February 2014 – in review
In this issue:
Washington State Rail Plan receives federal acceptance
WSDOT received accolades from the Federal Railroad Administration for submitting what FRA called a high-quality state rail plan. FRA highlighted the content of the plan and process to develop it. WSDOT completed all requirements necessary for federal acceptance. The final Washington State Rail Plan, which serves as our strategic blueprint for public investment in the state’s freight and passenger rail transportation system, will be posted online in late March.
Station concepts rolled out at Freighthouse Square station workshop
Nearly 60 community representatives participated in a Feb. 19 interactive workshop in Tacoma for the new Freighthouse Square station location. Based on comments from the previous two public station conversations, WSDOT presented concept drawings of potential locations throughout the building for feedback. The public learned about features, benefits, challenges and guiding principle ratings for each option.
Workshop participants indicated a preference for the east central to the far east locations. The preferred location concept will be presented to the community at the Amtrak Station Relocation Citizen Advisory Committee (CAC) meeting on March 12. Another CAC meeting open to the public will be held in July 2014 on the preferred building method and materials. Preliminary design work is scheduled for July 2014 through October 2014, and once approved by FRA, construction will start late 2015 or early 2016. Federal funding will only pay for the new Amtrak station. Additional building improvements (e.g., live/work spaces, retail, restaurants), shown by the City of Tacoma’s architect at the workshop, would need private or public partners.
Trestle open house for Freighthouse Square
Sound Transit sponsored an open house in Tacoma for public input on the new rail trestle design. Located to the east of Freighthouse Square, the new trestle will increase capacity and improve reliability for additional Sounder passenger trips. WSDOT’s role at the open house focused on the rail platform, which currently is long enough for the state’s Amtrak Cascades trains but needs to be extended to accommodate the longer Amtrak Coast Starlight trains. WSDOT recommends an extended platform to the east of the building to resolve the community’s concern to not block C and D streets when the Amtrak Coast Starlight trains arrive and depart. As part of the Point Defiance Bypass project, the new preferred platform location will require a re-examination of the environmental documents. If approved, Sound Transit would design and construct the new platform, and FRA and WSDOT would fund it through ARRA federal grants.
Landslide Mitigation Action Plan distributed to mayors and city councils along north rail line
The Landslide Mitigation Working Group, composed of 16 government agencies and private companies, presented an advanced copy of the Landslide Mitigation Action Plan to Washington mayors and city councils located along the BNSF Railway Co.’s rail line where most landslides affecting passenger service occur. The Action Plan is now posted on the website. This document is the culmination of bi-weekly meetings over the past year, research on contributing factors to landslides along the north rail corridor, and development of short- and long-term solutions for reducing landslides. Initiated by WSDOT, the Working Group also includes BNSF Railway Co., Sound Transit, Amtrak, cities and counties along the north rail line, and other stakeholders. Noteworthy actions by the working group include:
- BNSF will waive up to $3,500 per permit until April 2015 for property owners who connect their drainage pipes to BNSF-owned drainage systems at the bottom of the slope.
- WSDOT’s two of six federally funded slope stabilization projects have been completed between Seattle and Everett.
- U.S. Geological Service and Sound Transit made improvements to the landslide potential assessment model to more accurately assess rainfall and soil conditions.
- WSDOT, BNSF, Sound Transit, City of Mukilteo and City of Everett held an open house in Mukilteo to educate landowners on ways to improve slope management practices to help prevent landslides. A workshop in Everett is planned for the spring 2014.
- How landslides affect your property brochure (pdf 83kb) was produced and available at the open house, mailed to 1,000 residents along the north rail corridor, and displayed on Sound Transit commuter trains.
Amtrak Cascades high-speed rail projects update
Recent activities for the ARRA-funded Cascades High-Speed Rail projects include:
- Corridor reliability upgrades south and north. In the south section (Nisqually area to Columbia River), WSDOT contracted with BNSF to install 60,850 feet of rail. In the north section, (Everett to the U.S./Canadian Border), WSDOT contracted with BNSF to install 8 of 14 turnouts.
- Advanced wayside signal: Construction continues on signal system upgrades between the U.S./ Canada border and Vancouver, Wash. Upgrades improve on-time train performance through the elimination of most delays from signal failures. Upgrades will allow the system to be fitted with Positive Train Control components, a technology that automatically controls train speeds and movements to prevent accidents.
- King Street Station track upgrades: Amtrak advertised for design service proposals, which are due March 4, for track upgrades to increase capacity, signalize tracks, and modify platforms and canopies to accommodate more passenger trains. The $51-million project will be constructed November 2015 through February 2017.
- Mt. Vernon siding extension: A project south of Mount Vernon that includes a 4,072-foot-long siding extension, signal work and roadway improvements will start construction this spring and be complete by December 2014. The $8.5-million project will improve reliability for Amtrak Cascades service by reducing congestion and adding rail capacity.
Hoquiam Horn Spur construction
WSDOT is administering a $350,000 FRA grant for the Hoquiam Horn Spur project. Construction is expected to be complete by March 31, 2014. This project replaces the mid-river pier, which was damaged by storm debris in the river, with a barrier to prevent boats from hitting the bridge. The bridge is essential to transport goods by railroad to the Port of Grays Harbor and nearby businesses.