Port breaks ground on rail project

Democratic Sen. Patty Murray was on hand at the Port of Vancouver Aug. 7 for the ceremonious groundbreaking of the first phase of the West Vancouver Freight Access Project.

The project aims to ease rail congestion on the BNSF mainline while providing the port with expanded capacity for unit trains and growth in freight mobility.

As chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, Murray secured $5.3 million for the entire project, $2 million of which is included in the 2008 federal budget.

Schedule One will come off of the east-west BNSF main line just west of Columbia Avenue and extend as far as the LaFarge Cement and Albina Asphalt facilities.

This first phase will cost between $13 million and $15 million, and the port will pay the entire cost. Construction will start this fall and likely wrap up next summer.

Funding for the rest of the project will come from the port, state and federal agencies and the BNSF Railway Co.

Schedule Two, scheduled to break ground in 2008, will go under the existing rail bridge and extend service into the port.

Also in attendance Aug. 7 were Terry Finn, Regional Government Affairs Director of BNSF, Cager Clabaugh, president of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local #4, Jim Toomey, executive director of the Port of Pasco and representing the state’s Freight Mobility Strategic Investment Board, and a handful of local dignitaries.