Port of Portland Laying New Tracks
by Amy Hsuan
The Oregonian, June 21, 2009
By the end of the month, the Port of Portland plans to begin construction on a $14 million rail project in the Rivergate Industrial District, adding to a record year of infrastructure improvements for the public agency, which owns and manages the city's airport and docks.
The project will add a 13,000-foot lead track and four other tracks to the industrial district, which currently has just a single track.
"If there's already a train on it, and there's one coming in, that train is just out of luck," said Robin McCaffrey, engineering project manager. "It's like a driveway with only one way, so now it will be two-way."
The project, funded by $6.8 million in state Connect Oregon grants and loans and $4.3 million federal transportation dollars, also will include an investment from the track's main users, Burlington Northern Santa Fe and Union Pacific. The two companies will repay $2.8 million to the Port over 10 years.
The project has been in the works since 1991, McCaffrey said. But it wasn't until 2005 that the Port started searching for funding.
Port officials have yet to determine the number of construction jobs on the project, slated for completion next May. The work will have no impact on freight transportation.
Nationwide, rail companies are taking advantage of the downturn and federal stimulus dollars to invest in infrastructure. Last year, as fuel prices soared, freight traffic by rail spiked.
Union Pacific plans to spend $1.7 billion in infrastructure improvements nationwide this year. Last year, it spent $128 million in Oregon alone, says Zoe Richmond, spokeswoman for the Nebraska-based company.
"Even though the economy is slow, the direction we've taken as a company is the business will come back," Richmond said. "In the years to come, there's more and more business to be moved by rail."
The project is one on a growing list for the Port of Portland, in the midst of its largest capital construction period despite having made cutbacks in wages and Amy Hsuaning numbers early this year.
The Port was awarded $16.3 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for construction projects, including modernizing Terminal 6, Oregon's only international marine container port, and repaving taxiways at PDX, the state's only international airport.
With state money, the Port will soon start a $3.6 million road widening project on North Lombard Avenue. Those projects are in addition to the $247 million construction of a new headquarters at PDX and $63.5 million for runway expansions.
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