What's Up With That? Railway builds new switch for trains near river

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A group of us who walks along the riverfront has been wondering what they’re building along the railroad tracks across from Joe’s Crab Shack. What are they doing? — Sandra Tremmel

Actually, Sandra, there’s a whole bunch of construction happening in the vicinity.

Just west of the Interstate 5 Bridge and south of those railroad tracks, the Columbia River Crossing project has fenced off an area where it is testing methods for drilling shafts (deep holes where foundation concrete is poured) and driving piles (long steel columns driven into soil for support). According to the CRC website, this will help project engineers evaluate construction techniques for the bridge foundations, study noise and ground vibrations produced at various locations, and make sure the construction doesn’t affect groundwater quality.

That’s west of what you’re asking about. Just east of the I-5 Bridge and north of Joe’s, a different construction project is just about done.

According to spokesman Gus Melonas of the BNSF Railway, there are two parallel tracks straddling that embankment there. BNSF has now built a “new crossover” in between them at this location -- in other words, a switching facility enabling trains to switch from one track to the other. They’ll be able to make the switches right there, east of the bridge, Melonas said.

This work is being done in conjunction with various projects that are reshaping the edges of downtown Vancouver, Melonas said: the planned waterfront park and mixed-use development that’s headed for the former Boise Cascade industrial area to the west; ongoing access improvements at the Port of Vancouver; and “mainline bypass projects” for the BNSF railyard at Fruit Valley.

There’ll be more railway revisions — more construction work — over the next couple of years, Melonas said. “All of this will result in a more streamlined, quiet, safe operation,” he said.— Scott Hewitt

Got a question about your neighborhood? We’ll get it answered. Send “What’s Up With That?” questions to neighbors@columbian.com.