BNSF in the snow by Brian Bundridge
BNSF in the snow by Brian Bundridge

It’s been a while since I have posted one of these so lets get right to it! This will cover all passenger carrying rail lines.

Transport Canada has finished up an aggressive maintenance blitz for BNSF and CN rails. Most of the jointed/bolted rail has been replaced with Continuous Welded Rail or CWR for short. This will greatly improve the ride quality on the Amtrak Cascades trains. An increase of speed is currently in discussion with Transport Canada on what is viable and what is not viable, including a discussion to honor the tilting capability of the Amtrak Cascades trains.

Construction has finished for the new Blaine Customs Facility which will allow more Amtrak Cascades trains in the future and increase freight capacity as well. This project involved moving the main line over slightly to build a new main. The old main was then converted into a second siding. This will allow for multiple trains to be inspected without one holding on the main line, which in turn, delayed Amtrak trains greatly (at times, upwards of 1 to 3 hours)

The Mt. Vernon siding expansion is still on hold as BNSF continues to seek additional funding for the project. It is expected to start construction in 2010 now.

Construction on Stanwood siding has begun rehabilitation with new 50mph (from 15mph) switches and installing concrete ties and new CWR on both the siding and the main line. An extension of the siding will begin in September. This project will increase freight and passenger capacity and will reduce wait times of over an hour for opposing traffic. Currently the station is on track for a November completion and service by Christmas 2009.

Construction at BNSF’s Delta Yard and Curve Realignment has also began construction with grading and bringing in fill dirt. This project will add several new yard tracks and provide grading for future expansions. This will also include a new bypass track for through-freight. This bypass will increase the speed from the 10-35mph to 35-70mph. This project is scheduled to be completed in Spring 2010 and its completion will allow for a third Seattle – Vancouver BC Amtrak Cascades round trip to begin.

Construction is currently on hold for Edmonds and Mukilteo (second platform) along with the 4 cross overs between Richmond Beach and Everett Jct.

BNSF Commuter Construction crews continue to make way at the Interbay rail yard in Magnolia. This expansion will add double tracking between Galar Street and W Emerson Pl along with a reconfiguration of the main line and yard tracks. Once completed later this year, this will improve passenger and freight movements out of the busy yard and will increase speeds by 10mph for freight, 15mph for standard passenger equipment (Superliner, Horizon, Amfleet for Amtrak and Sounder) 20mph for the Amtrak Cascades. This project should be completed entirely in November/December 2009.

As Ben reported earlierDo It Right Tacoma is protesting the berm that Sound Transit has selected for the construction of D Street to M Street. They currently have a petition running to force Sound Transit to change this to a post and beam model instead, which will delay the project and add several million dollars to the project overall, potentially losing federal grants, including the chance of receiving stimulus funding. Until this is resolved, expanding Sounder to Lakewood and Amtrak bypassing Point Defiance will not go on schedule.

I have not heard much on other major projects, including Vancouver but from pictures I have seen, there is work still being done there.

WSDOT has submitted their Track 1 application (45kb pdf) for ARRA stimulus funding. This funding will cover minor improvements that will increase Amtrak Cascades service, improve on-time performance, and much more. WSDOT will submit Track 2 in October.

That’s all for now!

30 Replies to “BNSF Construction Updates – August 2009”

  1. Thankis Brian as always – any word on how well the second Vancouver Cascade train is doing?

    Also, any news on the work being done at Leavenworth?


  2. whoa, talk of a 3rd train to vancouver? i thought the 2nd wasnt even certain after the paralympics

    how likely are delays on the route to vancouver now, i’m taking it in a few days and was wondering whats its reliability is, i know it can be quite delayed but its very likely to arrive late?

    1. Sen. Mary Haugen included funding for a third train for 2009-2011 budget. The ST and WSDOT work needs to be completed before that can happen however.

      P.S. Trains tend to arrive early but with all of the track work, there are still some slow orders out there so you could be a little late. A friend of mine was 45 minutes early though not that long ago…. (Yes, 45 minutes)

      1. It seems so. Doing some research on here now shows that she did the christening of the Amtrak Cascades in 1999. She also pushed for Stanwood Station. She is currently pushing for a fully staffed train station and building, along with bus connections and most recently the third train. Its funded to Vancouver B.C. but after the chaos from the second train not to mention that the second train is only a “trial run” train…

        However, looking at the long range, the third train would be a continuation of one of the Seattle – Portland trains, leaving Vancouver around 12pm with an arrival in Seattle 4pm and Portland at 7pm for the southbound.

        The northbound train would depart Portland around 10am and arrive in Seattle around 1pm and 5pm into Vancouver BC. This would also end the Customs issue with at least this train since the station will already have staff there for the outbound train.

    2. “This project is scheduled to be completed in Spring 2010 and its completion will allow for a third Seattle – Vancouver BC Amtrak Cascades round trip to begin.”

