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Monday, May 09, 2011
Melanie Coon, WSDOT Media Relations Manager, 360-705-7905 (Olympia)
Scott Witt, Director, WSDOT Rail and Marine Office, 360-705-6903 (Olympia)
OLYMPIA – Washington state will receive $15 million in additional federal high-speed-rail funding for improvements resulting in more frequent and reliable Amtrak Cascades passenger rail service between Portland and Vancouver, B.C.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced $2.02 billion for 22 high-speed intercity passenger rail projects, part of a nationwide network that will connect 80 percent of Americans to high-speed rail in 25 years. The majority of funding awards went to strengthening urban and higher-speed passenger rail corridors in the Northeast and Midwest and invests in “next generation” high-tech rail equipment manufactured in the United States.
The $15 million award brings Washington state’s total to approximately $781 million in American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) high-speed-rail funding. Washington was one of 15 states to receive a portion of high-speed rail funding returned from Florida.
This money puts people to work now and builds the high-speed rail corridor that connects our communities,” said Gov. Chris Gregoire. “We are happy to put Florida’s rail money to work in our state.”
The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) will apply the $15 million towards eliminating a congestion chokepoint currently causing delays to passenger and freight rail traffic near the Port of Vancouver. With $18.3 million in matching funds from the Port of Vancouver, crews will build a separate track for freight rail cars carrying shipments in and out of the port. This opens up rail main line capacity and allows passenger traffic to achieve faster and more consistent speeds through this area.
“This funding reinforces our vision of upgrading and expanding Amtrak Cascades passenger rail service in Washington,” said Washington Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond. “It will allow us to advance our work to address problem areas in the corridor, resulting in better on-time performance with fewer disruptions and delays.”
“This award demonstrates how our partnership with WSDOT and BNSF Railway Company will result in better rail connectivity for our entire region,” said Port of Vancouver Executive Director Larry Paulson. “This funding will help construct a section of the port’s rail project that provides new rail access that will bring more jobs to Vancouver, and opens up a bottleneck that has caused congestion on a rail line that connects Chicago, Houston and the western seaboard.”
As a result of this funding, WSDOT will add two daily round trips between Seattle and Portland, for a total of six. Major construction projects will be completed, including building bypass tracks to allow for increased train frequency and multiple upgrades to existing track. Several safety-related projects will be completed, including grade separations and the latest technology in advanced-warning signal systems. WSDOT expects to begin construction on select projects before the end of the year. All projects funded by the ARRA rail grants must be completed by Sep. 2017.
In 2010, nearly 840,000 passengers rode Amtrak Cascades between Eugene, Ore., and Vancouver B.C., a 10 percent increase over 2009. Nearly $1 billion in capital and operating funds have been invested in higher-speed intercity passenger rail in the Pacific Northwest rail corridor since 1994. Visit WSDOT’s passenger rail website.
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