After some worries that the recent House bill to cut transit funding would wipe out money for the state’s intercity rail projects, agreements signed between the FRA and WSDOT have finally guaranteed the $590 million in federal stimulus funds that were granted to Washington earlier last year. According to WSDOT, the funds not only help upgrade track and separate crossings, they also add two additional roundtrips to the Cascades between Seattle and Portland:
- “Two additional daily Amtrak Cascades round trips will be added between Seattle and Portland, for a total six, by 2017.
- On-time reliability is expected to increase from 62 to 88 percent.
- More consistent speeds will be possible throughout the corridor, resulting in faster travel times between Seattle and Portland.
- Major construction projects will be completed that will include building bypass tracks to allow for increased train frequency and multiple upgrades to existing track.
- Several safety-related projects will be completed, including grade separations and the latest technology in advanced-warning signal systems. This will reduce passenger/freight congestion, making passenger travel times shorter with more reliable on-time service.”
I am thrilled to congratulate the State of Washington, BNSF, and Amtrak for their contributions to the agreement signed today by the Federal Railroad Administration and Washington DOT that will make $590 million available for work to begin on significant improvements to the popular Cascades corridor, which connects Eugene, Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver.
While the agreements do secure the first round of grants, the state has yet to finalize the roughly $160 million refused by Wisconsin and Ohio. Governor Gregoire has also said that she will vie for additional funds recently returned by Florida Governor Rick Scott.