It’s been a long time since I have done one of these updates but there has been plenty of work going on in our region. With the increase of rail traffic between Seattle and Portland, passenger train reliability has taken a noticeable hit. So what’s going been going on?
1. Recovery from the snow and ice storm added several slow orders. The on-time performance of most trains have mostly recovered and repairs along the BNSF Seattle Subdivision, Scenic Subdivision and Bellingham Subdivision are completed. Snow, ice, mudslides, downed trees, a small sink hole, and heavy wash from the Puget Sound all took its toll on the right of way. With these problems now fixed, track maintenance has ramped up. Those that ride Sounder and Amtrak should notice several pieces of Maintenance of Way equipment working between Tukwila and Tacoma for a tie replacement project and a rather rocky, rough ride on the corridor as the work progresses.
More below the jump:
2. According to BNSF’s Service Advisory site, there are likely to be delays of 5-20 minutes in some corridors due to tie replacement: Davis (Tacoma) through Rockypoint, Monday-Friday, 06:00-14:30, through March 2; and Seattle through Auburn, Monday-Friday, 09:00-15:00, through March 14th.
3. Work continues forward on the Point Defiance Bypass and Sound Transit’s D Street to M Street ramp to the Lakeview Subdivision. Test trains from Tacoma Rail and Sound Transit will commence later this summer with service expected in Fall of 2012. Most likely this change will happen around the September/October schedule change. There will be some meetings this Spring on the Amtrak portion of the bypass and findings that WSDOT has come up with. Lakewood is still trying to fight WSDOT on moving the trains on the bypass however it doesn’t seem that many people are joining the cause.
4. Ground work at Tukwila Station has ramped up with the West side of the station now being cleared and grading. This will finally give some additional and much needed parking for vanpool and carpool commuters that take Sounder to Tukwila Station and drive to points East of Lake Washington. This will also provide a few parking spaces for Amtrak Cascades passengers but it is not clear if overnight parking will be allowed for those passengers.
One noticeable change will be a temporary asphalt platform, like Auburn, for a future third main track. This third main line will eventually cover 25 miles, from King Street Station to Pacific (Ellingson Rd near Safeway Distribution Center). Kent to Auburn has already been pre-graded for this work and Tukwila to Kent already has an older siding that will be upgraded to Class 1 specifications, will allowing freight and passenger to operate at normal track speed (60mph Freight, 79mph Passenger).
6. Positive Train Control is installed (but not activated) on the Lakeview line between D Street and Lakewood Station. Installation will start this year between Seattle and Everett and between Kelso Junction and Vancouver, WA. The system itself will not be fully implemented until late 2014 – early 2015. However, none of the Sounder locomotives are equipped with the signal installation and won’t be in time for the opening, although due to frequent stops Sounder might never achieve the 90mph allowed with PTC anyway.
7. Later this year, Sound Transit will receive three MP40PH-3C’s. These 4000HP locomotives will compliment the fleet of existing 3000HP F59PHI currently on Sounder.
8. For those that are a “fan” of the old “searchlight signals” get pictures of these while you can. BNSF is slated to replace all of these old Great Northern era signals by the end of the year. These signals are not compatible with Positive Train Control and will get the new tri-color signals that are commonly seen in the area now.
9. Lastly, the new Talgo has made an appearance, and well, the cab car has definitely soured my taste. The design was for the Federal Railroad Administration’s Crash Worthiness Standard (350kb pdf). The Wisconsin painted scheme is pictured above. The Cascades version should be around soon.
There is plenty more but I’ll save that for another post next month!