Port of Vancouver Launches Key Component
by Kristine Guerra
Port of Vancouver will begin construction of a 1,000-foot-long overpass as part of an ambitious rail expansion project that promises private-sector investments and thousands of jobs.
The overpass will run above Gateway Avenue, with six railroad tracks underneath it. Last month, the port hired Apollo Inc., a general contractor based in Kennewick, Wash., to build the $11.3 million bridge. Construction will begin Dec. 22.
The purpose, said port spokeswoman Theresa Wagner, is to ease congestion by providing an alternate way to transport cargo to and from the port as it plans to complete its $150 million West Vancouver Freight Access Project by 2017.
"As our port rail project expands and we create additional rail tracks, it becomes busier and busier," Wagner said. "Cargo traffic will use the overpass, so movements of the trains and vehicles at the same time won't interrupt each other. As we increase our rail capacity, we're also looking to increase our road capacity."
Majority of the money for the overpass comes from a federal grant, which will fund 80 percent of the construction cost. Earlier this year, the port secured a $10 million funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation. Of that, $8.8 million is allotted for the overpass. The port will match the rest.
The grant -- and construction of the overpass -- "moves us closer to our end goal, which is more efficient rail system that accommodates growth of our existing tenants, attracts future private-sector development and creates good-paying jobs for this community," said port Executive Director Larry Paulson.
Started in 2007, the West Vancouver Freight Access Project promises to attract $400 million in private investment and generate between 1,000 and 2,000 permanent jobs. That's on top of 4,000 construction jobs over its 10-year duration.
Wagner said the railroad expansion project, which has 21 phases, is now about 40 percent complete.
Last year, Port of Vancouver completed an early milestone of the project: a $14 million loop track at Terminal 5. The port is in negotiations with BHP Billiton, an Australia-based mining company, to use the 218-acre property to ship potash from Vancouver to Asia.
"We expect to have a lease late next year," Wagner said. "Construction would begin once we have a lease, and they plan to be operational in 2015."
As for the remaining 60 percent of the project, Wagner said funds will come from port operations and a possible $80 million federal loan.
"We're hoping to find out if we get the loan or not within the next six months," she said.
Wagner added building an overpass at Gateway Avenue, which sits on the east side of Terminal 5, will provide better access to the future potash facility, making exporting more efficient. It will also expedite wind energy imports and provide support for other waterfront tenants and customers.
The port has already begun some preliminary construction work. Port officials expect to complete the overpass by May 2013.
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