A monumental project to provide a safe crossing from Ridgefield’s downtown to the city’s waterfront is now complete after more than two decades since its conception.
Local and state officials commemorated the completion of the Ridgefield rail overpass, a multi-million dollar project to bypass the local railway with a vehicle and pedestrian bridge. The ceremony was held during a day of citywide celebrations that included Oktoberfest, the Ridgefield School District’s Experience Ridgefield event and a benefit baseball tournament.
At Overlook Park, next to the intersection of Pioneer Street and Main Avenue, those involved with the project celebrated the opening of the overpass. Ridgefield Mayor Don Stose recounted how more than a decade ago the city took state officials on a field trip of sorts to see the need for the project.
“That show and tell really worked out well, because here we are today celebrating the completion of this bridge,” Stose said.
Port of Ridgefield Commissioner Scott Hughes said the concept for the project started in 1998 with a “crazy idea” by fellow commissioner Joe Melroy on closing the at-grade railroad crossings separating the riverfront from the rest of the city.
“It (was) super important that we (got) this done. It’s providing a safe, uninterrupted access to our waterfront,” Hughes said.
Hughes said after striping the roadway, the overpass was set to open Sept. 17. The $17 million project received about $8 million of federal funding, $8 million from the state, and the remainder was port-funded, he said.
Recognizing the solemnity of Sept. 11 nationwide, Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, said the date would come with happier memories from then on given the commemoration of the overpass opening.
“The work that it took on so many levels and by so many people to open up this bridge, it’s monumental,” Rivers said. “The folks who use this bridge probably won’t think about it as they drive over, they won’t think about the funding, but the fact of the matter is, if you live in Washington, if you live in the 18th (Legislative) District, your tax dollars paid for this, and I am hopeful that you see great value in how your money is spent.”
Rivers and others recognized the city has strong working relationships with other agencies that helped with the overpass and other infrastructure projects in the city.
“Ridgefield has a lot of nice things because of the leadership, both down at the port and here in the city,” Rivers said.
State Rep. Brandon Vick said the project has the potential to change the entire landscape of the waterfront.
“Not only are we talking about an easy way for me to get my boat into the water, which I will use religiously next year and the year after, but we’re talking about a project that is bringing safety to the area, a project that is bringing economic development to the area,” said Vick, R-Vancouver.
Port of Ridgefield CEO Brent Grening said the overpass is “the definition of a community project” given how much local work went into it. He and port commissioners thanked the port’s Vice President of Operations Laurie Olin for her work on seeing the project through. She received a plaque commemorating her efforts.
“(The overpass) connects this town to its waterfront in ways it has never been. Twenty years ago, people did not go to the Ridgefield waterfront. There were people in town who did not know Ridgefield had a waterfront,” Grening said. “But today, Ridgefield has a waterfront. It is another beautiful thing … (to) take this community into the future.”