A lot has been happening!

  • Washington State has requested $1.8 billion dollars in stimulus money to upgrade the Vancouver BC – Portland, Oregon with diesel locomotives but includes funding for a 220mph corridor
  • Meanwhile, Oregon State has requested $2.1 billion dollars in stimulus money to upgrade the Portland, Oregon – Eugene, Oregon route into a 110mph electrified rail corridor
  • Wisconsin has won the bid to build a new Talgo Assembly and Maintenance Facility. The State of Wisconsin will also be purchasing 2 new 14 car Talgo trainsets with an option to buy 2 more with a capacity of 420 passengers. I am not sure if Washington State ever competed for this project. It is expected that the trainsets will be the Talgo 7 or Talgo 21 (H/T; Trains4America)
  • Amtrak has put out an RFO to build the new Viewliner II long distance single level passenger cars. Hmm, Oregon Iron Works perhaps? (H/T; Trains4America)
  • And in Canada, Via Rail may strike due to contract issues with the government (again)…

37 Replies to “Passenger Rail News Roundup: ARRA Funding and Talgo”

  1. So wait, you’re sayin’ Washington could have competed for a modern assembly plant for a growing product of the future, but instead, all our attention was directed to F-22s and airliners?

    Well, if I was near the start of a career instead of the end, I would move to Wisconsin. It’s just a little colder than around here, and who knows, what with AGW and all, in 20 years it might be just about right.

    1. screw wisconsin, you could come down to portland… we got oregon iron works and gunderson, (and 5 lines of LRT).

  2. Since the original 5 Talgos (yes, the ones we use here in WA) were assembled right here, one might have thought WA would be involved in “The Future” as SCO states, but no…

    1. I’m used to Oregon one upping us. Better & smarter light rail, more sane urban cities, electric HSR, the first US streetcar manuf, and the Columbia River crossing project (WA wants a huge road, OR wants light rail, neither see eye to eye).

      As for the Talgo, after our huge success, I’m shocked it never caught on in more places. The WSDOT funding really helped, and Bush didn’t, but one would think other states would come out here and say “oh, that’s cool!” It took ten years! Our DOTs should get more of them. Imagine Talgo passenger service via the underused Stampde Pass to Ellensburg, Yakima, and the Tri-Cities. Ellensburg and Yak approved a taxing district to try and restore rail service to their area. And with I90 traffic getting worse all the time, it’d be nice. WSDOT, Port of Seattle, those cities, and BNSF could all pay for the upgrades to signals, sidings, etc. Oh and maybe decent train service to Spokane!

      1. Maybe because they started sooner and have more of it?

        But overall I agree we’ll end up with a better system, especially if Bellevue gets its tunnel. Though running at-grade in Downtown Bellevue doesn’t create nearly the bottleneck that Portland has with at-grade running downtown, and on the Steel Bridge.

      2. PDX Max isn’t better or smarter. It’s longer and older. That’s it. A higher percentage of metro Seattle residents use transit than in metro PDX. A higher percentage of bikers commute in PDX than in Seattle. Their unemployment is higher, ours is lower. Our commuter rail is longer, older and better utilized than their new WES service. We have tons more HOV lanes that better facilitate commuter buses, carpools and van pools. Portland has better bike facilities, but ours are growing rapidly. We share a desire for more and bettter HSR in the region. In the end, I think it’s a wash. Both metro areas are on the right track and are light years ahead of many other sprawling cities in the US. Portland and Seattle should be learning from each other and complementing each other, not diminishing each other.

      3. Our Talgo wasn’t that much of a success. They’re very expensive to maintain, and they break down all the time.

      4. I’m not sure that is true – I think they’ve had a pretty good “availability” average over the last 15 years. Timekeeping has been an issue, esp south of Portland on the Union Pacific. Brian will know for sure.

      5. The trainsets themselves have been very good. It’s the EMD locomotives that have been the problem. But now Talgo has some much more modern trains on offer, including a high-speed diesel, so I’m sure that anybody looking for new trains will be looking at those.

      6. As far as I know the only complaint is the Talgo trainset isn’t as flexible since the cars are articulated rather than coupled. I believe there were some issues with wheel cracking too, but I don’t think that is enough to call them a failure or unreliable.

      7. (rail to Ellensburg, Yak etc)…and a spur to the Pass at Snoqualmie. Imagine downtown to ski slope in 20 minutes and never having to own a 4×4 again! Tres European!

      8. Unfortunately I think the ROW for that spur is now the Iron Horse Trail. The Milwaukee Road used to go through Snoqualmie Pass. Hyak (both the town and the ski area) was built by the railroad.

