A seven-mile loop track will be constructed to accommodate BNSF unit trains as part of the expansion. The project connects with a new port access point along BNSF's Columbia River Gorge route. Currently freight and Amtrak trains must cross over BNSF's Portland-Seattle mainline connection, leading to potential congestion and delays.
State Sen. Patti Murray and State Sen. Maria Cantwell, both of Washington, along with Lanigan discussed the importance of future port growth and rail mobility through this partnership. The senators indicated that state and federal dollars will support much of this project. Port officials emphasized that rail transports 80 percent of the freight in and out of the Port of Vancouver.
Officials also noted that this project will create jobs and provide significant environmental benefits. Vancouver Mayor Royce Pollard began his speech by indicating that BNSF plays a major role in Vancouver's present and future.
In addition to the new loop track, more tracks will be added to handle future freight. The port's current rail facility isn't long enough to accommodate unit trains that can stretch more than a mile with more than 100 cars. The port must break them up to unload the product and then reassemble the cars. The long unit trains can also block traffic on the main line.
The new loop will be long enough to accommodate full unit trains and will reduce the waiting time five to 15 minutes for trains crossing the main line. In addition, the loop will as much as triple capacity while relieving congestion.