OGDEN — Leaders here think Weber County can be part of a statewide network of transshipment points envisioned per creation of the Utah Inland Port Authority.
County commissioners have already pitched their idea for a facility in western Weber County that would be part of the inland port network. They're ready and raring to push the project forward.
"Weber County is definitely interested. We have a site in mind that meets all the requirements," said Commissioner Gage Froerer. The general area county leaders envision, he said, is in the undeveloped western expanses of the county, adjacent to the Union Pacific Railroad rail line that cuts through the area and the West 12th Street corridor, focus of an ongoing upgrade.
The controversial inland port plans, approved by Utah lawmakers in 2018, call for creation of a massive transshipment hub in Salt Lake County that could accommodate goods being transported by land, rail and air. Legislation approved during the past legislative session, House Bill 433, allows for development of complementary inland port facilities outside the Salt Lake City area, and Froerer and his fellow commissioners have seized the opportunity.
The Salt Lake County facility has yet to be developed, and proposed satellite facilities, like the one put forward by Weber County leaders, likely face long roads to fruition. "It's still a ways from being reality," Froerer said, noting, among other things, the lack of finances or a funding mechanism.
Whatever the case, he argues that the proposed Weber County facility is the best put forward outside the Salt Lake County complex, may even be on par with those plans. The Salt Lake County complex would sit on a 16,147-acre expanse, connected to rail, Interstate 80 and Salt Lake City International Airport, accommodating shipments, boosters say, around the globe.
Froerer cited access in western Weber County to utilities like water, electricity and natural gas as well as proximity to the Union Pacific rail line and the 12th Street corridor, which connects to I-15. West 12th Street has been the focus of an ongoing upgrade to accommodate residents in the area and development in the western extremes of Weber County. Plans call for rebuilding the two-lane roadway west of 5900 West, possibly all the way to 9300 West, near Compass Minerals and Western Zirconium, two industrial operations.
The section east of 5900 West already got a facelift.
What's more, there are the wide open spaces, able to accommodate a shipping complex and the spinoff manufacturing and development envisioned per the plans. Some 300 acres would be need for the shipping complex, Froerer said, as well as another 2,000 acres or so for other development.
A 930-acre plot off the Union Pacific rail line adjacent to the corridor and west of 7500 West was the site of an earlier industrial park proposal, dubbed North West Weber Industrial. Froerer, though, said no specific tract has been put forward for the inland port proposal here.
'CROSSROADS OF THE WEST'
Utah Rep. Mike Schultz, a Republican from Hooper, shares Froerer's enthusiasm for development of an inland port facility north of Salt Lake County. He sees it as a way to create new jobs, spur development and, by better accommodating the travel patterns of trucks, reducing pollution and auto congestion on Utah roadways. Ag goods from Idaho that usually go to the Salt Lake City area for transshipment, for instance, could instead be handled at an inland port facility further north.
"Utah is the crossroads of the West," Schultz said.
But he sees potential for an inland port facility at a number of locations. Western Weber County is an option, he said, but he also mentioned Business Depot Ogden and the area around Union Station in downtown Ogden as possibilities. Box Elder or Cache county could serve as well.
"You've got a lot of options. I think all options should be explored," Schultz said.
Christopher Conabee, interim executive director of the Utah Inland Port Authority, sees tax-increment financing and money from local coffers as likely funding mechanisms for satellite inland port authority facilities. Weber County Commissioner Scott Jenkins promoted the Weber County satellite proposal at a Feb. 27 meeting of the Utah Inland Port Authority Board while officials from Tooele, Box Elder and Tooele counties touted their locales.
But while plans for development of the Salt Lake County facility could come into sharper focus in the next six months to a year, he was less definitive on the timeline for any satellite facilities.
Weber County officials, however, are ready.
"We're prepared to go ahead with a proposal once we hear from the Inland Port Authority that they're opening themselves up for proposals," Froerer said.