As part of both Amtrak Cascades planning and Sound Transit 2, I’ve seen references to a new maintenance facility to be built in SODO to handle all the planned new service.

A year ago, Amtrak made a request for ARRA funding to build this base. It was supposed to start construction a year ago, in fact, but we’re hearing now that the construction contract has just been issued, with expected completion in 2012.

That comes just before Sound Transit and Amtrak will both likely expect new trains for their respective services.

Speaking of Sound Transit, getting Sounder to Lakewood is pushed back to 2013 now, in order for Sound Transit to afford all the changes made to the design of the new track through South Tacoma.

21 Replies to “New Amtrak Maintenance Facility”

  1. Is anyone else getting a
    “Error! Our database is currently having technical problem. Please check back in a moment.”
    when clicking over on the link to the article about the construction contract?

  2. From what I’ve heard, the maintenance facility project has been stumbling along for years. It’s great to see that all the parties involved were finally able to execute a plan to break ground on the project.

    Regarding the 2013 opening date: *repeatedly bangs head against a wall*

    1. You know, I’m not that worried about it, honestly. WSDOT isn’t ready to use the track until 2013 anyway, and the grade separation across South Tacoma Way is probably worth the expense.

      1. 2013 is looking to be a banner year. We have the Pt. Defiance Bypass, Lakewood Sounder, Amtrak/Sounder maintenance facility, and First Hill streetcar all opening. It would be really sweet if a Link extension to S. 200th could be finished by then too.

  3. What changes are proposed that is delaying Lakewood Sounder? Is this still the tired argument of berm vs. beam crossing of Pacific?

    1. These aren’t “proposed” changes. When ST switched from an at-grade crossing of South Tacoma Way to elevated, they were suddenly something like $50m outside budget. Until the ARRA funding comes through, that’s an unfunded hole sitting and waiting for money. It just took this long to find a funding source.

      1. WSDOT seems to think that D to M street and the entire Point Defiance Bypass can be finished by 2012:

        “Last week, Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond sent a letter to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) proposing a specific list of five projects worth more than $311 million that could begin construction this year and be finished by 2011 or 2012.

        WSDOT’s “Fast Track” projects, which are those ready to go for construction within 60 days and are required to achieve the 88 percent reliability and two additional round trips between Seattle and Portland, include:

        • Tacoma – D to M Street Connection – $34.3 million
        • Advanced Signal System‐ Positive Train Control (PTC) – $62.3 million

        Fast Track projects ready to start for the 2010 construction season include:

        • Tacoma – Point Defiance Bypass – $91.6 million
        • Vancouver – Yard Bypass Track – $29.1 million
        • Corridor Reliability Upgrades South – $94.1 million”

        http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/News/2010/03/3222010_ARRArailproposedlist.htm

      2. And yet, in their press conference, they said 2013. If they can’t even keep the year straight, I don’t have much confidence in them.

      3. It may be that “ready for service in 2012” means “ready for train testing in December 2012”. Or 2013 may be deliberate schedule padding — it would be better advertising to say “We did it a year early” than “We did it a year late”, even if it’s really only a month or two difference….

  4. Construction will start this Summer for D Street to M Street. The reason for the 2013 start date is because of equipment acquisions are needed first. Both Amtrak and Sounder won’t start running on the new line until the new equipment is in service.

    That is the official word.

    1. Ah, good answer.

      ….But why does Amtrak need new equipment? Surely they can switch to the new station, running the same number of trips per day with the same equipment. Sounder’s trips are longer than before, so I see that they would need new equipment. I understand if 2013 is the scheduled date for the *new trips* enabled by the Bypass however.

  5. Does anyone ever wonder how much quicker these projects could be finished if willing volunteers could be deployed to help on them? I often go to volunteer projects where the sheer amount of work that can be done by armies of volunteers is often staggering and inspiring.

    I think we all know how few official workers are often deployed on ST projects compared to the obvious need. I recall a press release from ST once where they said that folks were working flat out around the clock on getting the new Mercer Island P&R ready after long delays and yet there was never anyone there when I went past on the 554.

    Do the low staffing levels on projects reflect some contract deal that makes the projects cheaper if longer to carry out?

    1. It’s tricky with railroad engineering projects because, despite appearances, much of it is actually highly skilled labor. Even that which isn’t skilled has very high standards and requires bonding, insurance, etc. — if a concrete retaining wall is installed wrong, the state wants someone to collect damages from (not volunteers!)

      I know some heritage railways in the UK do massive work with volunteer labor, but they have significantly numbers of ex-railway workers and owner/operators of local construction companies executives volunteering!

      You’d think weeding and site clearance could, in fact, be done by volunteers with waivers, however.

    1. Well not sure really, but it could be a way of motivating those laid off to volunteer their time to keep their skills fresh and active.

      It’s not really a practical solution, but the problem is still there of understaffed projects which I believe delays their completion. Why is the public always asking Sound Transit: “What took you so long”. I am really just addresing this as a problem and offering volunteerism as one solution that has worked for similar problems in different fields.

      1. Well I know local volunteers staff Centennial station in Olympia. The same group had a lot to do with raising the money to get it built. I don’t know if the construction included volunteer labor though. I suspect some bits like landscaping might have been done by volunteers.

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