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  • Governor's Communications Office, 360-902-4136

Washington applies for nearly $435 million in ARRA High Speed Intercity Passenger Rail grants

For Immediate Release: August 24, 2009

OLYMPIA – Northwest passenger rail advocates working toward expanded passenger rail service between Portland, Ore. and Vancouver, B.C. had reason for optimism this week as the Washington State Department of Transportation applied for nearly $435 million in federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grants for the Pacific Northwest Rail Corridor.

“This is another example of Washington state being aggressive in the fight for federal recovery funds,” Gov. Chris Gregoire said. “I am confident the Department of Transportation has put together a competitive bid that will result in funding to greatly improve our transportation system, while putting people to work.”

Washington state officials believe their projects will compete well nationally due to the state’s longstanding financial support for high speed rail and partnership with Amtrak. Nearly $1.0 billion in capital and operating funds has been invested in high speed intercity passenger rail in the Pacific Northwest Rail Corridor since 1994. The financial support comes from a combination of federal, state, and local support. Washington State alone has invested significantly with a total of almost $331 million.

WSDOT’s Track 1 request would build a series of rail projects that would add an additional daily Amtrak Cascades round trip between Seattle and Portland, improve on-time reliability, reduce rail congestion, and provide enhanced service. WSDOT has a total of 20 capital rail projects that qualify for Track 1 consideration. Adding the projects that will be included in the second round of applications (due October 2), WSDOT’s total will approach $1 billion.

“We have a great opportunity in a federally designated, proven corridor to improve and grow intercity passenger rail service that will create jobs, foster economic growth, and provide greater travel options for our citizens”, said Paula Hammond Secretary of Transportation. “With the success of our Amtrak Cascades service and the support from our partnerships with Oregon and British Columbia, we have demonstrated that the Pacific Northwest is a clear leader in high speed intercity passenger rail”.

The federal $787 billion Recovery Act included $8 billion for the High Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program. The new program represents the federal government’s first significant investment in the nation’s passenger rail transportation network.

The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) has been working with the BNSF Railway and others to develop intercity passenger rail service in the Pacific Northwest for over 15 years. This successful partnership has resulted in the delivery of nearly 40 construction projects that have added rail line capacity, improved public safety, relieved rail line congestion, and allowed for faster, more frequent Amtrak Cascades intercity passenger rail service between Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver, B.C.

More than six million passengers have ridden the Amtrak Cascades service since 1999. Ridership for 2008 reached nearly 775,000 and was the highest ever since the beginning of the service. Amtrak Cascades recently added an additional train to its round trip service between Portland and Vancouver BC. The second train will run as a pilot project until after the 2010 Olympic and Paralympics Winter Games.

Contact: Scott Witt, State Rail and Marine Office, 360-705-6903
Vickie Sheehan, WSDOT Communications, 360-705-7904