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Rail Monthly Update

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 December 2015/January 2016– in review

In this issue:
• Final ARRA project in construction
• Cascades High-Speed Rail projects continue to make progress
• Station stop policy update

Final ARRA project in construction
The King Street Station Track Upgrades project moved into the construction phase in late December with final agreements approved by the Federal Railroad Administration and executed by WSDOT and Amtrak. This is the final Cascades High-Speed Rail Program project to move into construction, a major milestone within the 20-project program funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
The track upgrades project will provide more flexibility for trains switching between tracks as they approach and depart King Street Station, reducing congestion and delays for passengers. New tracks and switches will be added, existing tracks extended and a new platform and canopy added to the station. The work requires detailed planning and scheduling, because the busy station and existing services must remain open during construction. In addition to Sound Transit and BNSF trains, King Street Station serves Amtrak Cascades, Coast Starlight and Empire Builder customers.
The project is out for bid, with work scheduled to begin later this quarter.

Cascades High-Speed Rail projects continue to make progress
The high-speed rail program has half of its 20 projects complete and the remaining 10 are all in construction. All projects must be completed by spring 2017. Once complete, projects will provide two additional daily roundtrips between Seattle and Portland as well as improved on-time performance and reduced travel times. Recent construction updates include:

  • Point Defiance Bypass – Freighthouse Square -- With final design complete, the new station in Tacoma’s Freighthouse Square is going out to bid in February, with construction planned to start in the spring. The station is a major component of the bypass route that will divert passenger trains around a congested set of tracks with tight curves and single-lane tunnels.
  • Point Defiance Bypass – Nisqually Junction and Track and Signal – Work on the crossover at the Nisqually Junction is operationally complete, with some minor items remaining. This southernmost portion of the Point Defiance Bypass project ties into the Track and Signal work that is currently underway from Nisqually to south Tacoma. Work includes new and upgraded tracks, as well as five reconstructed at-grade intersections with advance warning and signal systems.
  • Corridor Reliability Upgrades North – The final bridge joints have been installed in the bridge work section of this project upgrading track infrastructure from Everett to the Canadian border. This project improves track quality, reliability and passenger comfort.
  • Advanced Wayside Signal –The project upgrades signal system components at all control points, sidings and turnouts between the Canadian border and Vancouver, Washington. The final electrical items are scheduled to be completed in February.
  • Kelso Martin’s Bluff - Kelso to Longview Junction – Track construction, grading and pier protection wall construction continue. The project, one of three in the Kelso-Kalama area, will help relieve a major rail line chokepoint caused by shipments coming in and out of the Port of Longview. Existing track will be upgraded and a third main track added between Kelso and the Longview Junction, reducing congestion between freight and passenger trains.

Station stop policy update
WSDOT and ODOT are convening the second meeting of their Amtrak Cascades Station Stop Policy advisory committee in late January. Made up of public and private sectors representatives, the advisory committee will assist in developing the final policy for proposed addition or changing of stops along the corridor. The final policy will take into consideration the effects on the passenger rail service, business and communities. Other stakeholders are being engaged through communication and information sharing.