Chief East-West railroad “BS caller”, Patrick Meagher Strikes again

humboldt bay

Edited from the Trinity Journal:


Patrick Meagher

The Up State Rail Connect Committee meeting held in the Veterans Hall (in Weaverville) on November 9, 2016 At that meeting I identified the intractable problems that prevent Humboldt Bay from becoming a commercial cargo seaport.  I have discussed these problems at length in previous commentaries.

During the review of the proposed Scope of Work for the study, the presenter challenged my comments regarding Humboldt Bay by emphatically stating, and I paraphrase here, “we have to make an assumption for this study and we are assuming that there will be a functioning cargo port in Humboldt Bay.”  I am certainly in agreement with the presenter that certain assumptions have to be made.  However, there must be facts and data that support the assumptions and unfortunately, none were offered by the committee.

So, let me offer an alternative assumption about the proposed Humboldt Bay seaport with facts and data that support it.  There will not be a functioning commercial cargo seaport in Humboldt Bay’s future, and here is why.  History, besides its geographical attributes as a small “niche” seaport it has only handled a small trade with forest products and aggregates and that trade dried-up years ago.  Until relatively recently there was never a push to move into the big leagues and compete for cargo against major ports like Oakland and LA/Long Beach.

Isolation, Humboldt Bay is in the middle of nowhere.  Even if there was a rail connection in place now it would be at least a 200 mile trip just to the Sacramento Valley UP rail line.  The nearest classification yard where freight train consists are assembled is in Roseville.  That is another 200 miles south on the UP line or approximately 400 miles from Humboldt Bay seaport to the UP train classification yard.  It is impossible for Humboldt Bay to compete with port of Oakland in rail travel cost and travel time.  Oakland’s distance to the Roseville UP train classification yard is about100 miles.

Maritime container freight economics, I’ve addressed this issue in detail in previous commentaries.  It’s those darn economies-of-scale again.  Humboldt Bay cannot compete successfully for container freight with Oakland, LA/Long Beach because it’s just too small.  Decline in overseas purchase of commodities and decimation of commercial bulk commodity shipping fleets, I have addressed these issues in previous commentaries, again, making Humboldt Bay a non-starter as an operating cargo seaport.  The 2003 Humboldt Bay Revitalization Plan said very clearly, do not spend public money in support of a cargo seaport in a “build it and they will come” manner for reasons that still exist today.  Finally, there are no port terminal facilities, no port terminal operator, and no commitment from any maritime shipping line now or in the future to use Humboldt Bay as a cargo destination.  Again, I have reported on this in previous commentaries.

So, where are we?  CALTRANS and the Humboldt Bay seaport advocates marshal no facts or data to support their assumption that there will be an operating commercial cargo seaport there.  Instead it is based on wishful thinking and “Trust-us” statement’s.

The facts and data I have presented here and in previous commentaries clearly say the opposite.  The proposed CALTRANS quarter million dollar plus (375k) grant to Trinity County to study a rail connection to a cargo seaport in Humboldt Bay that doesn’t exist and never will is an unconscionable waste of public funds.  CALTRANS what were you thinking?  How did you get roped into this by the Humboldt Bay seaport advocates?  How could you buy into an “economic development” commitment that is based on wishful thinking and then announce it in the California State Rail Plan?  Who in the CALTRANS hierarchy is responsible for that decision and the decision to follow through with a quarter million dollar plus grant to Trinity County for the study of a rail line to a non-existent commercial cargo seaport?


5 thoughts on “Chief East-West railroad “BS caller”, Patrick Meagher Strikes again

  1. The 800 pound gorilla in the room that no one (on Caltrans’ side) is the port of Portland. They lost their anchor tenant when Hanjin stopped calling there and with Hanjin now being taken apart piece by piece in bankruptcy one has to wonder how much money they lost with their service to Portland before they stopped calling there.
    Caltrans has been trying to build a freeway through historic residential districts and having been to some of their presentations to the neighborhoods where the tunnel might be placed I can tell you it is talking heads, smoke and mirrors and typical Caltrans “we have the vision, we just need the money”. “And the land. We need your land. Lots of it”.
    The last major project in southern California, widening the 405 freeway from the 10 to the 101 was a continuing exercise in frustration, cost-overruns and poor planning.
    Yes, one bridge which was not earthquake secure was replaced but the extra traffic lanes have only brought more traffic to the route so it’s as slow as ever.
    Looks like it’s finally been settled about who gets to pay for it:
    The bottom line is there is no free money in California. Anything that the state or Caltrans or any other public entity does costs the taxpayers sooner or later.

    Patrick, please continue to stand up and speak out against waste and keep us informed on the Examiner. Thank you


  2. Just because he agrees with me that the port is too small, doesn’t mean he’s right.


  3. “Who in the CALTRANS hierarchy is responsible for that decision and the decision to follow through with a quarter million dollar plus grant to Trinity County for the study of a rail line to a non-existent commercial cargo seaport?”

    Look for the guy with a brand new Mercedes.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. “Who in the CALTRANS hierarchy is responsible . . .


  5. Pingback: Important chance to stop the East-West Railroad in Weaverville March 9, 10am | Tuluwat Examiner

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