Thursday, September 22, 2011

Vancouver USA Port Awarded $15M In Rail Project Funds

The United States Department of Transportation on Wednesday formally awarded $15 million in federal stimulus funds to the Port of Vancouver USA, which port officials plan to use to complete a key component of the port's 10-year West Vancouver Freight Access (WVFA) rail modernization project.

The funds, part of a $31 million DOT grant to Washington state passenger and freight rail projects, came from $2.4 billion in federal high-speed rail funds that Florida Governor Rick Scott rejected in February. Following Scott's rejection of the funds, the DOT selected dozens of projects across 15 states to receive the stimulus funds.
In July, Congressional GOP members led by Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen of New Jersey unsuccessfully sought to shift $1.6 billion of the redistributed Florida high-speed funds – which included the Vancouver grant – to cover federal disaster aid.

Vancouver port officials plan to invest the $15 million windfall 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. The port, with state assistance, plans to pick up the remaining $23 million cost of the project after applying the federal stimulus funds.

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 in April.

In July 2010, the port completed its $66 million Terminal 5 rail upgrade project, the first major component of the larger WVFA project. The entire WVFA project is set for completion some time in 2017. When complete, the WVFA is expected to triple the rail car capacity of the port-area BNSF tracks.