Days are numbered for 8th Street wait

Come January, drivers will no longer cross one set of train tracks

By Stephanie Rice, Columbian Vancouver city government reporter

Published:

 
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Early next year, West Eighth Street will be closed permanently to vehicular traffic at the BNSF Railway crossing between Harney and Jefferson streets.

The closure takes effect Monday, Jan. 7.

The closure won't end train horns, however; the crossing at Jefferson Street between Eighth and Ninth streets will be open. That crossing's slated for permanent closure sometime between July and September.

The changes are part of BNSF's work in the Vancouver Waterfront Access Project, said Loretta Callahan, spokeswoman for the city's Public Works Department.

Closing crossings increases safety on the tracks, eliminates the need for the trains to slow down for those intersections, and ends the need for engineers to blast horns, Callahan said.

The city has notified nearby businesses and will post detour signs, sending drivers to Harney, Evergreen and Jefferson streets.

The $44 million Waterfront Access Project involves street, rail and utility improvements, including reconstruction of the BNSF railway berm. Esther and Grant streets will be extended and run under the tracks as main links between downtown and the Columbia River waterfront.

In the spring, crews punched through the BNSF Railway berm south of City Hall, offering a view from the end of Esther Street to the river that's been hidden for more than a century. BNSF trains have been running on a temporary track.

Nutter Corp. of Vancouver, BNSF's contractor, has completed bridges and retaining walls for the new, final rail alignment, Callahan said.

The city embarked on the Waterfront Access Project to open up the possibility for private redevelopment of the site of the former Boise Cascade paper plant.

City officials also have a large waterfront park and an extension of the Waterfront Renaissance Trail in their sights.

Stephanie Rice: 360-735-4508 or stephanie.rice@columbian.com.