Wash. awarded $161M in federal high-speed rail funds

Washington state will receive $161 million in additional federal high-speed rail funding from the Federal Rail Administration. U.S Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced today that he is redirecting nearly $1.2 billion in rail funding originally designated for high-speed rail projects in Wisconsin and Ohio.

This additional money brings Washington’s total funding for passenger rail to $782 million, when combined with $621 million in federal rail funds awarded earlier this year.

“Washington continues to prove it’s a competitive player in the nation’s high-speed passenger rail program,” said Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire. “This funding supports highly-skilled construction and operating jobs, and we appreciate Secretary LaHood’s confidence in our ongoing efforts to expand and improve Pacific Northwest passenger rail service.”

“This will advance our ongoing work to increase the frequency and reliability of Amtrak Cascades service in our state,” said Washington Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond. “We will work with the Federal Railroad Administration to identify projects that have the highest potential to help us achieve that goal,” she said.

The additional funding requires no matching state funds and will most likely be applied to eligible projects in WSDOT’s original 2009 Recovery Act application, like a project that completes a series of repairs to the BNSF rail line between Everett and Blaine. The repairs reduce delays and increase on-time performance for Amtrak Cascades service by improving track quality, reliability and passenger ride. There were 14 rail projects valued at $602 million in the original application that did not receive funding.

Washington state strongly supports high-speed rail, as evidenced by its record-breaking ridership on the Pacific Northwest Rail Corridor this year. Amtrak Cascades ridership is up 13% this year compared to last year. The second train to Vancouver, B.C., which began in August 2009 and will continue at least through October 2011, was a major factor in the growing popularity of Amtrak Cascades.

Washington state ranks second in the nation in the amount of direct state subsidy that supports Amtrak service. Washington state has invested $137 million in capital rail improvements since 1999 to improve infrastructure, safety and stations.

Visit Washington’s High-speed Intercity Passenger Rail Web site at http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Funding/stimulus/passengerrail.htm .