BNSF Freight near Winlock, WA by Brian Bundridge
BNSF Freight near Winlock, WA by Brian Bundridge

There is quite a bit going on and wanted to give an update of what’s happening;

Amtrak Cascades projects

BNSF will start construction of the new siding in Swift/Blaine for Customs. This will keep the main line clear at all times, eliminating the upwards of 2 hour delays at the border crossing.

The Mt. Vernon siding upgrade and extension is currently on hold while BNSF finds additional funding to finish the project.

Work has begun at the future Stanwood Station and Stanwood siding as part of several improvements. BNSF crews will be at Stanwood for the next few weeks to improve and extend the siding an additional 3500 feet in length roughly and relay rail and new ties. This will increase the speed from 10mph to 35mph.

BNSF and WSDOT have located additional funding to complete the PA Jct/Curve Relocation project and will start construction this Summer. This will increase the speed dramatically from 15mph to 50mph.

Amtrak will be awarding contracts sometime this year or early 2010 for the new Amtrak Maintenance Facility. The facility will finally give employees shelter and turn Seattle into a Medium maintenance facility. Still, major work (engine replacement, major accident repair work, etc) will need to go to Los Angeles or Beech Grove. This will improve the reliability of the current Amtrak locomotives dramatically.

With the Governors new budget, the Point Defiance Bypass in its new form will not be completed until 2019. While this will give another 10 years of a wonderful waterfront trek, it also will remain on a heavy congestion railroad. If the State of Washington does secure any HSR funding, this project will be completed in 2012, around the same time that Sounder is expected to start service to Lakewood Station.

Also, with the Guv’s budget, several projects that were in the 2012-2013 time frame have been eliminated. These projects would have installed 2 new crossovers, one at Newaukum and replaces the Chehalis crossovers from 30 to 50mph. This project would have helped the congestion on Napavine Hill between Chehalis and Winlock, where trains are common to be very slow or even known to stall on the hill and wait for assistance.

Speaking of new crossovers, the new Tenino 50mph crossover project should be wrapping up soon. The new signal masts have gone up and signal and crossover testing should start soon.

The Amtrak Cascades refurbishment is still moving forward though I am not sure what train set they are working on. I would assume the train set that is sitting on King Street 7 in Seattle for the past couple of weeks.

The first phase of the Vancouver Rail Project has been completed which installed several new 35mph and 50mph crossovers at “Fruit Valley” and at 39th Street. With this completed, crews are finishing up the last bit of work and moving  into phase two. Phase two focuses on Vancouver Center, which is the North end of the Amtrak Platform. This work will consist of a minor rail relocation, a bypass that connects at Fruit Valley and eliminates the diamond. The maze of switches, will be reduced dramatically, along with several new crossovers that will improve train movements, in, out and around the Vancouver yard. The major benefactor from this project will be the freight railroads. 90% of the congestion is due to the maze of switches trains must go through in order to continue North to Seattle or South to Portland. The other 10% is due to the Vancouver Rail Bridge.

As reported previously, we are still waiting on the Canadian border services to make up their mind or the government to pay for the second and possible third train. While the Mayor of Vancouver is all for another 7 daily trains, the government expects the United States or Amtrak to pay the $1500 a day ($500,000 a year) fee.

Commuter Rail Projects

There are only 13 projects for Sounder remaining!

Everett Station Phase 2 was slated to open on April 13th but has been delayed “Due to construction related issues” Whatever this means is naturally holding up an additional 440 of much needed parking space.

Phase two of Mukilteo Station should be starting sometime in the near future. While there is still a TBD on the project page, I have an understanding that the project will start construction late 2009 and finished by Summer 2010. I could of course be wrong and happy to be stood corrected =)

Contrary to what I have reported previously, grading for the new double track project at Milepost 27-28 (Near Nelsons Corner/Mile West of North Runway of Paine Field) will begin soon. This project will add a second track and some fill to accommodate the new right of way.

Moving further South, a new 50mph crossover will be installed at Mosier, an old railroad name just North of Picnic Point on the tangent (straight) track.

Edmonds Station, one of the most delayed projects, but not because of Sound Transit but rather WSDOT as they used the ferries to take money from and relocate for other projects (Viaduct, SR-520, I-405 to name a few projects) The City of Edmonds and Sound Transit will thankfully move forward without the ferry portion of the terminal with construction slated to start this Summer and wrap up in 2010. This also includes the new double track segment between Milepost 17 16 and Milepost 18. (Correction by Mike Bjork, Thanks!)

