Friday, February 07, 2014

Ze box, ze box!

Jim again is introducing Pittsburgh to the left coast. Pacific Standard: It’s Settled: Silicon Valley Is Dying. So What’s Next?

But his ship theme there reminds me of something I had started to write, but never finished. So this may be boring to some. Up in Cleveland they are working to build the first container port on the Great Lakes.  See the Cleveland PD: Port of Cleveland seals deal to bring container shipping to the Great Lakes

Boring? Or a transformative new global transportation node. I dunno, but see the PD's video there with a Dutch shipping executive.  

What does that have to do with Pittsburgh? More than a half century ago, Youngstown leaders wanted to build a canal that would connect them to the Ohio River. Pittsburgh leaders quite openly opposed the idea mostly because it would make Youngstown based mills more competitive, and thus potentially take away work from Pittsburgh area mills. So no Cleveburgh back then for sure.

Why did they want the canal? The lack of river access for mills near Youngstown made the transport costs of coal, coke and finished steel much higher than they were for Pittsburgh based Producers. Yet if the canal had been built, it would have connected us with an entirely waterborne route with the Great Lakes. Now not even the competitiveness of the steel industry is not tied to the rivers, but without the canal are we going to benefit as we might have from this new international transportation node opening up in Cleveland?

As with many things, economic logic when all prosperity came from (carbon) steel work out much the opposite later on.

Remember also that the Port of Pittsburgh has been trying for decades to build an inland multi-modal container facility here in Pittsburgh.  The idea goes back long before the disruptive technology known as the shipping container came around. There was even the plan to build a shipping facility right on what we now call the the North Shore. Something someone went so far as to make a model of. Of course, I don't know where the bike path would have gone through the site, if it had been built.


Blogger Vannevar said...

Of course, if the canal had been built in 1956, it would have been abandoned in the 80's, and turned into a bike path about a year ago.

Bike paths: reaping the benefits of boom-and-bust infrastructure since like forever.

Consider the unintended consequences: killer alien carp in the Mon, spawning-mutating, until a bio-whiz on Second Avenue converts their stem cells into the NextBigThing.

You would think a newly placed container facility would be somewhat aligned with the new railyards being built in McKees Rocks.

Friday, February 07, 2014 8:34:00 AM  
Anonymous BrianTH said...

That is precisely what CSX is building in McKees Rocks/Stowe: a new multimodal facility designed to accommodate new container traffic generated by the widening of the Panama Canal and associated deepening of various East Coast ports (aka New Panamax traffic). That is all part of their "National Gateway" project, which locally also involved a bunch of projects necessary to allow double-stacking of containers. The project also includes a big new terminal in North Baltimore, Ohio (south of Toledo), which is supposed to allow trains to bypass the congested Chicago nexus.

And that is the first thing I thought of when reading about container ships coming to Cleveland--will that compete with the National Gateway project for business? The National Gateway project is mostly about imported stuff coming from Asia et al, but the article does say they are going after 10-15% of Ohio goods exported through East Coast ports. That said, I suspect in the greater scheme, that is not a large part of the overall volume expected on the National Gateway system.

Friday, February 07, 2014 1:19:00 PM  
Anonymous BrianTH said...

By the way, you'd think if containers do start flooding up the National Gateway, Container on Barge services could compete for a good chunk of that traffic once it reached the inland waterway system.

And, not so coincidentally, where the National Gateway map meets the inland waterway map is right here in Pittsburgh.

Friday, February 07, 2014 1:37:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

I am not a biologist. Thus I don't need to worry about second order effects of carp.

Friday, February 07, 2014 3:54:00 PM  
Blogger Vannevar said...

Well, perhaps I'll carpe-fracke about this: containers full of goods come up the rivers and tracks, containers full of NatGas and FrackWater go back. Hmmh?

Friday, February 07, 2014 4:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

P-G of 2-21-2008 almanac notes, "Army engineers recommend a $207 million Beaver-Youngstown canal with a 'dead-end' at Youngstown. Pittsburgh business and civic interests immediately mobilize to continue their 20 year fight for a canal extending to Lake Erie."

I remember a great deal of discussion about the proposed canal maybe in the fifties or sixties. The Army Engineers were very much in favor of it, and certain interests - the railroads, I think - were equally opposed. Again, as I remember, a Republican U.S. Senator took up the against cause and was very influential in derailing the canal and laying the idea to rest. It was a story that ran for a good while... maybe somebody else will have a better recollection of the time frame.

Thursday, February 13, 2014 12:14:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

P-G item above notes "On this date 1939"

Thursday, February 13, 2014 10:50:00 AM  

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