United States Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) spent part of the Congressional Recess today at the Port of Vancouver USA’s Terminal 1 assisting in the groundbreaking for the West Vancouver Freight Access Project, which will provide congestion relief on the mainlines and improved access to port facilities.

The $56 million West Vancouver Freight Access Project will allow the Port of Vancouver and the region to support existing and planned freight volumes. With potential new investments expected at the port’s Columbia Gateway and the Alcoa/Evergreen properties, this rail development will provide a significant boost to the economy of the entire region. Existing tenants and customers of the port are also experiencing growth and will require additional rail access and service. For these reasons, a 2010 completion date is anticipated for the rail project. This will allow full use of the newly-developed properties and result in a doubling of jobs and the port’s economic impact.

‘This is an exciting time for the Port of Vancouver,’ said Executive Director Larry Paulson. ‘The construction of the West Vancouver Freight Access Project is a huge step forward in the expansion and development of the port. It’s a big project that is necessary for the port to continue to grow and serve the community by creating industrial and maritime jobs, guided by our mission.

‘Today, 70% of the cargoes that go through the Port of Vancouver are by rail,’ Paulson said. ‘Projections show that we’ll be 80%, or more, dependent on rail by 2015, so this rail project is critical.’

The project has also forged partnerships between the City of Vancouver, the port and the BNSF Railway Company. At full build-out, the project will also create opportunities to redevelop a long-dormant stretch of the Columbia River waterfront, assist the City of Vancouver’s realization of the Vancouver City Center Vision Plan and connect the Renaissance Plan in downtown Vancouver with the river which, in turn, will create significant private sector investment.

Development of the Vancouver waterfront is tied to the port’s rail project. Coordination and integration of the design process for necessary road access to the new development with the rail construction process is critical to achieving Vancouver’s dreams of a vibrant waterfront.

‘The City of Vancouver is working toward creating a wonderful waterfront that provides plenty of public access to the river,’ said Port Commission President Arch Miller. ‘We’re assisting in that endeavor by creating this rail line that will eliminate the need for the spur that splits the Boise Cascade property, yet still allows service to LaFarge and Albina, and eventually provides rail access to the port that will not interrupt or congest the mainlines.’

Construction will begin this fall, with completion planned for late 2009.

The port’s rail project will contribute to another related rail project by the Washington Department of Transportation (WSDOT). The port rail access will enable WSDOT’s upcoming $110 million Vancouver Bypass passenger rail line to flow more freely through this congested area. Partners in the project include the City of Vancouver, BNSF Railway Company, WSDOT, Gramor Development, Inc., Boise Cascade Corporation, and current port tenants and customers.

Funding for the project includes $42 million in reserved Port of Vancouver capital funds (this amount is an estimate based on estimated future capital funds and includes estimated federal grant requests and/or other bonding finance options), $3.2 million in federal appropriations, $2.5 million from the Washington Freight Mobility Strategic Investment Board (FMSIB), $600,000 from Surface Transportation Program (STP) from TEA-21, $350,000 match from Port of Vancouver for STP funds, $250,000 from the City of Vancouver, $150,000 from BNSF for engineering and environmental studies, $7.5 million in FMSIB funds pending state funding source, and approximately $1.2 million in right-of-way from BNSF.

The port has allocated $13.7 million for Schedule One const