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Port Takes First Step in Waterfront Swap

by Bill Stewart
The Oregonian, April 11, 2006

VANCOUVER -- A prime piece of waterfront property was declared surplus Monday by the Port of Vancouver, setting the stage for a land trade with Boise White Paper.

Boise plans to sell its riverfront property to private developers who will partner with the City of Vancouver to redevelop the paper mill site into a complex of condominiums, offices and retail shops. But before any of that land changes hands, the Port of Vancouver wants to preserve land for a future railroad spur to its industrial area west of the Vancouver-Portland railroad bridge.

To get 3.86 acres needed for the new rail line, the Port wants to trade some of its land -- 2.9 acres west of the Red Lion Inn at the Quay -- but first had to take Monday's step of declaring its property surplus.

The Port's land is leased to Boise White Paper. The "surplus" designation now allows the Port to trade the parcel to Boise, which, in turn, can sell the land as part of the city's waterfront redevelopment.

In the planned land swap, the Port would get a strip of property -- 3.86 acres total -- for its rail spur.

Only one rail line runs into the Port industrial area west of the Vancouver-Portland rail bridge, and that spur, when used, blocks both the BNSF east-west line and its north-south tracks. The spur carries 44,000 rail cars a year, hauling grain, lumber, cars, ores and heavy equipment. The Port expects 120,000 rail cars per year when it develops three new marine terminals near the Vancouver Lake flushing channel.

Rail cars headed to the Port would leave the BNSF main line somewhere between Esther Street and West Fifth Street, turning west at Seventh Street, according to Todd Coleman, deputy executive director of the Port. The tracks would run at the edge of the Columbia River, beneath the rail bridge, then pass on the river side of the United Harvest grain elevator.

"There used to be a track there," Coleman said. "There was a trestle where it ran above the water; the remnants of that trestle are still there. We will have to remove one building and take the corner off another building," southwest of the grain elevator.

The Port, which leases land to the Red Lion, plans to keep additional land just north of Vancouver Gateway. Commissioner Brian Wolfe said the Port always has the option of erasing the surplus designation if the waterfront plan does not work out.

Patty Boyden, the Port director of environmental services, said a change in the Port's comprehensive plan -- to allow the proposed land swap and new rail route -- was advertised but drew no public comments.

The Port plans to keep the current rail spur as an emergency access route.

Bill Stewart
Port Takes First Step in Waterfront Swap
The Oregonian, April 11, 2006

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