      Well, if the Customs issues are resolved. *rolls eyes*

  3. Great picture!

    I had no idea there was still a lot of bolted rail connections. I’d thought virtually everything on mainline routes had been switched to CWR.

    Also didn’t know we’d had these tilting trains all these years without the authority to make use of the technology. Is it track improvements or just a fresh attitude at the FRA?

    1. Up until earlier this year, a good portion of BNSF between Bow, WA and Vancouver was bolted rail. It’s my understanding from some of the railroaders I know that it is all 115/132lb CWR now.

      There are some places back in the Midwest and on the NEC that still has 90mph bolted rail. That’ll be fun…

      Transport Canada and Union Pacific are the only companies that does not honor the tilting capability of the Talgo.

      1. That’s a real surprise that it’s company restrictions and not a government agency like FRA or whatever the Canadian equivalent is that have the restriction. What could possibly be they’re motive? They’re holding up they’re own freight and the technology is proven world wide and even the government will give them cover. All I can think is that it’s being used to block additional hours they would have to share with passenger service because they’re capacity can’t support current freight demands with better revenue.

      2. It is quite difficult to say. Transport Canada is more or less the “FRA of the North”. I am not sure why they haven’t increased the speeds for the Talgo, especially considering how curvy it is up there. I am sure with the benefit of the tilting and the new rail could easily knock 30 minutes off the schedule.

        Union Pacific I can understand a bit more since that run is mostly all flat, straight and very minimal curves. Not a lot of benefit at least on that line at the moment. If the speed for greater than 79mph however, they could definitely look at doing the study for the talgo.

  4. It has nothing to do with the FRA, everything north of the border is Transport Canada. I have a feeling we will see some speed increases and reduced travel time very soon!

  5. So quick question: Does the 79 MPH limit apply north of the border? If not what are the chances of getting it above 79? I know Canada runs trains faster than that in the eastern part of the country but I’m not aware of any cab signaling requirement.

    1. According to a friend of mine whom did some digging, the max speed in BC is 70mph for passenger. If the train is running late however, they are allowed 5mph over the speed limit. Canada does not have any rules on cab signaling (which is why many GO Transit trains do 90mph)

      1. Being able to go faster than the speed limit when late is a fantastic innovation that should be applied to all kinds of modes.

  6. Hopefully they’ll run the train to Bellingham if Canada refuses to fund an extention all the way to Vancouver, like they did with the last train.

    1. If it is a mid-day departure, I don’t foresee them having the issue this time around because the station will be staffed for the southbound trip along with Customs. This should actually be given an immediate green light once all of the required construction projects are completed.

      1. This confuses me. I thought the customs office was already staffed at the times the second train was going to run through, because the customs office is staffed 24 hours a day. Is the problem that the customs office is understaffed at the time the second train runs, with, say, only one customs and immigration officer, who has to handle pedestrians and cars and can’t go over to the train? Or what?

      2. Nathanael,

        Canadian Customs for the Cascades service is done at Pacific Central Station, in Vancouver, BC, not at the border.

        The original staffing there was during the regular business hours of that station, during the day. They had to hire staff to handle the second train, since it gets into Vancouver at 10:45PM.


  7. I just started a train traffic, marketing and planning class in Stockholm. I look forward to learn about everything. I’ll be able to actually speak to heavy rail in a few months.

  8. 2 questions…

    Out of the ARRA money being requested, how much is the expected amount the state would get? Any guesses? Those lists seem just like wish lists. I just ‘wish’ everything would get funded.

    The other Q… The area around Chehalis. They have a tendence to get nasty floods every now and again. Does the rail line down there get flooded? If so, wouldn’t that defeat any improvements done to it?

    1. Long-term I believe there are plans to fix the flooding issues in Lewis county. However it a complex project involving USACE, the local flood control district, WSDOT, and BNSF. Not much progress has been made due to a lack of funding. Though given flooding severe enough to close I-5 and the BNSF tracks has become a near annual event I suspect the costs in economic disruption and repairing flood damage would cover the cost of a fix fairly quickly.

    2. “Out of the ARRA money being requested, how much is the expected amount the state would get? Any guesses?”

      No guesses. It’s at the discretion of certain federal officials, either in the FRA or in the DOT. I don’t know which officials, and I don’t know their preferences. I would expect that Washington would get “some” of the money because it has a good set of projects for HSR, but I wouldn’t dare to guess how much. They could get everything requested, or only one project’s worth.

  9. In the past couple weeks, a BNSF crew replaced a switch within the Olympic Sculpture Park, just north of Broad St. Any info on what that was about? It looks like maybe they added powered switch and something else, but I’m not sure. Our office lunch room looks right down onto the tracks there, so it was interesting seeing the progress each day.

Comments are closed.