Waterfront Access Project

Project Update

The Vancouver Waterfront Access Project was completed in early 2014. On Sept. 29, 2014, the Port of Vancouver began work on on the next development milestone: the installation of deep underground utilities in the southern end of Columbia Street.

Street Info
  • Grant Street opened to traffic in August 2013, from Eighth Street south, linking up to a new West Sixth/Seventh Street industrial connector from Grant to Jefferson.
Rail Crossing Closures
  • Jefferson Street at-grade rail crossing closed permanently August 2013.
  • West Eight Street at-grade crossing closed permanently January 2013.

Please note: Sixth Street will remain closed on weekends for the Farmers Market per the Market's existing street-use permit.

Charting a Course to a New Waterfront


The Vancouver Waterfront Access Project restores the historic direct connection of the community to the Columbia River waterfront and opens the way for future waterfront redevelopment of a former industrial site, expected to energize an estimated $1.3 billion in new private investment in the community. In addition to removing barriers between the community and the river, this work will improve the efficiency and safety of vital rail traffic in Vancouver. The project took place in two phases: a Railway Phase and a Roadway Phase. Including Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway's portion, this is a $44 million effort that includes design, rights-of-way acquisition and construction.

Railway Phase

Begun in January 2011 and constructed by BNSF, the Railway Phase is complete. This phase included reconstruction of the main rail line from Columbia Street to Jefferson Street, construction of an earthen berm and and new bridge structures at Esther and Grant streets. The BNSF project also allows the closure of the at-grade rail crossings at Jefferson Street and Eighth Street. Port area access will then be possible by way of the Grant Street underpass. The overall project will also improve the safety and efficiency of BNSF Railway operations in Vancouver by decreasing delays on the main rail line and eliminating two at-grade crossings, at Jefferson Street and Eighth Street.

Roadway Phase

Construction of the Roadway Phase began in April 2013 and was completed in early 2014. Nutter Construction was the lowest responsive bidder and the contractor for this City of Vancouver phase of the project, which included:

  • extension of Esther and Grant streets south under the rail line to the waterfront site;
  • connection of Eighth Street to Jefferson Street;
  • closure of at-grade rail crossings at Eighth and Jefferson to improve safety and reduce train horn noise;
  • construction of a Sixth/Seventh Street extension from Grant Street to the west to serve the industrial area (Sixth Street will remain closed on weekends for the Farmers Market per the Market's existing street-use permit);
  • new signal installations of Grant Street intersections at Eighth Street and the extended Sixth Street; and
  • related street resurfacing, sidewalks and utility work.
Guiding Principles of the Waterfront Access Project Design

Drawing on stakeholder input, several design principles and recommendations helped shape the nature of the Grant Street and Esther Street underpasses. These include:

  • Grant Street should have bike lanes in the street, while Esther should generally match the preferred alternative sketch.
  • Introduce place holder locations for future vertical elements that emphasize the industrial marine heritage of the waterfront.
  • Provide opportunity areas that frame transitional elements of art, “surprise,” “sparkle,” or accents.
  • Design should incorporate the character of the downtown district through the underpass treatments and provide a “gentle transition” of elements and material to the waterfront development.
  • The character of the underpass space should be linear in nature with lines that draw your eye through the space and beyond. This would reinforce the north / south connection.
  • Don’t try to hide the underpass; be honest with material and layout – “less is more.”
  • The underpass space should feel open and secure.
  • Rain gardens and natural infiltration should be explored at the low point of the underpasses.
  • The Grant and Esther design should be different.
  • Landscape elements and planting should create an open, secure environment.
Train Horn Noise

Permanent closure of Eighth Street to vehicles at the at-grade rail crossing took place in January 2013. Permanent closure of Jefferson Street to vehicles at the at-grade rail crossing occurs in August 2013. The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) requires train horns to sound at all at-grade crossings. The only exemption is where quiet zones have been officially certified following the installation of safety measures to compensate for the absence of the horns. According to BNSF, routine train horns will no longer be needed at the Eighth and Jefferson streets at-grade crossing after they are closed to non-rail traffic. Safety improvements planned for the West 11th Street crossing are intended to allow for silencing of routine horns there at some future date, not yet determined.