Amtrak Cascades by Stephen De Vight
Amtrak Cascades by Stephen De Vight

Washington State has submitted the Track 2 ARRA funding request that would increase Amtrak Cascades trains, improve on-time performance and could add nearly 800,000 additional seats with the increased train capacity.

The $1.3 billion request will fund 26 projects between Blaine, Washington and Vancouver, Washington. These projects would dramatically improve the reliability by improving the track to reduce the amount of slow-orders, adding new track in certain locations that will allow passenger trains to go 110mph, new trainsets, new locomotives, extending longer trainsets, and more.

Washington is one of 24 states that have applied for the Track 2 funding that has totaled $50 billion. The amount available is only $8 billion.  California has asked Caltrans not to apply for Track 2 funding to improve chances of California’s HSR program.  Many people believe California’s system will get the bulk of the $8 billion dollars with a few remaining states getting the rest of the funding.

Remember, this is an “all or nothing” request. The FRA/DOT is not going to award funding for one project… whatever is submitted for Track 2 is what will be funded. If for example, Washington State was denied Track 2 funding, the DOT won’t say “but we’ll fund Point Defiance”

With that said, things will be very competitive. It will be a lot of pressure from California and other reps that would prefer to send all funding to California to ensure the route is built.

While I would prefer if Oregon and Washington received the money, things will be very hard with the competition out there.

21 Replies to “WSDOT submits Track 2 ARRA funding request”

  1. Shouldn’t the fact that a majority of the projects Washington is applying for are “shovel ready” help? Also what role will a certain Senate Appropriations Transportation Subcommittee Chairwoman play in making sure Washington gets a cut of the Track 2 funds?

  2. Is there any news about Track 1? When will that announcement be made? Since Washington state has a lot of shovel ready projects, I’d expect we’d do well in that category.

    1. So how many dollars are at stake for track 1, and how many states put in for the money? Same rules as for track 2, “all or nothing?”

      1. Brian, you’ve linked to the pre-application summaries. For the final track 1 application, WSDOT applied for $434M of funds for 20 projects. For track 2, they applied for $1.3B in 26 projects. As near as I can tell, all the track 1 projects were included in the track 2 application.

        I believe that the $50B referred to by the FRA is for both track 1 and track 2 funds. They have backed off on granting track 1 funds then track 2 funds, but will do them all at once “in the winter”. I also don’t think it will be an ‘all or nothing’ competition. I would expect each project to be judged individually on its merits. For the track 1 projects, they are supposed to have independent utility. For track two, the state grouped their projects into three groups that likely correspond to enhanced service levels in the Cascades mid-range plan.

        What I hope will happen is that a good portion of the grants will go to a couple of actual high-speed (Express HSR) proposals (California HSR and Chicago-St. Louis, e.g.) and the reset goes to some promising Emerging HSR projects like PNW, midwest hub, 3C, and Virginia-North Carolina. FRA have said that matching funds are part of the scoring criteria so hopefully, the feds won’t be sending a bunch of money to states that don’t have a history of supporting passenger rail. Onm that basis, Washington should have a decent chance of getting at least some projects funded.

      2. It is only slightly disingenuous for the DOT to say that their 15 year long program w/ BNSF had improved speeds between Portland, Seattle and Vancouver, BC – between Portland and Seattle would be far more accurate. Running times between Bellingham and Seattle are essentially unchanged since I was a student at Western in the 1960s.

    2. Thanks for the links Brian. I got this email from FRA yesterday saying they needed more time to make the selections. Here’s the link to Joe Szabo’s press release.
      Also, this is the first time I’ve heard the ‘all or nothing’ selection criteria. I think the intitial 103 Bil. list has been winnowed down to about half, but that’s still 5 times the available funding. They’ve been saying this is just the first round (a down payment) for corridor improvements, and I would be surprised if they went with just CA and the Midwest, or some other combination, which about eats up the 8 Bil. available.
      The congresional delegations would come unglued, including our own. Lloyd Flem and Ralph Munro (All Aboard WA) just got back from DC meetings on this very subject, and got very positive support from all they talked to.

      1. Also, NY just submitted a request for 10+ Bil. for the Buffalo route, so they wouldn’t have done that knowing it’s impossible to fully fund with only 8 Bil.

  3. if california HSR gets built, it will be good for all the other proposed systems. we need a functioning real HSR line to bring the vision to the US.

    so i wouldnt be too bitter if all or most of the money went to CA because it needs to be built.

    that said, WA should be very high on the list, how much has the state already invested into the cascades? isnt it about $500-800 million? it seems to me the cascades is getting pretty close to its 2019 target built-out and this money could probably speed that date up a good number of years.

    1. California HSR is a severely dysfunctional agency, though, comparable to pre-Joni Earl Sound Transit, working as a part of a seriously dysfunctional state government.

      It would be great if the system actually gets built, but there are a lot of reasons it’s likely to fail at this point (fighting with Caltrain, NIMBY issues along the peninsula, Pacheco Pass alignment, general dissatisfaction in SoCal, hostile governator, bankrupt state, etc.)

      1. More dysfunctional than our area which took 4 decades to build 14 mailes of rail transit? We have the 2 NIMBYs of all NIMBYs here – Kepmer and Tim!

  4. 800,000 seats? That’s like, what, 2,000 new trainsets? Or perhaps you meant 800,000 trips…

    1. Actually their bi-level cars, so that keeps the 800,000 seat train to reasonable length :)
      Really though, it’s 800,000 seats, both directions, passing a sign post over one year.

  5. Much as I’d love to speed up our trains, I’d choose to make sure California’s plan happens. It looks to me like a beautiful plan that will immediately sell enormous numbers of people everywhere on HSR, and more lines will be built faster.

    1. I’d rather spread it around, and not put the eggs in one basket. If there is HSR in CA, few people outside of CA will really care. If you can get their local trains to run faster and more reliably, that will matter to them.

  6. I think a better plan is shove 42 billion from the bailout to HSR for the nation. But I want to strip all Maglev proposals off the table. California definitely needs the funding to get construction started as soon as possible to prove the USA can do high-speed rail.

  7. CAHSR will fail?? hostile govenor? fighting with Caltrain? since Arnold backed Prop1A and just had a huge event in LA Union Station with CAHSR chair Pringle and Caltrain 100% behind HSR..The nimbys legal challenge being THROWN out may have some mixed up opinions!!

  8. “Remember, this is an “all or nothing” request. ”


    I see no evidence of that at all. In fact it appears to be a collection of separate requests.

    Where do you get this?

    I think you’re just wrong.

Comments are closed.