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Rail Monthly Update

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July 2014 – in review

In this issue: 

  • New WSDOT locomotives are made in the USA
  • WSDOT recommends central location for Freighthouse Square Station in Tacoma
  • Design and construction progresses at fast pace on passenger rail line
  • WSDOT updates decision-makers on Amtrak Cascades passenger rail service and projects
  • WSDOT launches new Amtrak Cascades website

New WSDOT locomotives are made in the USA 
WSDOT has joined the Departments of Transportation for Illinois, California, Michigan, and Missouri in choosing Siemens for the delivery of 35 diesel-electric passenger locomotives. The locomotives will be capable of traveling at speeds of up to 125 mph. The locomotives are scheduled to be delivered between fall of 2016 and mid-2017. The diesel-electric locomotives will be manufactured at the Siemens plant in Sacramento, California. By participating in this multi-state procurement, WSDOT will save costs and be buying locomotives that are made in the USA.

WSDOT recommends central location for Freighthouse Square Station in Tacoma
In the fifth public meeting since January 2014 on the location for Freighthouse Square station, WSDOT shared research and analysis on costs, schedules and future expansion needs for the final three potential sites (central, east end and west side). Cost estimates indicated that the east end would cost about two times more for operations and maintenance than the central or west side locations and would not have additional benefits for the higher cost. In addition, the east end location is an unacceptable distance for passengers to walk to the south platform and limits future growth opportunities for service. WSDOT asked the 75 attendees for feedback on the west and central locations. The preferred central location, which will be forwarded to FRA, is a compromise that meets the expectations and requirements for an Amtrak station location. WSDOT will continue to work with stakeholders from the City of Tacoma and their Amtrak Station Relocation citizen advisory committee, Tacoma Dome District Development Group, Tacoma city council and mayor, legislators, Amtrak, Sound Transit, and community. A public meeting will be scheduled during the design phase to share design concepts. Once approved by the FRA, construction will start in late 2015/early 2016.

Design and construction progresses at fast pace on passenger rail line
The WSDOT rail capital improvements program is near its peak spending rate for construction at $15 million per month. Three projects are completed – King Street Station Seismic Retrofit, Everett Storage Tracks, and Tacoma D to M Street Connection. Eight projects are in construction – Corridor Reliability Upgrades North, Corridor Reliability Upgrades South, Corridor Reliability Supplemental Work, Tukwila Station, Vancouver Rail Yard Bypass, Vancouver New Middle Lead, Vancouver Port Access Rail Improvements, and Advanced Wayside Signal System. Four more projects are entering construction in the next three months. As of July 18, 2014, WSDOT has submitted $128 million to FRA for reimburseables, which includes $102 million for ARRA-funded projects and $26 million for other federally funded high-speed rail projects.

WSDOT updates decision-makers on Amtrak Cascades passenger rail service and projects
WSDOT Rail Division managers were involved in three presentations in July 2014 that includes the Legislative Rail Caucus, legislative staff/Office of Financial Management, and Joint Transportation Committee. In mid-July, WSDOT presented information on the Point Defiance Bypass project in Tacoma and gave a tour of the recommended central location for the Freighthouse Square Station. For the second presentation in mid-July, WSDOT Rail managers presented to the Legislative Rail Caucus while riding the Amtrak Cascades passenger train on a Pacific Northwest Economic Region (PNWER)-sponsored tour. The topic focused on landslide mitigation projects and strategies along the north rail line, as well as the overall capital improvements program for passenger rail in Washington. The third presentation will update the Legislative Joint Transportation Committee in late July on the role of the Amtrak Cascades passenger rail in Washington’s multimodal transportation and Results WSDOT goals. Other topics include the Rail Division Action Plan 2014-2015, RFI for passenger rail efficiencies and cost containment, ticket revenues covering more than 59 percent of operating costs, new locomotive procurement, and passenger rail activities on the national level. 

WSDOT launches new Amtrak Cascades website
To meet the growing number of train passengers who purchase tickets online and use mobile devices, the WSDOT Rail Division joined forces with the WSDOT Web Team to build a new website for The team rewrote content, reorganized the site structure, simplified and added code, and updated the look-and-feel of the site to match the existing advertising campaign. The new version automatically changes the size of the page and the way the content is served up, based on the device accessing the page (including mobile phones and tablets). Passengers will be able to buy tickets online without switching to another site. The updated terminology coded into the pages will allow the site to be found easier by web search engines, which means it will pop up higher on potential customers’ web search results lists, thus leading to the goal of increased ticket sales. The new site went live July 15, 2014.