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Rail Monthly Update

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March 2014 – in review

In this issue: 

  • Washington State Rail Plan approved
  • Standing Committee on Passenger Rail Conference (SCORT)
  • Freighthouse Square station concepts narrowed to three locations
  • Amtrak Cascades high-speed rail projects update
  • Hoquiam Horn Spur ribbon-cutting
  • New locomotives for Amtrak Cascades fleet

Washington State Rail Plan approved
The Washington State Rail Plan is now posted on the WSDOT website. The plan serves as WSDOT’s strategic blueprint for public investment in the state’s freight and passenger rail transportation system.

Standing Committee on Passenger Rail Conference (SCORT)
ODOT and WSDOT recently attended Standing Committee on Passenger Rail Transportation (SCORT) meetings in Washington, D.C. They met with key federal administration staff, railroad partners, Amtrak, shippers, public and private sector rail advocacy groups, and others. The states participated in work sessions on Amtrak Cascades service and contracts, including equipment capital and performance standards.

Freighthouse Square station concepts narrowed to three locations
After gathering public feedback at two January station conversations and a February workshop on the Freighthouse Square station location, WSDOT shared three concepts at the fourth public meeting in March 2014. Additional research will be conducted on the functionality of the station, soil conditions, building foundation, passenger flow, platform, title, and other factors. WSDOT will work with stakeholders on the preferred location, building method, and materials. Preliminary design work is scheduled to continue through October 2014. Once approved by FRA, construction will start in late 2015 or early 2016.

Amtrak Cascades high-speed rail projects update
Recent activities for the ARRA-funded Cascades High-Speed Rail projects include:

  • Vancouver New Middle Lead: This $12-million project includes a 1,300-foot-long lead track, signal work, and relocation of yard turnouts. The Vancouver, Wash., project will improve reliability for passenger rail service by reducing freight congestion and adding rail capacity. Construction started in March 2014, and will be complete by February 2015.
  • Corridor Reliability Upgrades South and North: In the south section, from the Nisqually area to the Columbia River, WSDOT contracted with BNSF to install 71,700 feet of rail and 90 turnouts. In the north section, from Everett to the U.S./Canadian Border, WSDOT contracted with BNSF to install 8,400 feet of rail, 51,500 ties and 12 turnouts.
  • King Street Track Upgrades: Design on track upgrades will begin in spring 2014. The improvements will increase capacity, signalize tracks, and modify platforms and canopies to accommodating more passenger trains.

Hoquiam Horn Spur ribbon-cutting
WSDOT, Puget Sound & Pacific (PS&P), City of Hoquiam and the construction contractor celebrated the completed Hoquiam Horn Spur Railroad Improvement project at a ribbon-cutting event March 20, 2014. The railroad bridge is essential to transporting goods to the Port of Grays Harbor and nearby businesses. Constructed over a 6-week period, the dolphin barrier extends above the water level and prevents boats from hitting the end of the 100-year-old historic Hoquiam River Railroad Bridge when it’s in the open position over the river. The dolphin barrier is made of 16 steel pilings driven into the riverbed, encased on the sides and top with a diamond-shaped metal frame, and protected with plastic materials that cushion minor boat impacts. The new structure replaces a wood pile barrier damaged by storm debris during a 2007 flood. WSDOT managed the $350,000 FRA grant, which was applied toward construction. The project was sponsored by U.S. Representative Norm Dicks under the Rail Line Relocation and Improvement Program.

New locomotives for Amtrak Cascades fleet
The Illinois Department of Transportation selected Siemens Industry for the design, fabrication, testing, acceptance, and delivery of new high-performance and environmentally friendly locomotives. Washington and California are participating in the multi-state procurement. Benefits of the new equipment include better fuel efficiency, lighter weight, fewer emissions, and smoother passenger ride. For the Amtrak Cascades passenger service in Washington, the new equipment will replace aging locomotives, improve on-time performance and reliability, and support two additional roundtrips between Seattle and Portland in 2017. WSDOT initially committed to five new locomotives with an option to purchase three more. Funding is provided through the nearly $800-million federal package for Washington, as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).