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Governor on hand to celebrate grand opening of Port of Vancouver Freight Access Project

Gov. Jay Inslee also took time to talk about tolls, the Interstate Bridge, and other SW Washington transportation concerns

VANCOUVER — The Port of Vancouver rang the ceremonial bell Tuesday, marking the completion of the $251 million West Vancouver Freight Access (WVFA) project.

The WVFA was really 21 different projects that took more than a decade to complete. But despite that amount of time, it actually came in ahead of time and millions of dollars under budget.

Port of Vancouver Commissioner Jerry Oliver (center) rings a ceremonial bell to mark the opening of the West Vancouver Freight Access project as Commissioners Don Orange (left) and Eric LaBrant watch. Photo by Mike Schultz
Port of Vancouver Commissioner Jerry Oliver (center) rings a ceremonial bell to mark the opening of the West Vancouver Freight Access project as Commissioners Don Orange (left) and Eric LaBrant watch. Photo by Mike Schultz

“The Port of Vancouver is a gateway to the world. And isn’t great that we are opening up that gateway today with this project?” said Governor Jay Inslee who spoke at the opening ceremony.

“This project is going to improve freight mobility dramatically,” added the Governor. “We’re going to have more efficient movement at grade crossings. We’ll have new entrances. We will increase rail capacity. It’s anticipated that this project will reduce delays by as much as 40 percent.”

 

Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler speaks Tuesday at a grand opening ceremony for the Port of Vancouver USA’s West Vancouver Freight Access Project. Photo by Mike Schultz
Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler speaks Tuesday at a grand opening ceremony for the Port of Vancouver USA’s West Vancouver Freight Access Project. Photo by Mike Schultz

Inslee says the project will eventually improve freight capacity at the Port of Vancouver USA from the current 65,000 cars per year, to around 400,000. “That is a Herculean improvement,” the governor says.

 

Inslee was joined at the ceremony by Southwest Washington Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler, as well as representatives from Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray’s offices who read statements. A number of other local elected officials attended the ceremony but did not speak.

“The impact (of this project) cannot be overstated,” said Herrera Beutler. “It’s provided over a thousand new jobs, and an additional 4,000 construction jobs. And it’s already attracted more than $400 million in private investment, which is not exactly small change.”

Cager Clabaugh, president of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 4, said he’s been told that the number of Longshoremen employed at the Port could increase from around 200 now, to more than 400 in the coming years.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee and Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler pose with Port of Vancouver officials at the grand opening of the West Vancouver Freight Access project. Photo by Mike Schultz
Washington Governor Jay Inslee and Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler pose with Port of Vancouver officials at the grand opening of the West Vancouver Freight Access project. Photo by Mike Schultz

 

The cornerstone of the West Vancouver Freight Access project is a water-tight trench that allows trains to go east-west under the 1908 railroad bridge west of the Interstate bridge.

“It’s innovative, it’s timely, and its a historic project that’s going to positively impact freight rail access here in Southwest Washington today, and really for generations to come,” Herrera Beutler said. “It’s a very forward-thinking project.”

Governor Inslee took a few moments to also talk about the millions coming out of Olympia for other projects in Southwest Washington, including the upcoming Mill Plain/I-5 ramp project, as well as the Pioneer Street rail overpass in Ridgefield.

“We are building transportation infrastructure in this part of the state, because this part of the state is integral to the economic growth of the entire state,” said Inslee. “This project is as important to Bellingham and Spokane as it is to Vancouver.”

 

Washington Governor Jay Inslee speaks Tuesday at a grand opening ceremony for the Port of Vancouver USA’s West Vancouver Freight Access Project. Photo by Mike Schultz
Washington Governor Jay Inslee speaks Tuesday at a grand opening ceremony for the Port of Vancouver USA’s West Vancouver Freight Access Project. Photo by Mike Schultz

 

The governor also had a few words to say about Oregon’s idea of tolls south of the Columbia River in Portland, saying he’s been pushing Washington Department of Transportation officials to make sure Southwest Washington voices are heard in the debate. “And I can report to you that those voices have been heard, they are being heard, and they will be heard to make sure that our residents’ interests are protected in any tolling discussion,” said Inslee, adding that he’s been told Portland’s proposal to toll all of I-5 and I-205 up to the state line is likely DOA at the Oregon Transportation Commission.

Inslee also said discussions continue over the importance of replacing the 100-year-old Interstate Bridge on I-5.

“I hope that the joy we feel today, the sense of satisfaction we feel today, the recognition that when we work together and reach some consensus on how to move forward (like) we did in this project, will be the same sense of satisfaction when we eventually cut the blue ribbon for the I-5 Bridge across the Columbia River,” said Inslee.

Funded through port dollars and federal and state grants, WVFA will help lower costs for U.S. manufacturers and farmers, making them more competitive in global markets, according to a release from 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.

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About The Author

Chris Brown

Chris Brown comes to Clark County Today with 15 years of local news experience as a reporter, editor, and anchor at KXL News Radio and KOIN-6 TV in Portland. In 2016, he won an Oregon Association of Broadcaster's award for Best Investigative Reporting for a series on America's Violent Youth. He has also been awarded by the Associated Press for Best Breaking News coverage as editor of Portland's Morning News following the 2015 school shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. The second oldest of eight home-schooled children, Brown graduated from high school two years early. After several odd jobs, he earned an internship at KXL Radio, eventually working his way into a full-time job. Brown has lived in Clark County his entire life, and is very excited at the opportunity to now focus full-time on the significant stories happening in his own back yard, rather than across “the river.’’ After a few years in Vancouver, he recently moved back to Battle Ground with his wife and two young daughters. When he's not working to report what's happening in Clark County, Brown enjoys spending time with his family, playing music, taking pictures, or working in the yard. He also actually does enjoy long walks on the beach, and sunsets.

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