      9. Unfortunately? That the Stampede Pass rail corridor just about intersects the Iron Horse Trail is a good thing – sorry, downhill skiers, but that rail service would intersect the second-largest cross country ski trail network in the state. Also, the ski resorts could have a shuttle bus, or maybe an icebreaker on Lake Keechelus, or a light rail link to the pass (which could run on a new ROW); also, there’s a lot of private land around Stampede Pass, so maybe a new downhill ski area could be developed there.

      10. Hyak used to be known as the Milwaukee Ski Bowl, WAY back in the day, and the Milwaukee ran ski trains to a station at Hyak more or less where the east portal of the Snoqualmie Tunnel is. There’s an interpretive site there now. My dad used to ride the ski trains pretty often back in the late ’40s and ’50s. That’s the fastest route to Spokane too, although there is very little population between the points (this was one of the big problems on the Milwaukee Road on their entire line; it was fastest from the midwest to Seattle but had little intermediate traffic to sustain it).

        Unfortunately there is basically no chance of that route ever being resurrected. Despite rail banking, trails in this area will rarely if ever be brought back into service. The terrain would make sharing right-of-way extremely difficult. A new dedicated ROW over the pass would more than likely be required.

    2. I’m sure neither WA nor OR is expecting to get everything they asked for from ARRA in the short term, though I find it a little ridiculous that they didn’t co-ordinate (NC and VA did coordinate).

      In fact, I suspect what both are hoping to get is the fast completion of the existing plan from several years ago, which would provide reliable 110mph diesel service the entire length. (And thereby increase passenger loadings massively.) They’ll probably coordinate their plans before electrifying and building major 220mph bypasses.

  3. be sure to read the descriptions of the projects listed for both oregon and washington. washington is talking about building a stretch of 150 mph track between kelso and chehelis seperate from the freight tracks, but i assume within the RoW. i think the idea is that this would be the first segment of an entirely scratch built HSR line with this track to be extended further south and north.

    on the cascades route there are 2 major destinations that are nearby but not directly served… downtown olympia and sea-tac airport. i guess you could also add corvallis in oregon (home to OSU). i would love it if they could find a way to serve these destinations if not with new rerouted track then quality easy connections.

    1. I had gotten the impression that the new passenger tracks between Chehalis and Kelso would be in new ROW. For high-speed track, it seems like the Cascade foothills to the east of I-5 would work pretty well. With some cuts and fills, a bit of bridging and tunneling, you should be able to make a pretty straight and mostly level track. And it would get it out of the floodplain.

      Oregon has recently released a draft report about their possible new route and electrification: http://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/RAIL/docs/Passenger/Draft_ODOT_Intercity_Passenger_Rail_Study.pdf
      This would shift the passenger trains off the UP mainline onto the Oregon Electric line. Possibly the station at Oregon City would not be served in favor of one at Tulatin.

      1. i got the sense they wanted to use the new kelso-chehalis HSR track for regular Cascades rail service before they implemented true HSR service.

        re: Oregon
        makes sense to start pouring money into the OE line from the start than spending on the UP track only to move later. regarding salem station which would also be moved, hopefully they can literally move the station building to the other tracks. its a great small beaux-arts station and would be much much better than any new station built. its too bad the report didnt look at the possibility of serving corvallis.

        hopefully oregon city will have several light rail lines that it wont matter if it loses passenger rail service and wouldnt need to have any commuter rail.

        tualatin would be a better station location and would allow them to grade seperate the tracks through downtown tualatin which are a problem with WES now. the report mentions the need for a viaduct anyway since the train would be turning off an existing viaduct.

        I have to believe WA & OR would be top contenders for the money considering the investment already made and success in service and ridership. plus they already have ample reports and studies.

        could sounder be extended to downtown olympia via a spur/branch. i can imagine routing a high speed through track would be almost impossible but a short terminating branch for slower speed commuter trains would make logical sense. why not extend sounder just a little further from lakewood in olympia?

      2. Yes, Sounder could go to Olympia, but unfortunately, the direct route along Martin Way is forever closed by development directly across the right of way. Access to downtown Olympia and with some new construction to Evergreen could be gained by using the UP freight line through Tumwater. The good thing about it is that the junction is about three miles south of Centennial Station, so Olympia trains could serve that common stop with Amtrak. The bad news is that it’s about ten miles farther than the old NP route.

        It’s also very slow trackage.

        Maybe someday.

