Thursday, July 28, 2011

Opening the Throttle

An agreement signed today by the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and BNSF Railway clears the way for work to begin on rail improvements that ultimately will generate hundreds of jobs and improve Amtrak Cascades service between Seattle and Portland.

Today’s agreement means the state can begin initial work this fall using some of the $781 million in federal grants awarded to Washington in the past two years. This money is part of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) high-speed-rail grants administered by the Federal Railroad Administration.

Building bypass tracks and making upgrades to existing tracks shared by Amtrak and BNSF will result in faster and more reliable Amtrak Cascades service while also allowing BNSF the ability to provide world-class freight rail service. The ARRA money will also be used to purchase new locomotives and passenger coaches.

The agreement allows BNSF to move forward on projects, worth nearly $400 million, that are expected to generate 1,000 jobs through 2017. The first rail-improvement project will occur in Everett, where two new tracks will be built for freight trains entering the rail terminal, taking them out of the way of oncoming passenger trains. These added tracks will eliminate a substantial rail-yard bottleneck and the work is expected to support about 30 local jobs.

“The immediate benefit of this agreement is jobs – from engineers to site supervisors, to construction workers,” said Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond. “The longer-term benefit is that improvements in the rail corridor will reduce travel times and improve the on-time performance of passenger rail, which provides a viable transportation alternative along the West Coast.”

Today’s agreement essentially sets up a clear contractual relationship between WSDOT and BNSF. As such, it outlines mutually agreed upon requirements and performance measures, including project schedules and budgets, contracting methods, procurement and purchasing processes, and budget and billing procedures, among other things.

"We're pleased with this progress and our long standing relationship with WSDOT,” said BNSF Chairman and CEO Matt Rose. "This is an important step towards improving the trackage infrastructure to help meet current and future demands for both passenger and freight rail service.”

BNSF has been working with the state of Washington for two decades in a public-private partnership that has expanded passenger services while maintaining the ability to move goods and freight throughout the region.

With the ARRA funds, the goal is to add two additional Amtrak Cascades daily roundtrips between Seattle and Portland, for a total of six. The improvements are also intended to reduce travel times, as well as improve average on-time performance from the line’s current 62 percent to 88 percent.

Visit the High Speed Rail program website for project lists and more. For more information about WSDOT’s Cascades high-speed rail program, . For more information about Amtrak Cascades service, visit here.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Avoid Gridlock - Build 167!

Kell McAboy, Planner, Port of Tacoma, briefed the Chamber's Port-Industrial Committee members about the Tacoma Area Transportation Study Final Report.

McAboy noted the SR 167 project was a baseline condition that must be done. Without it, the 2030 planning horizon forecast transportation gridlock. The current cost of SR 167 is estimated at $1.9 billion.  Or, as one wag said, "Just a tunnel short of funding."

The TATS study was done to provide the documentation needed to address future transportation projects. The eight stakeholders* began meeting July 22 to consider prioritization and future action to be taken as a result of this study.

That PowerPoint and other info can be found at this weblink on the Port of Tacoma website.
  • Washington State Department of Transportation
  • Port of Tacoma
  • City of Fife
  • City of Tacoma
  • SSA Marine
  • Pierce County
  • Freight Mobility Strategic Investment Board
  • Marine View Ventures

Thursday, July 07, 2011

PIC a TATS in July


Meeting Notice
Thursday, July 21
3:30 – 5:00 p.m.
Chamber offices
Simpson Community Room
950 Pacific Ave., Ste. 300
(NW corner 11th & Pacific Ave.)


Presentation by Kell McAboy, Planner, Port of Tacoma

The TATS identifies future transportation needs for the growth of freight-related traffic to and from the Tacoma Tideflats area. The Port partnered with seven stakeholders to complete the study.

The study analyzed existing transportation conditions and identified roads to be examined for potential improvement to keep freight moving. The result is a plan to enhance the economic benefits of the Tacoma Tideflats area, improve roadway traffic circulation and reduce congestion.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

TATS and Pierce Transit at RAMP Today

RAMP attendees were treated to three presentations at RAMP this morning.

For a follow-up on the Update in the service reductions of Pierce Transit by Jessyn Ferrell, Pierce Transit, please go here.

For a follow-up on the final Tideflats Area Transportation Study report and a PPT presentation by Kell McAboy, Planner, Port of Tacoma, go to the links in this sentence.

Attendees were also treated to a briefing by Larry Ehl, Transportation Issues Daily and Allison Camden, Federal Relations Manager,WSDOT on the hoped for federal transportation act. 
  • The House bill will have a focus on roads nd will have significant decreases for state budgets. The House bill is expected to create a 35% reduction from previous funding levels.  A Republican press conference is scheduled for tomorrow.
  • The Senate's bi-partisan bill, limited to two years, will maintain current funding levels, but still would need $12 billion identified for funding.  Currently there is no proposal on how to make up that funding gap. 
 The next meeting for RAMP is September 7.