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Dec 13, 2011 11:59 PM

Shippers looking to take Tucson's railway port international

TUCSON - Did you know Tucson has a port? It's a domestic railyard port, but shippers are planning to expand it to an international port that could help Tucson's economy pick up steam.

Trains roll in and out of Tucson every day - many of those trains are hauling cargo heading for the Port of Tucson on south Kolb Road near Interstate 10.

The Port of Tucson mostly handles domestic loads traveling west from Chicago, but there are new plans to expand the Port and make more global.

Alan Levin owns and operates the Port of Tucson, he says expanding the Port is good for Tucson and surrounding areas, "This is for the region, and Northern Mexico to have access to international markets." Said Levin.

The Port of Tucson covers 30 acres with two million square feet of warehouse space sitting alongside the Union Pacific Rail Line. Levin says transporting goods by rail is a great way to cut down on carbon emissions.

"Each boxcar that comes in here just took four trucks off the highway," said Levin. It's also more economical. "I can get a container from here to Shanghai cheaper than you can take it by truck from Nogales to Long Beach."

The new International Port of Tucson will be 10 times larger than it is today, and a new agreement with Union Pacific will allow the Port to ship products directly from Tucson to sea ports in Texas and Southern California where that cargo will then be loaded onto ships sailing to international ports around the world.

"The engineers will get on a train here go straight to Long Beach, right on the dock, and that container will go straight from the rail car onto the ship. That container will never see asphalt," Levin said.

The Port of Tucson sits in a foreign trade zone, making it a perfect place for manufacturers who sell their products around the world. Levin says some of those manufacturers will consider moving to Tucson to save on transportation costs.

"When they look at Tucson, they're going to see a rail access availability to the rest of the world. That we are a true inland port, that if you load a container here you can go where ever you want in the world," Levin said. He believes that will bring more jobs to the region.

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