After Edmonds, the next project will be another new 50mph crossover at Richmond Beach. This will be the last new crossover installed North of Ballard. The earlier project between MP 7 and MP 8 installed a new crossover South of Carkeek Park and near Golden Gardens.

Currently in progress is a double track project through the Interbay rail yard. This project should be finishing up this Fall. Currently, crews have installed new rail and re-ballasted the old “NP Main” from Broad Street to Dravus Street. The project will relocate the locomotive load testing booth and move it to another area in the servicing facility. The booth was installed after residences complained about the noise of locomotives running at full throttle all day and night long. The existing set of crossovers at Milepost 5.4 will be rebuilt. This project will increase the speed from 60mph to 70mph for passenger trains. The overpasses over the BNSF rail yard makes for great viewing to see how this is all put together. Also, at Broad Street, the main line will shift slightly and a new switch will be installed for grain trains. This means no more 10 or 40 minute delays as grain trains slowly snake into the Louis Dryfrus terminal. Yay!

Sound Transit is moving forward with construction of the permanent Tukwila Station (10mb pdf) with construction slated to start this Summer!  The new station will have improve lighting, 130 more parking spots than the current station, plus a future area for 40 additional spaces that can be used for Amtrak, landscaping, more bike storage, and much more. Like Auburn Station, Tukwila Station will have a provision for a 3rd main line. In the future when the demand comes near, BNSF and/or WSDOT/Amtrak/Sound Transit, etc will add a third main line from Tukwila to Pacific.

Moving down the line to Puyallup, Sound Transit has came into agreement to use the Puyallup Fair Grounds Red Lot which is about a half mile walk to the station. This will provide an additional 200 spots and the Pierce Transit Route 495 will serve the lot to the station in conjunction with the Sounder schedule.

Sound Transit’s black horse continues getting shunted. The D Street to M Street is still nearly $40 million dollar over-budget and unable to find additional funding. While they are still aiming for 2012 opening, their target date is slowly being pushed back each day with this delay. While the good news of federal funding for M Street to Lakewood station is welcomed, Sounder won’t be able to use the route until D Street to M Street is finished. Construction will start on the M Street to Lakewood Station this summer with completion in 2010. Rail Works Inc has been awarded the contract for the improvements.

Freight Rail

BNSF is been awarded the contract to use the new on-dock rail facility at Terminal 18 for newcomer CMA CGM with service starting in June. BNSF has also won the contract for Matson, China Shipping (Was at T18), and newbie SSA Marine which will be calling at Terminal 30, the old cruise ship terminal.

Last month, BNSF also reopened Stampede Pass after the January floods created a 150 foot long wash out near Martin, Washington. BNSF is currently hiring for maintenance of way for our region as the summer maintenance projects kicks up.

Union Pacific Railroad is slowly moving its domestic container traffic to Tacoma from Seattle. The reasoning for this is mixed but Union Pacific’s biggest “strong-hold” is more Tacoma than Seattle and has been for some time.

Did you know the Port of Tacoma offers tours? I didn’t neither but it does sound interesting!

WSDOT and Tacoma Rail have finished installation of an automated switch system within the Tacoma Rail yard. This system allows train crews or the yard master to line switches remotely, without stopping, saving fuel and time.

The City of Tacoma has agreed to allocate an additional $500,000 to repair the Nisqually River Bridge, which the bridge approaches washed out in the October 2006 major flood. The contract is expected to be awarded later this month with construction starting in June with the hopeful finish by the end of the year. This will also enable the Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad to return to Elbe on its normal route. This will also allow Tacoma Rail to resume service to Morton once another washout is fixed, just outside of Morton caused by the January 2009 flooding.

Feel free to discuss anything or ask me to break stuff down. I can also field questions off to WSDOT if need be.

30 Replies to “Pacific Northwest Rail News”

  1. Do you have any idea how much time will be taken off the route times after the improvements are in place? Does the Edmonds Crossing Project include both an Amtrak station and a bus transit center? I sure wish I could find out what is holding up the Everett Station parking! I see it every day. Trust me, it is done! I am guessing that maybe the politicians are still juggling schedules to meet for a dedication ceremony (if there is one). What happens if the D to M section isn’t funded? Wouldn’t the money being spent from M to Lakewood be wasted? If the money were available how long to complete the D to M section?

    Thanks for all your hard work and informative posts!!

    1. The 2006 numbers were 7 minutes for standard passenger equipment between Seattle and Everett, 13 minutes for tilting equipment. That seems a bit off to me IMO and should be a little less. More like 5 minutes and 10 minutes.

      Edmonds will remain a Amtrak and Sounder station.

      I’d really love to know what the heck is going on with Everett Station.

