What’s Up with That? BNSF track project aimed at boosting efficiency, capacity



The BNSF railroad is doing something along state Highway 14 — it looks like widening or adding tracks. I hope that’s not the case. I’m fighting oil and coal trains coming through here. Every time I drive through here I see the construction and worry.

— Diane Berg, Riverview neighborhood

The BNSF is building what appears to an additional siding along SR 14 between Columbia House Boulevard and Blandford Drive. Exactly what is this going to be?

— Vicki Coles, Riverview Neighborhood

Gus Melonas, spokesman for BNSF, said no new tracks are being added there along state Highway 14 near Columbia House Boulevard. But that doesn’t mean that foes of transporting oil and coal should shrug it off.

“Crossovers” are being added between the two parallel tracks already at this site so trains can stop and start, clear out of each other’s ways, disgorge and pick up crews more efficiently — without having to go to the main Vancouver rail yard at Fruit Valley to do those slow dances around each other. It all adds capacity and efficiency, Melonas said.

“It’s a redesign of the track structure,” he said, that’s been driven partially by Vancouver’s huge waterfront development plans to the west and the resulting bypass project that’s been rejiggering tracks to steer around it and connect with the Port of Vancouver. It’s not exactly a new siding, he said — but a new access road and parking lot have been installed so train crews can park and climb aboard right here. BNSF also built a retaining wall, Melonas said. In the year to come, he added, BNSF will be upgrading tracks with new ties and new surfaces throughout the region.

About a month ago The Columbian reported that BNSF has requested bids for 5,000 new tank cars to its fleet, specifically for carrying crude oil all over its railway system. Port of Vancouver commissioners approved a lease in 2013 for what would be the Northwest’s largest oil-by-rail facility, capable of handling 380,000 barrels of oil per day. Numerous players, including federal and state governments, are involved in the highly controversial decision process.

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