Takko secures funding for US 12-rail separation project

The City of Aberdeen will receive $700,000 for the Highway 12 Rail Separation Project in East Aberdeen, thanks to a provision added to the Legislature’s final transportation budget by Sen. Dean Takko, D-Longview.

The money will fund preliminary work for an overpass and roundabout to raise South Chehalis Street above Highway 12 and the Puget Sound & Pacific Railroad, where train traffic regularly causes congestion and backups on Highway 12 near the Gateway Mall at the entrance to Aberdeen.

The number of freight trains traveling along this corridor has significantly increased over the past 15 years and is predicted to continue growing as the Port of Grays Harbor handles cargoes of timber, agricultural products and autos, among other goods.

“This funding is a major milestone for the project, officially moving the project out of the planning stage and into preliminary engineering,” said Kris Koski, Aberdeen City Engineer.

“An added benefit is that this State support will strengthen federal grant applications for additional funding. The City is already planning the next grant application due in May of this year through the Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) federal grant program, so the timing of this news is perfect. The project is gaining momentum,” he said.

“This funding is crucial because it keeps this project moving and positions us competitively for big federal transportation grants,” said Takko. “Having more freight trains on the tracks is a sign of a strong economy — a good problem to have — but we need the overpass to cut down on traffic jams when those trains come through town.”

Koski said the project’s roots go back to a 2006 regional circulation plan and that planning has been underway since 2017,

“The design concept for the project was identified through a rigorous alternatives analysis completed in 2015. Planning work has been underway since 2017, including geotechnical explorations, traffic modeling, and public outreach. It takes a long time to complete big projects like this, but progress has been steady, and this funding will allow work to go on while we continue to search out funding for the next phase of work,” Koski added.

The City of Aberdeen, Grays Harbor County, and the Port of Grays Harbor together have committed $700,000 to match the state’s appropriation.

A 2019 cost-benefit analysis calculated that this project will return a benefit of $1.72 for every $1.00 invested.