A multi-year program consisting of 21 individual projects designed to improve freight rail movement through the Port of Vancouver USA officially marked completion with the ring of an antique train bell on July 31.
Port officials described the $251-million West Vancouver Freight Access Project (WVFA) as a concerted, decade-long effort by the port to create jobs and generate economic benefit by investing in freight rail infrastructure. WVFA improves freight rail movement through the port, as well as along BNSF and Union Pacific mainlines, which connect the Pacific Northwest to major rail hubs in Chicago and Houston and from Canada to Mexico.
WVFA included the creation of a new rail entrance (aka, “the trench”) into the port, expanding the port’s rail corridor and the addition of a loop track at the port’s Terminal 5. The port’s internal track miles grew from Officials say the improvements will reduce delays to rail traffic by as much as 40 percent and significantly increase the port’s capacity to handle rail cars.
“It’s hard to overstate the importance of the West Vancouver Freight Access Project,” said port CEO Julianna Marler. “Whether we’re talking about how the project reduces rail congestion on the mainline and expands our capacity to 400,000 rail cars per year, or how it supported thousands of family-wage jobs during design, engineering and construction – as well as jobs for the future – this has been a critical project with far-reaching benefits for our community, region and nation.
More than 70 percent of the WVFA was funded through the port along with federal and state grants and private contributions. Officials noted that WVFA will help lower costs for U.S. manufacturers and farmers, making them more competitive in global markets.
The project is also spurring private investment in and near the port. Port tenants and neighbors, including United Grain Corp., Great Western Malting and Farwest Steel, have already invested more than $200 million in private funds to upgrade facilities and equipment and take advantage of increased rail capacity.