Pioneer Street Rail Overpass complete, now open to traffic

This Port of Ridgefield project provides safe, uninterrupted passage to and from the Ridgefield Waterfront

Port of Ridgefield staff, contractors, local elected officials and representatives from Washington state’s 18th district were on hand at the Pioneer Street Rail Overpass celebration event on Sept. 11 to do the ribbon cutting honors for the Pioneer Street Rail Overpass project. Courtesy of Port of Ridgefield

The Pioneer Street Rail Overpass opened to pedestrians and vehicle traffic in the early hours of Friday, Sept. 17, according to a news release from the Port of Ridgefield. This Port of Ridgefield project provides safe, uninterrupted passage to and from the Ridgefield Waterfront. The overpass span was the third and final phase of this safety project that started 17 months ago. This phase tied the earlier Port of Ridgefield-constructed overpass approach roads together to complete the rail overpass.

On Sept. 11, to coincide with other Ridgefield activities held that day, the Port of Ridgefield celebrated the construction completion of the rail overpass. At the event participants were allowed partial access to the overpass. The full opening date is scheduled for Friday.

In 1998 the Port of Ridgefield envisioned the need for this community safety project and began its effort to secure the funds required to construct a rail overpass at Pioneer Street.

On Sept. 11, the Port of Ridgefield celebrated the construction completion of its Pioneer Street Rail Overpass project. The rail overpass provides safe, uninterrupted passage for pedestrians and vehicles to and from the Ridgefield waterfront. The overpass span was the third and final phase of this community safety project that began 17 months ago. It tied the earlier Port of Ridgefield-constructed overpass approach roads together to complete the rail overpass. Courtesy of Port of Ridgefield

Port Commission Chair Scott Hughes expressed the port’s excitement at the overpass completion.

“There have been accidents and deaths on the tracks in and around Ridgefield,” Hughes said. “While it’s taken 20 years, with the help of our State Sen. Ann Rivers and Representatives Larry Hoff and Brandon Vick, we’ve secured funding and support for it.”

Brent Grening is CEO for the Port of Ridgefield. He offered additional thanks to the federal legislative contingent representing the area – U.S. Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell and U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler.

“Our congressional delegation has been with us all the way on this project,” Grening said. “They assisted in steering several million dollars in federal funds to the overpass – critical in making it a reality.”

The project’s completion timing coincides with the port’s environmental clean-up of a once-blighted Ridgefield Waterfront, now home to publicly accessible riverfront walkways and the port’s 41-acre development site.

“The Port of Ridgefield has kept at it for the safety of our citizens who recreate on the river and those who enjoy the now beautiful Ridgefield waterfront,” said Hughes.

The Pioneer Street route is now the only access to all areas of the waterfront. Ridgefield’s Division Street will be closed at Main Street for construction work needed; that rail crossing will be permanently closed by order of the City of Ridgefield – likely soon after construction there is completed. Division Street will open in the event of an emergency. The Mill Street crossing has been closed and will remain so. Once the crossings in Ridgefield are closed, the horn blasts will be a thing of the past – a relief for those living and working near the crossings.

Pedestrian access to the waterfront will be limited to the Pioneer Street overpass until such time as the Port of Ridgefield is able to secure funds and construct a pedestrian overpass on Division Street. The city earlier this year submitted a $5 million funding request for this work through U.S. Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler’s office for inclusion in the next federal transportation budget.

Funding for the $17 million Pioneer Street Rail Overpass project came from several sources. In 2015 the port secured $7.8 million in state funding and $2 million in federal Surface Transportation funding through Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council (RTC). In early 2017 the port was awarded $900,000 from a U.S. Department of Transportation Railroad Safety Grant. The remaining dollars for the project were provided by the port and others.

The general contractor for the project was Tapani, Inc., of Battle Ground. Jacobs Engineering provided engineering expertise throughout the project.

For more information about the earlier phases and project funding, visit portridgefield.org/rail-overpass.

This information was provided by the Port of Ridgefield.

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Joanna Yorke is the managing editor of the Vancouver Business Journal. She has worked in the journalism field since 2010 after graduating from the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University in Pullman. Yorke worked at The Reflector Newspaper in Battle Ground for six years and then worked at and helped start ClarkCountyToday.com.