Even before Vancouver became an official port, rail powered its economy. The early 1900s brought the Northern Pacific-owned Washington and Oregon (W &O) railroad and the Portland, Vancouver & Seattle Railway, which became the Spokane, Portland & Seattle (S P & S). The port’s partnership with S P & S began in 1917 when the port bought property for Standifer Construction’s steel shipyard and S P & S laid the first rail line.
After World War I, the Standifer yard closed, remaining dormant until S P & S and the port built the grain elevator complex in 1934, a complex which still operates today. The railroad line into the port west of the north-south rail line allowed several rail tenants to expand, bringing family-wage jobs to the area.
Today, the West Vancouver Freight Access (WVFA) project dominates the port’s rail focus—a multi-year effort to create jobs and generate revenue by investing in freight rail infrastructure. Construction started in 2007, and when complete in 2017, the project is expected to reduce delays by as much as 40 percent—not only through the port but also along the BNSF and Union Pacific mainlines that connect the Pacific Northwest to major hubs in Chicago and Houston, and from Canada to Mexico. The more efficient regional rail system will also lower costs for U.S. manufacturers and farmers, making them more competitive in global markets.
Much has been accomplished to date, including the June 2010 completion of a state-of-the-art unit train facility at the port’s recently developed Terminal 5. This loop track serves as the project’s western terminus, and the rail improvements completed in 2008 near the city’s waterfront bookend the project on the east. Work continues on expanding the port’s internal rail system from 16 to nearly 48 miles of track.
Over the life of the project, 4,000 construction jobs will have been created, and when completed in 2017, the project is expected to produce 1,000 new, permanent jobs. In addition, it is anticipated that WVFA will attract more than $400 million in private sector investment.« See all stories