      If and it is really a big IF, D to M isn’t funded, the 1 mile segment won’t be built. This will mean a delay unless funding is found. The money spent on M Street to Lakewood wouldn’t be a total lost per say. Tacoma Rail will still be running on the route to service the industries. If the money is appropriated now, they would open in the 2011/2012 time frame, pending any delays, etc.

      Your most welcome.

      1. There was a talk at one time to replace that bridge but it never came about and was side-lined. Bridge 4 (Ballard Bridge and the several bridges in Everett/Marysville) were to be replaced at one point due to earthquake risk. They survived the Nisqually quake so I assume they are “a’ok”

  2. Thanks for the great post. It’s nice to be able to get all of this info in one place.

  3. The “Public Notice” signs for the connector in Tacoma have been put up (I have not personally verified this though), and the current Talgo set being refurbished in Seattle is the Mt Rainier set. It was all masked up when I went through Seattle today. Also, Trails and Rails is about to start up for the season on the Empire Builder and Coast Starlight!

    1. They finally masked it? Its about time! I’ll check out the fencing that went up there not that long ago unless somebody in the Tacoma area can verify for us?

  4. Thanks Brian! Could you do this as a monthly of every-other-month regular feature on STB? Would be especially helpful during the summer construction season. And please do define terms like PA Junction for those who are not into the minutiae of big-time railroading. Again, a thousand thanks for your work on the main-line railroading aspect of rail transport in our region!

    1. Lloyd! I will most certainly try. I think the last one I did was a few months ago. I’ll make sure I’ll reference things a bit better and start using Google Maps or Live Maps so people know where I am talking about. I thought about doing that with this one but I was already 3 hours deep in writing and finding the information, making phone calls, etc,

      If there is anything else you’d like to see (Eastern Washington, Western Oregon) please, let me know!


      Totally. I’ll have to make a correction tomorrow with that recent discovery that you made =P but yes, it took around 3-4 hours to type and find all of that information.

  5. You’re welcome Brian! Great post. Lots of good information and some really cool projects on the horizon. You must have had to do some digging.

    1. Where is the ST boundry in South King? Would this route be inside of or outside of ST?

      Assuming a Population of
      Covington 17,000
      Maple Valley 20,000
      Black Diamond 5,000
      total 42,000
      and 13 miles of track from Auburn to hwy 169 with an Auburn Station and a MV/BD station where the rail crosses Hwy 169 is viable.

      Would a run from Monroe to Everett with a stop in Snohomish servicing 17,000 in Monroe and 5,000 in Snohomish be feasable?

      I am not sure what “Road work” in the Auburn – covington, Maple Valley area would be eliminated, but in the Everett – Snohomish – Monroe corridor, the upgrades to the hwy 2 tressel as well as the Bickford Ave interchange could be eliminated.

      The Monroe, Snohomish, Everett route also has the potential to work with the ESR route, if/when it ever hapens

      Lor Scara

      1. There’s been discussion of extending Sounder North farther into Snohomish County, in another thread. The biggest problem is that likely candidates like Monroe and Stanwood are outside the Sound Transit taxing district. Just looking at the Sound Transit borders on a map, they only cover the SW corner of the county – adding more land to the taxing district would add a small amount of revenue, but also a large amount of anti-transit car-dependent voters.

      2. Yeah… maybe if they had rail out to there they should make their own district and contract out to ST for operations. Also, I think that rail to Monroe and Snohomish would be better going down to King County, as that’s where most of the commuters are probably going and going all the way up to Everett and then back down to Seattle would take too long.

      3. this is kinda why I was asking about the ST boundry ;)
        From the maps I have seen, Covington, Black Diampnd, and Maple Valley all appear to be outside of the ST boundry.

        Also why would Monroe, Snohomish, given the distances involved be any more anti-transit than the Covington, Maple Valley, Black Diamond voters?

        I want to see what the results of this study are, and if this line is built, how it is paid for.

        Lor Scara

      4. This boundary/political question makes another arguement for removing heavy rail from Sound Transit’s purview.

        Extending Heavy Rail makes sense at first glance – even more so when you consider current train set logistics (most sets only make one run in each direction each day). Adding 30 minutes to an hour onto a current run is a very minimal cost.

        BTW, Port of Tacoma tour is good, but not as ritzy as the boat based ones POS offers (used to?).

    2. That’s awesome. I was just adding a route like that to my fantasy Sounder Commuter Rail map the other day… but it’s very rare that one of these things that we dream about is actually seriously considered.

