Friday, May 13, 2011

Vancouver USA Rail Project Gets Boost From Rejected Florida Rail Funds

Florida's loss is the Washington state Port of Vancouver's gain.

The federal government has announced that the Vancouver port will receive $15 million for its West Vancouver Freight Access (WVFA) rail modernization project from the $2.4 billion in high-speed rail funds that Florida Governor Rick Scott rejected in February.

The Vancouver grant is being provided through the U.S. Department of Transportation and will be administered by the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT).

The $15 million windfall will be specifically invested in the construction of a rail access point at the east end of the port that is separate from the BNSF mainline. The $38 million project – part of the overall $150 million WVFA plan – is set to start by April 2013, with scheduled completion in January 2016. Matching funds from the port will make up the bulk of the cost for the project beyond the federal funds.
“This [DOT] award demonstrates how our partnerships with the Washington State Department of Transportation, our congressional representatives and the BNSF Railway Company have effectively demonstrated the passenger and freight rail benefits of this project to the region and the national rail system,” Port of Vancouver Executive Director Larry Paulson said in a statement.

Divided into 20 project elements, the overall WVFA project includes construction of a new dual carrier rail access into the port, enhancement of the port’s internal rail system, relocation of port facilities and utilities to accommodate track realignment, and improvements to port roadways.

The WVFA, the largest capital investment in the port's history, is at the heart of port officials' efforts to attract new business and retain existing businesses.

"We needed to increase our rail capacity. We needed to handle unit trains that are more than 100 rail cars long and unclog a bottleneck caused by trains coming into the port, stalling national rail lines to the west coast," Port Executive Director Larry Paulson said last month.

In July 2010, the port completed a rail loop project as the final phase of its $66 million Terminal 5 rail upgrade project – itself the first key component of the larger WVFA project. Completed ahead of schedule and on budget, the rail loop marked the first major milestone under the West Vancouver Freight Access and Industrial Track Agreement, a deal reached between the port and BNSF in 2008 that provides the overall blueprint and timeline for the WVFA project. The entire WVFA project is set for completion some time in 2017.

When completed, the WVFA is expected to triple the rail car capacity of the port-area BNSF tracks.