deeper channel will reduce Canpotex’s costs per ton and allow the company to charter larger ships that can carry up to 10% more potash per vessel, according to the port.
The benefits have a ripple effect, Degens says. Canpotex’s “tonnage is going to increase and that means more jobs for the longshoremen, the tug and barge guys and the rail people."

Other ongoing improvements attracting additional investment include the Terminal 4 early action sediments clean-up. With construction scheduled to begin next summer, the clean-up involves dredging contaminated sediment and placing it in a confined disposal facility that will be built at Terminal 4's Slip 1. “We think it's a good investment because it’s clearing the way for public and private investors to do business,” Degens says.

Among the investors is Kinder Morgan Inc., which is in the midst of a $40-million expansion of its soda ash export facility at Terminal 4. General contractor Eagle Elsner Inc. of Tigard, Ore., is expected to finish the project by the end of this year. “They are doing that expansion because they're secure in the environmental stability with the cleanup program at the site,” Degens says.

At Terminal 6, Coffman Excavation, Oregon City, Ore., recently added 35 acres of porous blacktop to Auto Warehousing Co.’s facility as part of a 45-acre expansion. The porous blacktop filters rainwater before it enters the river. With less storm water runoff, the port can save money on environmental measures. “It’s a landmark project and we’re learning a lot from it,” Degens says. “If it's successful here it will make a splash, so to speak, in construction circles.”

Also at Terminal 6, Advanced American Construction of Portland will lead $2.5 million worth of structural improvements to a floating dock used by Honda.

Changes are under way at Portland International Airport as well. A second parking garage and a new parking guidance system are among the projects designed to accommodate a growing number of airport users. “Our current parking garage is quickly approaching capacity because our passenger traffic continues to grow, and we want to be sure we have enough parking available,” says Mary Maxwell, the port’s aviation director. The second garage, which will be built directly behind the existing garage, is intended for business travelers who park at the airport for two or three nights.

Portland-based Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Partnership received a $1.6-million contract for the preliminary design and alternatives analysis. Construction is expected to begin in 2007 and the new parking garage will open in 2009. Also under way at the airport is the concessions renovation at concourses D and E this spring. In addition, construction will begin next fall on a new baggage-handling system that will begin operating in late 2009.

Melody Finnemore is a Portland-area writer whose work frequently appears in Northwest Construction.