Rail Overpass Debate gets Rollingby Courtney Sherwood
The Columbian, April 25, 2007
As train traffic through Ridgefield increases year after year, the first steps are under way to replace two street-level railroad crossings with an over-the-tracks bridge.
The Port of Ridgefield is holding an open house from 4 to 7 p.m. today at the Ridgefield Community Center, 210 N. Main Ave., where port officials will present three possible locations for a rail overpass and take feedback on the pros and cons of each. Pioneer, Mill and Division streets are the most likely locations for the future construction.
"There are between 60 and 70 trains that move through Ridgefield on a daily basis," said Brent Grening, executive director of the Port of Ridgefield. The trains cut off access between most of the city and its waterfront. "We want to bring those areas together."
Once the port identifies its preferred rail crossing point, it will develop cost and time estimates for the project, Grening said.
As a rough estimate, it could take 10 years to plan and build an overpass, and cost $20 million to $25 million, Grening said.
The need for a rail overpass in Ridgefield is growing, he said.
By 2025, freight trains through the Ridgefield-Vancouver-Portland rail corridor are expected to increase by 43 percent, according to a port brochure, and passenger train traffic is expected to increase by 160 percent.
Trains are a nuisance for drivers waiting to cross the tracks, a worry to ambulances and the fire department, and an annoyance to residents who don't like repeated whistle blowing. The railroad companies are also frustrated by Ridgefield's street level crossings, because trains must slow down as they pass through town to comply with safety regulations, and that delays the delivery of freight, Grening said.
Information about the overpass project is also displayed at a number of locations throughout Ridgefield, including city hall, the library and the post office.
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