A major rail yard expansion project is improving efficiency and capacity for exports in Portland’s largest industrial park. Completed in June and now fully operational, the South Rivergate Yard expansion project was the last in a series of four recent rail and road improvement projects located in Rivergate Industrial District.
Partnerships involving both the public and private sector made it possible. The $11 million rail yard expansion was funded through investments from the Port of Portland, ConnectOregon II state transportation funding, Union Pacific and Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway. Improving freight mobility and rail velocity makes the bulk facilities at marine Terminal 5 more competitive, which helped justify and garner support for the project.
“Collaboration is key to securing funding for large transportation infrastructure,” said Greg Guthrie, director of marketing, BNSF Railway. “Together we can provide better freight mobility by building on each partners’ strengths, make connections, and utilize greener technology.”
Construction began in 2010 to expand the rail yard and construct five additional tracks in the yard to increase capacity and nearly double service to Columbia Grain. This facility alone handled over 4.7 million tons of grain in 2011. Rail connections between the north and south portions of Rivergate have been enhanced, and the yard is now capable of handling multiple unit trains of 100 cars or more per day.
“The adjacency of the new yard provides many benefits, from cleaner air due to fewer emissions, reduced road intersection blockages, keeping road freight and people moving, and more efficient delivery of the cargo to the terminals,” said Tom Hammond, president and CEO of Columbia Grain. “Adding tracks also helps reduce congestion, which benefits the adjacent Portland Bulk Terminals potash export facility and other rail users in the area.”
Along with the South Rivergate Rail Yard expansion, improvements to the nearby Ramsey Rail Yard have also increased capacity and efficiency for rail traffic. North Lombard widening improved safety by adding a center turn lane and providing pedestrians and cyclists an off-street multi-use path, and the Leadbetter Overcrossing ensured consistent access for truck service to distribution centers and warehouses in the area, even as rail traffic grows. Together, all four projects improve long-term connections, capacity and safety for rail and road infrastructure in Rivergate Industrial District.
“Projects like this rail yard expansion bring greater rail network efficiencies in the transportation of goods to the Port’s customers,” said Sebastian Degens, Port general manager of marine marketing. “Transportation infrastructure demands our attention and investments to remain competitive and help our customers prepare for the future.”