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Published: Thursday, 9/28/2006

Region should pursue future in transport, planners say

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Wherever facilities can be built to support it, Toledo should pursue a future as a transportation and warehousing center for an increasingly global economy, local transportation planners said repeatedly during a seminar at the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments' annual Transportation Summit yesterday.

Using vision and appropriate action, Toledo will become "a cosmopolitan city of the world where international commerce flows," James Hartung, president of the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, said during the International Freight Hub/Freight Issues forum at the summit, held at Brandywine Country Club.

But references to a proposed location for a constellation of logistics facilities - the so-called "Inland Port" - were consciously vague.

"We very diplomatically put it [the 'Inland Port'] on the state line - we don't have a location," said David Dysard, the metro-politan council's vice president of transportation.

For good reason.

On the panel was the developer whose firm has suggested a controversial warehousing and distribution park in Erie Township surrounding a proposed rail terminal. And the audience included several opponents of those plans.

But the concept of a rail terminal with direct service to ocean ports "must happen" somewhere in metro Toledo to fulfill the region's potential, Mr. Dysard said.

Howard Moss, executive vice president of Great Lakes Development, which is pitching the Erie Township project, said the warehousing and distribution park concept arose from 2 1/2 years of deliberation.

Labor-intensive manufacturing is moving overseas to lower-cost parts of the world, and domestic manufacturers have no choice but to follow that trend or die, Mr. Moss said. Toledo should be a prime shipping point for both imports and exports, with "value-added" manufacturing likely to cluster around such a hub, he said.

"In a global economy, winners will be determined by who has the best logistics," Mr. Moss said.

At an earlier session, summit participants were grouped by table and asked to nominate priorities for the Long Range Transportation Plan. Several tables included road improvements or other support for an inland port.

Other popular concepts included runway expansion and further freight development at Toledo Express Airport; extending the Great Lakes shipping season to year-round operation; improving the Ohio Turnpike/I-75 interchange, and allowing heavier trucks to travel into the so-called "Golden Triangle" on I-75 and State Rt. 795.

Gary Wilmoth, an organizer of opposition to the proposed Erie Township rail terminal and one of three Erie Township representatives in the audience, said he agrees that developing freight distribution facilities is important for the Toledo area's future.

"It's just that I'm unwilling to give up my house when there are plenty of more suitable locations," Mr. Wilmoth said in an interview.

Mr. Moss repeated that Global Partners, Inc., a venture including his firm, Rudolph-Libbe, and Danberry National, prefers the Erie Township site bounded by I-75, Erie and Luna Pier roads, and the Canadian National railroad because of its easy access to both the railroad and the freeway, and because CN has direct access to Canadian ports in British Columbia and Nova Scotia.

But in an interview yesterday, he invited critics to submit alternatives that meet the developers' siting criteria.

"There's always the potential to look at alternative sites," Mr. Moss said. "If we could find another spot where we didn't have to deal with all that [opposition], we would."

Contact David Patch at:

dpatch@theblade.com

or 419-724-6094.



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