December 2014 – in review
In this issue:
• Amtrak Cascades improvements feature several high-speed rail projects
• Comment period ends for Point Defiance Bypass SEPA amendments
• RFI folio is now available online for intercity passenger rail service RFI
• Thanksgiving trains repeat success
• Amtrak Cascades partners with Seattle Boat Show and Marriott
Amtrak Cascades improvements feature several high-speed rail projects
The ARRA-funded Cascades high-speed rail program now has 10 projects in construction, with four completed and six in the design stage. Recent activities include:
• Point Defiance Bypass: Construction started this month on the Nisqually Crossover, which is the southernmost part of the Point Defiance Bypass project. The crossover connects to the BNSF mainline and, when constructed, will divert passenger trains from the existing route onto the bypass along I-5 and the relocated Amtrak station at Freighthouse Square. Amtrak and Sound Transit signed their operating agreement, which allows WSDOT to start construction.
• Kelso Martin’s Bluff: All three Kelso Martin’s Bluff projects reached milestones recently. The Toteff Siding Extension received final design acceptance from the FRA, which allows the project to begin construction. Work began the fourth week in December. The environmental assessment comment period closed on the New Siding and Kelso to Longview Junction projects and comments were sent to the FRA for review. This is one of the final steps before moving into the final design phase. Construction on these two projects is slated for summer 2015.
• Vancouver Yard Bypass: The new mechanical building is completed and has been in operation since November. A few final items, such as a welding wall and parking lights, will be finished by the end of January. The new building replaces one that stood in the path of the new bypass track.
• Corridor Reliability Upgrades South: The FRA gave final design approval on Dec. 1 for work to replace ties, clean the ballast and resurface the area around the tracks in 2015. The approval allows construction to start in February. The work to replace rail between Nisqually and the Columbia River is nearly complete, while instillation of 33 turnouts and the switches at 12 control points is finished. Construction on the entire project is expected to be complete in 2016.
• Advanced Wayside Signal System: Construction continues on the Seattle to Vancouver portion of this project, with 10 of the 15 locations completed. The overall project upgrades signal system components at all control points, sidings and turnouts between the Canadian border to Vancouver. Construction is scheduled to be completed in May.
Comment period ends for Point Defiance Bypass SEPA amendments
WSDOT received no public comments following a voluntary/courtesy two- week comment period on four minor design modifications to the existing environmental documents for passenger rail improvements for the Point Defiance Bypass. The modifications did not substantially change the impacts of the environmental documents. The SEPA addendum covers the following:
• Freighthouse Square new trestle extension and second platform in Tacoma
• Siding extension in Dupont
• Clover Creek Bridge replacement and rehabilitation of three bridges in Lakewood
• Antenna poles installation for positive train control (PTC) in Lakewood.
Request For Information folio is now available online for intercity passenger rail service
WSDOT prepared an RFI folio (pdf 2mb) describing recent efforts to gather information from rail service providers about service delivery options for more convenient, rapid, and reliable Amtrak Cascades passenger rail service between Vancouver, British Columbia, and Eugene, Oregon. The RFI (pdf 234 kb) provided an avenue for industry to share ideas on managing costs and revenues for the rail service. WSDOT is identifying opportunities for cost reduction and developing priorities based on what will generate the best value relative to the resources required. Some cost management strategies are already underway or can be implemented in the coming year. Others will be addressed in future agreements with Amtrak. The RFI resulted from the Washington State Legislature directing WSDOT to analyze the Amtrak operating agreement and find cost-saving alternatives. Thirteen respondents (pdf 131kb) provided information.
Thanksgiving trains repeat success
WSDOT made the business decision again to offer four extra Amtrak Cascades trains between Seattle and Portland during the Thanksgiving holiday. All four trains were sold out or nearly sold out, carried over 1,100 passengers, and generated over $56,000 in revenue. The net revenue gain (approximately $33,000) will offset annual Cascades operating costs funded by WSDOT and ODOT.
Amtrak Cascades partner with Seattle Boat Show and Marriott
Amtrak Cascades passengers attending the Seattle Boat Show, Jan. 23 to Feb. 1, have only a short walk from the King Street Station to the West Coast’s largest boat show at Century Link Field. The bonus is that children ride the train free with each paying adult. In addition, boat show attendees receive a discounted rate when booking online at Get Boat Show tickets. For overnight accommodations, reduced rates are available to event attendees at the nearby Marriott Courtyard Pioneer Square.