Port of Coos Bay has big plans

Efforts supported by Connect Oregon program

Aerial view of the Port of Coos Bay, with housing developments and an airplane strip near the Coos Bay bridge.
The Port of Coos Bay is the largest coastal deep water shipping port between San Francisco and Portland.

Recently, the Port of Coos Bay announced plans to build a full-scale container terminal, potentially bringing in up to one million forty-foot boxes every year. The port is partnering with developer NorthPoint, and in a few years’ time, Coos Bay could provide a new alternative to the container traffic jam the West Coast is experiencing in southern California.

Funds supporting the port’s successful efforts have come from multiple sources, including federal funds and the state’s Connect Oregon program. Over the years, the port has received $19.3 million from Connect Oregon for five projects. These funds were used for redeveloping and rehabilitating the port’s rail lines, including bridges and tunnels. The port operates a 134-mile rail line to connect to Class 1 railroad service in Eugene – a necessity for successful shipping into and out of the port.

“This is wonderful news,” said ODOT State Rail Planner Bob Melbo. “A container terminal with even a modest volume would be a huge boon to Coos Bay, the port and its railroad.”

The port is currently finalizing plans with NorthPoint. In the meantime, at the end of October, the port announced the purchase of the former Georgia Pacific Mill site. The goal is to rehabilitate the site and return it to service, using the facility for the movement of goods and commodities through maritime and rail for both domestic and international markets by mid-2023.

“With this facility back in service, it is anticipated that it will bring with it the addition of well-paying family wage jobs to the area including longshore labor, yard workers and cargo handlers, as well as additional rail line crews,” Port CEO John Burns said in announcing the purchase.

A blue engineer car pulls a Class 1 rail train through big fir trees.
The Port of Coos Bay operates a 134-mile rail line to connect to Class 1 railroad service to Eugene and beyond.

Coos Bay is home to the largest coastal deep water shipping port between San Francisco and Portland. The south-central coast community has been hit hard by losses in the timber, shipping and, most recently, tourism industries.

“The port sees this as an opportunity to rebuild the economic base for the region,” Burns said in announcing the NorthPoint partnership. “This is a project that has the potential to diversify the region’s economy and create employment opportunities both for the existing workforce and for future generations.” 

ODOT puts a priority on developing a modern transportation system, and supporting a multimodal facility such as this aligns with the department’s 2021-2023 Strategic Action Plan.

And, boosting the economy – especially in Oregon’s rural areas – is a key element of the Connect Oregon program, created to support multimodal, non-highway transportation projects and the communities around them. Mission accomplished in Coos Bay!