Adam Little, The Columbian

$14 million project will connect Pioneer Street, waterfront

The last piece of funding for the Port of Ridgefield’s Pioneer Street Railroad Overpass Project will come from a $900,000 Railroad Safety Grant, which was announced Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The $14 million project will pay for an overpass above the railroad tracks that will connect Pioneer Street to the port’s property, making it easier to get from downtown to the waterfront area. The port hopes to redevelop the waterfront once the overpass is in place.

“This project is on final approach, and that’s what makes this really exciting,” said Brent Grening, Port of Ridgefield CEO. “This last piece of funding just closes that final gap, that little piece that we need to go forward.”

The project, which will also provide more access to the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, should be completed by the end of 2018.

The port was one of 57 applicants for the $10 million in grants funded by the federal Safe Transportation of Energy Products by Rail Program, which targeted routes where trains carry crude oil and ethanol. The grants were administered and awarded through the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations. U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler is a member of the committee and helped secure funds and bring in money for Washington.

Grening said the port also worked with the Washington Public Ports Association to get the overpass project in front of state officials to try and get some of the grant money.

“This grant wouldn’t have happened without their involvement,” he said of the association and Herrera Beutler.

Another big partner with the port on the project is the city of Ridgefield, and Steve Stuart, Ridgefield’s city manager, said the city is thrilled with the work the port has done.

“This is a fully funded project now that will very shortly restore the public’s connection with a waterfront that has been largely off limits for nearly 100 years,” Stuart said.

The area was formerly home to Pacific Wood Treating, which pressure-treated telephone poles and railroad ties with chemical agents. The plant closed in 1993, leaving the surrounding grounds seeped with chemicals. The port used a steam-enhanced remediation system to remove 24,800 gallons of liquid contamination, 1.5 million pounds of contaminated sludge and contamination from more than 1 million gallons of groundwater, according to the Washington State Department of Ecology. Nearly $73 million was spent on the cleanup.

Stuart said he’s excited to see what else the overpass will bring in terms of redevelopment that will incorporate open space, parks and boat access.

“Now, the fun part starts as a community in creating and developing the vision for what the connection to the waterfront and the refuge looks like,” he said.

But before that, the overpass has to be built. That will happen in the project’s third, and final, phase, which is underway. Grening said construction is expected to start in the summer of 2017 and last about a year, so “by end of 2018, we’re driving on it.” He estimates that construction will be completed by summer or early fall in 2018.

Between now and the start of construction, Grening said the port still has to get a few more permits and put the construction out to bid, which he expects to happen late in the third quarter of this year. Another reason construction won’t start until next year, Grening said, is because the port secured $7.8 million last year in state funds for the project, which won’t be available until July 1, 2017. He doesn’t anticipate the need to bring in more funds for the project as of now.

“We have what we need to build,” he said. “There’s always the chance that when we go to build that our construction estimate comes in a little higher. There’s always inflation and that kind of thing. For right now, for what we’re estimated, we’re fully funded and ready to go.”