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News / Clark County News

Washougal to get $40M for underpass at railroad crossing

Federal grant will pay most of project's cost

By William Seekamp, Columbian staff writer
Published: May 31, 2023, 7:11pm

One weekday afternoon, Washougal City Manager David Scott was driving south on 32nd Street in Washougal, about to merge onto state Highway 14, when he was stopped by the familiar flashing lights, ringing bells and rumblings of a train approaching.

Although it took two minutes for the train to pass by, cars were backed up onto Highway 14 by the time traffic could proceed. It doesn’t happen every time a train passes by, but the sight is not uncommon, Scott said. On average, 45 trains pass by a day.

The intersection has a crash history and prevents emergency vehicles from getting through when a train is traveling by. To streamline traffic and increase safety, the city plans to build an underpass below the railroad line.

The project has an estimated cost of $50 million — $40 million of which will be covered by the federal government as part of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Railroad Crossing Elimination Grant Program — it was announced Wednesday.

Scott said that inflation has likely increased the cost since the last estimate in October, and the project will likely take three to 4½ years to complete. In addition to the federal money, Washington has allotted nearly $7 million, and local officials have pledged up to $4.82 million, according to the Camas-Washougal Post-Record.

“This grade crossing is one of the busiest along the BNSF railroad line in the entire state of Washington, and it creates a real hardship for the Washougal community,” U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., said in a press release. “When a train blocks the crossing, emergency vehicles can’t get through, and traffic backs up onto State Route 14.”

Scott thanked the entire Washington delegation, including U.S. Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, D-Skamania, and U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., but specifically singled out Cantwell, who authored the program as part of the 2021 infrastructure law.

“This funding for Washougal is a really big deal, and it will be put to good use, helping reconnect neighborhoods and delivering all kinds of major infrastructure improvements,” Murray said in a press release.

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This story was made possible by Community Funded Journalism, a project from The Columbian and the Local Media Foundation. Top donors include the Ed and Dollie Lynch Fund, Patricia, David and Jacob Nierenberg, Connie and Lee Kearney, Steve and Jan Oliva, The Cowlitz Tribal Foundation and the Mason E. Nolan Charitable Fund. The Columbian controls all content. For more information, visit columbian.com/cfj.

Columbian staff writer