  6. Ditto to Brian for being a ‘one stop’ source for everything BNSF/UP/Amtrak related- kind-of-a Brianapedia :). Anyway, thanks for the time you spend keeping the rest of us informed.
    If it’s not too personal, do you work for the RR, and if so, generally what position?

  7. With the Governors new budget, the Point Defiance Bypass in its new form will not be completed until 2019. While this will give another 10 years of a wonderful waterfront trek, it also will remain on a heavy congestion railroad. If the State of Washington does secure any HSR funding, this project will be completed in 2012, around the same time that Sounder is expected to start service to Lakewood Station.

    So the way I read this is that the Governor was probably told that this project would be on the short list of HSR funding and the funds could be reallocated…hopefully she’s right.

  8. This post is one of the reasons I read this blog. Lots of good info, laid out for the layman to understand. Thanks!

    1. I quite agree! This blog is so useful! The newspapers are “almost” useless. They can help but this blog is usually by far the best source of the transit news we seek.

  9. Thanks for the update and all of the research. Your good work is one reason I come to this blog. If you happen to hear of any new heavy rail developments in Central and Eastern WA, I will be interested in passing it along to friends there. But not if it means another 3-4 hours of research!

    I will be on the Amtrak to DC soon. Cannot wait!

  10. Anyone have an update on the endless King Street Station remodel project, as in when it will be finished, and the ugliest waiting room this side of the bus station will be transformed to something like its original condition?

    1. First off, great post as always, Brian – I love the updates.

      Gary, I was at a meeting on King Street Station last week in the International District and one of the people who was conducting the outreach didn’t seem to know that the clocks are still not working up there – hence his surprise when I asked him when it might be.

      Basically, it is hard to get an answer on King Street. The Mayor told me that funding is secure for the second phase, but then at the meeting last week, we were told that some of Phase 2 funding (this is for the interior ceiling and other improvements such as the outside plaza and staircase) is being used to correct problems discovered on phase 1. Supposedly, phase 1 will be complete by June but could get pushed back as these things usually are. It will be nice to see the clocks working again and lit from behind and in front.

      The clock tower looks great from the outside with some nice cleaning work. When I was at the last Sounders match, I felt I could look at the Station with a strong sense of pride and achievement for the City. It is a beautiful station and needs to stand out. The recent renovation work is going a long way towards this goal, but much needs to be done and you are right about the interior – it does look ugly at the moment.

      I am sure this project will get there and yes, it is slow and no not everyone who ought to knows the benchmarks and timelines.


  11. Great post, Brian as always.

    I too think it is odd that the Federal government would fund M street to Lakewood without there being funding available for D street to M Street.

    I think the slow down in the economy is slowing and I heard this morning that Washington’s unemployment rate did not rise between March and April which is good news – perhaps more for those who have jobs than those of us who don’t. However, if we can stop the rate of revenue attrition then hopefully some projects currently stalled will restart and those in the pipeline can start flowing again. I am sure Sound Transit would be only too happy to push D to M street up the line and the rest of us are almost willing them to do so.

    Good news on Stanwood and on Mukilteo and Tukwila Stations but until construction starts on Mukilteo and Tukwila, I’ll hold my enthusiasm. Is Leavenworth still on track? I have my reservations on Leavenworth – not about them having a station of course, but the scheduling of the Empire Builder on the return trip – the projected time of around 6.30am is not going to be that useful for most tourists to Leavenworth. This is why I really hope that at some point in the future, there will be a second daily train to Spokane that would render the issues with times at Leavenworth less of a problem. Still, I wouldn’t wish this to stop Mayor Eaton of Leavenworth from celebrating his long cherished dream to having daily train service through his town and I hope it works out well for him and for the town. It has been a long road for all to be able to get a train to stop for five minutes or so.

    The pesky problem of the second train to Vancouver continues to irritate, so I hope this gets resolved too in the near future. Let’s not forget that Vancouver will be joining the MLS Soccer league in 2010 or 2011 so an additional means of getting fans to and from games would be welcome and beneficial to both Seattle and Vancouver.

    Thanks again, Brian.

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    In fact, we recently kicked off the America’s Power Factuality Tour—a country-wide road trip in search of the people, places and technologies involved in producing cleaner electricity from domestic coal.

    For the second leg of our trip, we stopped at the Harriman Dispatching Center in Omaha, Neb., where we got a tour of this complex facility which employs 800 people who work around the clock to ensure the smooth operation of Union Pacific’s entire rail operation.

    This is just one example of how new technologies mesh with the technologies of the past to keep America running—providing reliable jobs and by ensuring that American families and businesses have the affordable electricity we all depend on. Take the tour for yourself and see our most abundant domestic fuel at work. Factuality Tour

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