BNSF prepares to replace Washougal River railroad bridge

$10 million project will begin later this year

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A Camas railroad bridge that is part of a line that is more than 100 years old will soon be replaced.

Originally built in 1908, the 550 foot long BNSF Railway railroad bridge that runs above the Washougal River and parallels Southeast Sixth Avenue is on tap for replacement, said BNSF spokesman Gus Melonas. Over the years, work has been done to improve and maintain the bridge, but it has never been replaced.

“This is an upgrade and enhancement,” Melonas said. “It’s an upgrade for safety and efficiency.”

The permitting process is currently underway, and bidding on the estimated $10 million project will take place by springtime. Construction is scheduled to start this summer, with the bulk of the work to be done in 2015, and completion set for 2016.

The main span of the bridge will be replaced with a new steel structure that has a wider clearance. New piers will be installed, and the bridge’s foundation will be set deeper than it is now.

Melonas said crews will work around the train’s regular schedule, with most of the preparation work done adjacent to the bridge on platforms. There will, however, be one shutdown lasting 36 to 48 hours when the new bridge is moved into place.

The Washougal River Railroad bridge is crossed by up to 35 trains in a 24-hour period, Melonas said. Routes that pass through the area run from Portland to Chicago, and points in-between.

“It’s a key component to the Pacific Northwest network,” Melonas said.In preparation for the project, the city of Camas will be relocating one of its existing water transmission mains.BNSF Railway invested $125 million in maintenance and capital improvements to its track system in Washington in 2013. This resulted in about 300 new hires in the state. The work included almost 2,800 miles of track surfacing and undercutting work, plus the replacement of about 175 miles of rail and 110,000 railroad ties, according to BNSF.