Photo, right, by Ty Swenson. Left, courtesy of Port of Seattle.
Left, an overhead view of the East Marginal Way Grade Separation completed in spring of 2012. Right, Dan Gatchett speaks on behalf of freight companies during the dedication ceremony on April 11. The new roadway looms in the background.

Port completes $52 million E. Marginal Way Grade Separation: Expected to improve freight movement, ease gridlock

The Port of Seattle and their partners celebrated the completion of the $52 million E. Marginal Way grade separation project on April 11. The new elevated overpass is intended to “improve road and rail access to port terminals,” rail yards and manufacturing and distribution facilities, according to the Port.

By creating dedicated lanes for freight traffic, the roadway should also reduce the number of freight trucks on other thoroughfares and ease the commute for West Seattleites headed east, according to Peter McGraw with the Port.

The $52.7 million tab was picked up in majority by the Port ($18.8 million). The rest was covered by the Washington State Transportation Improvement Board ($10.3 million), City of Seattle ($1.6 million), BNSF and UPRR railroads ($1.43 million), State Freight Mobility Strategic Investment Board ($6.9 million), federal grants ($10.8 million) and federal stimulus money ($2.88 million).

Port of Seattle hopes the roadway, part of Duwamish Ave. South near the West Seattle Bridge, will help in achieving their Century Agenda goal to “expand the port’s cargo handling capacity to 3.5 million twenty foot containers a year by 2037,” McGraw wrote. The port currently moves around 2 million containers a year.

The dedication ceremony on April 11 brought together a number of speakers to comment on the project, located at Duwamish Ave. South near the West Seattle Bridge.

Port of Seattle Commissioner John Creighton said the project was first conceived in the 90s, although they did not actually break ground until 2007.

“This project is an important piece of infrastructure for the port,” he said. “It will make it easier to move commerce through our harbor ... and raising the roadway over the railroad tracks improves safety and efficiency and eliminates idling by cars and trucks waiting for trains to clear the intersection, and so it offers environmental benefits as well.”

The port estimated 270 hours of daily traffic delays at railroad tracks in the area in 2010.

Seattle Department of Transportation Director Peter Hahn (speaking on behalf of Mayor McGinn) said, “While this is a great example of a project we have done in partnership, we are not going to stop here. We have a lot more to do in the way of moving freight efficiently from ship to train to highway to the rest of the country.

“We are very excited about this, and we just hope there will be much more to come…” he added.

Kathleen Turner, director of WSDOT Highways and Local Programs commended the project for bringing in a number of partners.

“The state budget crisis is continuing, the uncertainty at the federal level of transportation funding really is going to require more partnerships to get these projects done …,” she said.

Dan Gatchett, board chair of the Freight Mobility Strategic Investment Board (representing freight and railroad companies) said, “As little as ten years ago there was a common phrase in our industry, ‘Freight has no voice,’ but it is clear by this dedication freight does have a voice.”

More information can be found at the Port of Seattle website.

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