“It’s exciting to see it coming out of the ground and really taking shape, becoming something physical,” Grening said. “It’s coming into focus, and it’s a big deal.”
Partners with the port on the project include the city, BNSF, the Washington State Department of Transportation, the Federal Highway Administration and Federal Railroad Administration.
The first two phases of the projects were completed by 2014. But the port ran into complications securing federal air rights for the project because it passes over BNSF tracks.
The port also needed to reopen its environmental impact study after 35 Columbian white-tail deer were relocated to the Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge in 2013. The animals were endangered at the time when they were taken from the Julia Butler Hansen Refuge for the Columbian White-Tailed Deer near Cathlamet.
But finally, in November 2019, the port signed a contract with Battle Ground-based Tapani Inc. for the project’s final phase.
Grening said that, if any future delays do arise, it might be due to girders that need to be manufactured off-site. It’s not entirely clear when they will arrive, or how COVID-19 restrictions might impact the timeline, but the port should know by January.
“If there’s any sensitivity to this, let’s chalk it up to COVID,” Grening said. “I think we’re going to be fine.”
The project’s progress is welcomed by downtown businesses.
“The overpass just adds to the growth of downtown, which is right in line with the growth of Ridgefield, so we’re happy about it,” said Marykay Lamoureaux, executive director of Ridgefield Main Street. “All of this is going to provide even greater access to geographic amenities that are very unique to Ridgefield.”
COVID-19 has been a challenge for local businesses. But one silver lining for businesses downtown, Lamoureaux noted, was that the pandemic and construction are taking place at the same time, which could offset their negative impacts.
“The port was able to do a lot of that construction when not a lot of people were down, and that’s a good thing,” she said. “There was a real chance for disruption when that construction occurred this spring and summer.”
While construction continues, the port has closed access to the Mill Street rail crossing. The port website has detour information.