Vancouver Port Project
by Associated Press
PORTLAND - The Port of Vancouver is set to begin developing a $100 million rail extension to ease congestion for passenger train traffic between Seattle and Portland, and boost freight train access to the port from the east.
The port's first rail extension will help clear a bottleneck for trains in Vancouver, Wash.
Tracks entering from the Columbia River Gorge cross tracks running north to south between Portland and Seattle in what amounts to a T-intersection.
"For trains that want to make a left turn (from the gorge) and come down into Portland, there's two tracks," Kevin Jeffers, a project manager with the Washington State Department of Transportation, said.
Northwest ports and train companies say all of the region's train traffic would benefit from the project. Highway traffic also would eventually decrease, they say, as more cargo moves off of trucks and onto trains as the rail system capacity grows.
"That traffic is on a network that interfaces with our traffic, and anything that addresses some bottlenecks is very important," said Bruce Carswell, president of Portland and Western Railroad, a short-line railroad that operates in Oregon.
The port's project only begins to address the Portland and Vancouver region's largest congestion issues, which occur just south of the Washington border, according to a 2003 rail capacity study by the Oregon Department of Transportation.
The Vancouver bottleneck is one of 10 projects dubbed "high-priority" by the ODOT study. It's unlikely that any of the remaining projects, which would cost about $115 million combined, will begin any time soon - mostly because they're on the wrong side of the border.
"Washington state can march along because they have several hundred million (set aside) just for rail; that's a good place to be in," Kelly Taylor, rail division administrator for ODOT, said. "Oregon has ConnectOregon, but it's $100 million and it isn't just for rail."
The five-phase Vancouver rail project, to be funded by the port and rail companies, will build and update track from the Union Pacific rail bridge over the Columbia River to the flushing channel on the port property's boundary.
All of the port's available industrial space is leased, and the rail extension will accommodate further growth on the busy site, officials say.
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