        Sea-Tac is not reachable by standard rail technology. It is simply too great a grade separation between the Duwamish valley and the plain up there. That’s the reason for the somewhat roundabout route of Link. Railroads often trade distance for elevation, and the Link is doing exactly that, instead of climbing the hill along Pac Highway south of Boeing Access Road.

        Oregon is SUCH a weenie about passenger rail. Every legislature has a cat fight about continuing the Cascades service. If I get the chance I’ll tell the Ray LaHood to deep six Oregon’s application. They’re just doing it for the money. While there are dedicated pro-rail people in ODOT and Tri-Met is reasonably good (but not compared to Metro), most of the people in the state don’t give a rat’s ass about passenger rail.

        So far as direct Corvallis service, it could be done, because there is existing trackage between Albany and about twenty miles south of Corvallis to Monroe, and abandoned right of way continues south of there to Junction City. It involves about a mile of street running in the city. However, just because it could be done doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. There is bus service between Albany and Corvallis, and it’s only about a fifteen minute drive.

      3. I wasn’t aware there was development across the old rail ROW along Pacific and I-5 I thought most of it had been rail banked as a bike/ped trail. There is the issue of the bridge across I-5 and the trestle across Plum St/Henderson that were removed. There is also the problem of where to put a downtown Olympia station as the two former rail yards have been redeveloped. The one next to Capitol Lake still has a track and the old station. There isn’t much other traffic so there likely wouldn’t need to be much in the way of added track for storage.

        The other idea would be to terminate trains in Lacey near the Lacey transit center. Not ideal, but closer to the population center than the somewhat remote Centennial Station location.

        Personally I think Centennial is about it for Sounder or Amtrak service in Thurston county for the near term. Not that I’m complaining too much, Centennial is a vast improvement over what it replaced which amounted to not much more than a grade crossing with a bus shelter.

      4. Oh and for what it is worth the original Sound Transit alignment for Link would have traveled up Pacific Highway from Boeing Access Road to Sea-Tac in an at-grade alignment much like MLK. The current routing is a result of the City of Tukwilla objecting to at-grade rail along Pacific Highway (or International Boulevard as they like to call it now).

    2. “…downtown olympia and sea-tac airport. …i would love it if they could find a way to serve these destinations if not with new rerouted track then quality easy connections.”

      As a Burien to Oly commuter, I like your thinking. I only wish it would happen before I retire.

    3. Given the track configuration (long and straight with gentle curves) and relatively flat and open terrain I’d expect the segment between Nisqually and Chehalis to be another no-brainer for a 150 MPH upgrade.

      I’m not sure what can be done about Downtown Olympia, there are 3 right of ways for branches to the main line but only one is still in use. The branch that offers a more or less in and out path is the one the tracks have been removed from. All three branches have some fairly sharp curves. The West branch ROW meanders quite a bit before finally rejoining the mainline. Also the only decent location in downtown Olympia long enough for a station has been mostly turned into a park. Most of these are also issues for possible commuter rail service to Olympia.

      A first step for Olympia would be decent connector bus service scheduled to meet the North and Southbound trains.

      As for Sea-Tac airport, a Boeing Access Road station could provide transfers between Amtrak and Link for travel to the airport or Rainier Valley. Also the planning I’ve seen for a Burien to Renton line has a proposed stop at Tukwilla Amtrak/Sounder Station. In the interim I think the 140 should provide fairly direct service to the Tukwilla International Boulevard station from there.

  4. I hope that really happens and we could get faster trains here! WTG for trying so hard to get high speed rail happening in the US.

  5. Brian, do we have a date yet for the second Amtrak train to Vancouver and when we can buy tickets for the thing?

    Also, any update on Leavenworth?

    I saw last night that the lights are on at King Street Station behind the clock faces! Looked cool. It also looks as if most of the windows are now in place on the tower and that the long loops have all come down now that used to winch up the scaling platforms. Any news on when SDOT might turn the clocks on? I have to say that KSS looks magnificent looking back at it from Quest Field!

    Roll on phase II!


    1. I’d like to second the question posted by Tim.

      I have been checking the Amtrak website regularly, and there’s no change in schedule. I have also called Amtrak direct and the CSR was unable to find any mention of the second train from mid-August onwards. She originally thought I was calling from Vancouver, WA and told me there were SIX daily trains. Wow! What a letdown to discover I was calling from Vancouver, BC.

      Thank you for staying with the Amtrak Cascades passsenger rail story, Brian. Exciting times!

      And maybe, just maybe, if enough Cascadians come north to enjoy Vancouver, B.C., they’ll realize there’s more than one Vancouver in North America ;);)

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