Local Information

WSDOT’s High-Speed Rail projects earn extensive recognition

Thursday, October 19, 2017 - 11:35

Janet Matkin, communications, 360-705-7966

Seventh award presented to multi-project program

OLYMPIA - The Washington State Department of Transportation's high-speed rail construction program, funded through the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, is drawing to a close in December. During its seven-year duration, the program garnered widespread national attention from the Federal Railroad Administration, other state agencies, and transportation organizations from across the country for its innovative approaches to project delivery.

The program's most recent honor came from the American Railway Engineering and Maintenance-of-Way Association (AREMA), which presented its prestigious 2017 Dr. William W. Hay Award jointly to WSDOT and BNSF Railway. This award recognizes achievements in delivering the multi-project $800 million program on time and on budget. Presenters noted work also had to be scheduled while freight and passenger trains continued to use the tracks. Requiring strong partnerships and strict scheduling, the 20 separate construction projects stretched between the Canadian border near Blaine and the Port of Vancouver USA in Southwest Washington.

"This was a complex undertaking and was only accomplished thanks to our positive working relationship with BNSF," said Ron Pate, director of the Rail, Freight and Ports Division. "We're honored to share this recognition and also very excited about what this work means for our Amtrak Cascades passengers."

The AREMA recognition is the seventh such award presented to the WSDOT high-speed rail program. Other national, state and local honors include:

  • 2017 TransComm award for public involvement from the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials for the Stay Back from the Tracks train safety campaign
  • 2016 WSDOT Environmental Excellence Award for an innovative wetlands mitigation project on Otter Creek in Cowlitz County that required coordination with multiple federal and state agencies, local jurisdictions, and tribes under a tight timeframe that transformed a small island into an ideal salmon spawning grounds  
  • 2016 Outstanding Achievement for Historic Preservation award from the Tacoma Landmarks Preservation Commission for work designing a new Amtrak Cascades station in the historic Freighthouse Square building
  • Three separate awards for the King Street Station restoration and seismic retrofit work in Seattle from the American Institute of Architects Seattle; National Trust for Historic Preservation; and the Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation

"It's particularly gratifying to be recognized for several different aspects of our work – overall project delivery, public outreach, historic preservation, and environmental improvements. This team accomplished amazing feats, some publicly recognized and others more personally appreciated. Working together, we achieved great things," said Pate.

The high-speed construction projects were designed to address major choke points, improve safety on the rail lines, and enhance the passenger experience on Amtrak Cascades. Owned and managed by WSDOT and the Oregon Department of Transportation, Amtrak Cascades serves 18 stations from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Eugene, Oregon. In the Washington section of the corridor, the improvements will allow WSDOT to begin additional service on Dec. 18 that will:

  • Add two more daily Amtrak Cascades roundtrips between Seattle and Portland (for a total of 12 trains daily)
  • Reduce travel time to 3 hours and 20 minutes between the two cities
  • Improve on-time reliability

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