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Washington state applies for Florida’s high-speed-rail funding

OLYMPIA, WASH. — Washington state applied for approximately $120 million in federal high-speed-rail stimulus money, part of $2.4 billion returned by Florida. The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) will use the money to continue improving and expanding Amtrak Cascades service between Portland, Ore., and Vancouver, B.C.

This potential funding would add to $590 million already secured by the Federal Railroad Administration and $161 million redirected from Ohio and Wisconsin — a total of $751 million in American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) high-speed-rail funding.

The Florida-related funding has more stringent “readiness” requirements, narrowing the list of projects eligible for consideration. Projects in WSDOT’s application are primarily for environmental and engineering work to stabilize hillsides, add capacity to reduce conflicts with freight, and replace an aging trestle. All projects funded by the ARRA rail grants must be completed by September 2017.

The original $590 million from the Federal Railroad Administration will allow WSDOT to add two daily round trips between Seattle and Portland, for a total of six. Major construction projects will be completed, including building bypass tracks to allow for increased train frequency and multiple upgrades to existing track. Several safety-related projects will be completed, including grade separations and the latest technology in advanced-warning signal systems. WSDOT expects to begin construction on select projects before the end of the year.

In 2010, nearly 600,000 passengers rode Amtrak Cascades between Seattle and Portland, a 10 percent increase compared with 2009. Washington has invested more than $331 million in passenger rail since 1994 to provide a viable alternative for travelers up and down the I-5 corridor. These new improvements will make it possible for trains to travel at more consistent speeds throughout the corridor, resulting in faster travel times between Portland and British Columbia.

For more information about Amtrak Cascades and state investments in rail travel, visit WSDOT’s passenger rail website.