Tacoma Rail moves closer to cleaner locomotives

Tacoma City Council Tuesday approved a resolution authorizing Tacoma Rail to enter into an agreement with the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) for a $450,000 interest free loan to help fund the replacement of a diesel locomotive with a more environmentally friendly locomotive.

The move is part of the larger $4.3 million Locomotive Repower or Replacement Project, which aims to replace three existing locomotives with three rail locomotives that meet environmental protection emissions standards and currently operate within the Wapato Hills/Puyallup River Valley area, according to Tacoma Rail roadmaster Alan Matheson, who presented the resolution to city council. Similarly, in a Sept. 30 letter from Tacoma Public Utilities (TPU) Director William A. Gaines in support of the resolution, Gaines estimates that by replacing these engines with new and advanced technologies, Tacoma Rail can reduce fine particulate matter and other diesel emissions from these locomotives by up to 75 percent, or two tons per year. The project would also help ensure ongoing efficient freight rail switching service to Tacoma Rail customers, reduce annual locomotive maintenance costs, and reduce greenhouse gas and diesel particulate emissions in Pierce County.

Tacoma Rail was recently awarded a $2.5 million grant from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency to help pay for the project.

“This is very important to really help with a problem that has economic consequences and health consequences for our citizens,” said Tacoma City Councilmember Jake Fey before voting on the resolution. “We have all heard a lot about wood smoke, but it is not just about wood smoke and we need to address it at all of the places where that health problem comes from. I really appreciate Tacoma Rail and TPU stepping up to do their part and the Department of Transportation to help us financially, because a lot of small parts reach a greater whole and we appreciate the work you have done in moving this forward.”