Builders are working on the railroad downtown

Elevated structure will reopen travel, views to Vancouver waterfront

By Stevie Mathieu, Columbian assistant metro editor

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Crews at the construction site for Vancouver's waterfront access park continued to work this week on a project to restore public access to the Columbia River waterfront west of the Interstate 5 bridge.

Workers are busy driving massive metal piles 100 feet into the ground to serve as the foundation for railroad bridges that will cross Esther and Grant streets. They're also building an elevated railroad structure that will replace a railroad berm that has obstructed a view of the river from downtown Vancouver for the past 104 years.

Crews should be done driving the piles in about a month, said Charles Fell, a construction engineer with the city of Vancouver.

"In the end, they'll be pounded down to where you wouldn't even hardly see them," he said.

The new railroad infrastructure should be nearly completed by the end of the year, and it will take a couple months more to attach the railroad tracks, ties and signals. At that time, construction crews are expected to begin extending Esther and Grant streets under the new railroad structure and toward the waterfront.

The waterfront access project is a collaborative effort of local government and private partners to create a new upscale destination for Southwest Washington. In the coming years, the 35-acre waterfront area just west of Interstate 5 will be transformed with an eight-acre public park, new roads and railroad infrastructure -- with the hopes of spurring the development of shops, restaurants, office space and condos.

The project is expected to cost $44 million. Its backers say it will attract $1.3 billion in investments, and create 14,000 permanent jobs and 12,000 temporary construction jobs. The land was formerly an industrial site owned by Boise Cascade.

Stevie Mathieu: 360-735-4523; http://facebook.com/reportermathieu;http://twitter.com/col_politics;stevie.mathieu@columbian.com.