2 Tacoma rail projects recommended for federal stimulus funds

Washington State is poised to be one of the first states given approval to move forward on a list of projects funded by American Recovery and Reinvestment Act’s (ARRA) High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail program.

Last week, Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond sent a letter to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) proposing a specific list of five projects worth more than $311 million that could begin construction this year and be finished by 2011 or 2012. The letter also proposed five additional projects and the purchase of a new high speed train as part of WSDOT’s plan beyond this construction season.

In January, the FRA announced that Washington State would receive $590 million from the $8 billion made available through the HSIPR program to build a series of projects that would add two additional Amtrak Cascades round trips between Seattle and Portland, improve service reliability and reduce total travel time.

While WSDOT had proposed a series of projects to reach that goal in its grant applications, the FRA did not initially identify which specific projects it would fund. Instead, states had to resubmit project lists and negotiate funding with the FRA.

FRA still needs to concur with WSDOT’s proposed list, which could take place as soon as this week.

WSDOT’s “Fast Track” projects, which are those ready to go for construction within 60 days and are required to achieve the 88 percent reliability and two additional round trips between Seattle and Portland, include:

1. Tacoma / D to M Street Connection — $34.3 million

2. Advanced Signal System / Positive Train Control (PTC) — $62.3 million

Fast Track projects ready to start for the 2010 construction season include:

3. Tacoma / Point Defiance Bypass — $91.6 million

4. Vancouver / Yard Bypass Track — $29.1 million

5. Corridor Reliability Upgrades South — $94.1 million

Additional projects that are required to achieve the 88 percent reliability and two additional round trips between Seattle and Portland and are ready for future construction seasons include:

6. Kelso Martin’s Bluff New Siding — $35.6 million

7. Kelso Martin’s Bluff Toteff Siding Extension — $37.4 million

8. Kelso Martin’s Bluff Kelso to Longview Jct. — $126 million

9. King Street Station Track Upgrades — $52 million

10. Everett / Storage Track — $3.6 million

11. Purchase of one train set — $32 million

The total of all proposed projects is $598 million. Additional savings based upon WSDOT’s highway ARRA experience with competitive bids are expected to ensure the balance of the $8 million amount will be available for the rail projects.

Washington State will have another chance to apply for more federal funding in 2010 from the $2.5 billion set aside for high speed rail in the Federal Transportation appropriations bill that was approved in December 2009.

Nearly $1 billion in capital and operating funds has been invested in high speed intercity passenger rail in the Pacific Northwest Rail Corridor since 1994. Washington State alone has invested over $331 million in support of high speed passenger rail.