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State Rail Plan


The Final Washington State Rail Plan 2013-2035 is now available

"In order to address rail system challenges and identify opportunities for improvement, the Washington State Rail Plan describes the rail system and state's interest in it, identifies potential public actions to improve the rail system and recommends policies for state action consistent with Washington's transportation policy goals of economic vitality, preservation, safety, mobility, environment and stewardship."
                                      -- Lynn Peterson, Secretary of Transportation

The Washington State Rail Plan  serves as a strategic blueprint for future public investment in the state’s rail transportation system. It provides an integrated plan for freight and passenger rail, including 5- and 20-year funding strategies, that meets federal and state requirements. The plan informs the state Freight Mobility Plan; guides WSDOT as it develops strategic freight rail partnerships to support essential rail service; and establishes priorities for determining which freight rail investments should receive public support. It also guides Washington as it works with Oregon and British Columbia to implement intercity passenger rail service. The Federal Railroad Administration approved the plan on February 25, 2014. The plan was signed by WSDOT Secretary of Transportation Lynn Peterson on March 18, 2014.

Final Washington State Rail Plan 2013-2035 (pdf 3mb)

Technical Notes

State Rail Plan Folio (pdf 1mb)

Implementation and Next Steps

Funding and implementation of this plan will rely on a mix of private and public action, including public-private partnerships. Based on the project concepts referenced in this plan, system needs far exceed public funds available. The plan identified fully funded projects in the near term, and highlights policy and planning efforts needed to focus investments in the long term.

New sources of public funding for additional projects have not been identified for the near term. This plan is founded on the idea of practical planning, with recommendations that are acheivable. For that reason this plan focuses on actions that can be completed within existing resources, or with minimal near-term investment. It provides a flexible framework to consider solutions in a multimodal context, and recommends prioritization based on performance measures. This helps focus state efforts in the near term to develop the next set of visionary goals, and to understand funding needs and limitations.

Action Items

  • Deliver Amtrak Cascades capital program and implement service improvements. The present capital program entails an investment of nearly $800 million in federal funding (ARRA and HSIPR) in rail improvements. These will result in travel time savings, improved on-time performance, and two additional round trips between Seattle and Portland.
  • Complete Amtrak Cascades Service Development Plan and Fleet Management Plan to identify priority efficiency improvements, determine capital needs and quantify funding requirements for capital projects and operations. Continue coordination with Oregon and British Columbia.
  • Establish a policy for adding, changing and removing station stops on Amtrak Cascades.
  • Collect data to support inventory of short-line railroad needs, address maintenance needs in grant and loan programs and identify funding needs to meet state interests.
  • Facilitate discussions between communities and railroads to address at-grade crossing concerns.
  • Continue to incorporate performance measurement into the state’s rail programs. Funding priorities will be assessed as these are developed.
  • Continue grant and loan programs as the state’s proactive approach to preserving rail lines that are vulnerable to abandonment.
  • Continue incremental implementation of the vision established by previous rail plans for Amtrak Cascades: Seattle to Portland, 13 round trips per day; Seattle to Vancouver, British Columbia, four round trips per day.
  • Incorporate findings and recommendations in the Washington Transportation Plan  and other relevant planning efforts.

For more information, contact:  

Rail, Freight and Ports Division