Wednesday, August 17, 2022
Aug. 17, 2022

Linkedin Pinterest

Ridgefield to celebrate Pioneer Street railroad overpass

Visitors can walk on nearly complete bridge during city’s September festival

By , Columbian business reporter
success iconThis article is available exclusively to subscribers like you.
4 Photos
An American flag blows in the wind on the Pioneer Street rail overpass on Tuesday in Ridgefield. The nearly finished overpass connects downtown with the boat launch area to the west of the railway.
An American flag blows in the wind on the Pioneer Street rail overpass on Tuesday in Ridgefield. The nearly finished overpass connects downtown with the boat launch area to the west of the railway. (Joshua Hart/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Ridgefield residents won’t have to wait much longer to start using the new Pioneer Street railroad overpass. The $15 million project is wrapping up the final bits of construction and is targeted to open to traffic by the end of October.

The last pieces of the security fence are about to be installed, according to Port of Ridgefield executive director Brent Grening. After that, the Washington State Department of Transportation and BNSF Railway will need to check the structure and sign off.

“Once that’s done, it’s pretty much good to go,” he said.

The port is planning to hold a pre-opening celebration at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 11, at Overlook Park, coinciding with Ridgefield Main Street’s Octoberfest celebration. Visitors will be able to walk part way out onto the overpass to see the views and get a feel for the structure, Grening said, although the length of the overpass won’t be open yet.

The overpass — which includes two traffic lanes and ADA-compliant sidewalks — is intended to provide fast and consistent access to the city’s waterfront area, which is separated from the rest of downtown Ridgefield by the railroad tracks.

The line carries about 70 trains through per day, Grening said, and the two street-level crossings at Mill and Division streets had visibility and safety concerns. The Mill Street crossing was already closed down during construction of the overpass, and the Division crossing will be closed once the overpass is finished.

The approach roads at either end of the overpass were finished by 2014 as part of the first two phases of the overall project. Battle Ground-based contractor Tapani Inc., broke ground on the third phase, the bridge itself, in the spring of 2020. Work continued during the pandemic, Grening said, allowing the project to stick to its planned 18-month build-out schedule.

Future city growth

The crossing has been a long-term goal for the port since 1998. Ridgefield’s population back then was only a fraction of what it is today, but Grening said the port began pursuing the overpass because it recognized that such projects can take decades to move from idea to execution, and it’s cheaper and easier to get infrastructure in place early.

The overpass will address immediate safety and access concerns, Grening said, providing better access for the roughly 50 residents who live along the river and for visitors traveling to the boat launch ramp. But it was also built “for what’s going to be needed in the future.”

Ridgefield has seen explosive growth in the past two decades — the 2020 census pegged the city’s population at 10,319, more than doubling its 2010 census count — but the bridge is designed with the assumption that the city has even more growth still to come.

When the Ridgefield area is fully built out, the bridge will be the nearest river access point for more than 100,000 people, Grening said. The city’s waterfront includes a 41-acre parcel zoned for mixed-use commercial development. There are no definitive plans in the wings yet, he added, but the overpass will set the stage for future projects.

“That’s what we’re building for,” he said. “That’s kind of the secret to infrastructure, is to build it before it’s a crisis, before you have a problem.”

Ridgefield Main Street executive director Marykay Lamoureaux said businesses in the downtown area are excited to see the overpass open, and they expect that it will bring more visitors to the area by providing easier access to fishing and kayaking on the river.

“Our downtown is pretty geographically isolated, and this is natural expansion,” she said.

The overpass isn’t the only infrastructure indicator of Ridgefield’s growth. C-Tran announced plans earlier this summer to bring regular bus service to the eastern end of the city next year, and WSDOT is developing a plan to add a new freeway connection at the southern end of the city by extending Northeast 219th Street west past Interstate 5.

Columbian business reporter

Support local journalism

Your tax-deductible donation to The Columbian’s Community Funded Journalism program will contribute to better local reporting on key issues, including homelessness, housing, transportation and the environment. Reporters will focus on narrative, investigative and data-driven storytelling.

Local journalism needs your help. It’s an essential part of a healthy community and a healthy democracy.

Community Funded Journalism logo