State sees potential for increasing service between Seattle and Portland to 110 mph, from 79 mph today
After New York and Illinois, Washington has announced that it will be the third state to apply for some of the $8 billion in rail funds to be released by the federal government as a part of the stimulus package. Seattle Transit Blog points out that the state has identified $692 million in investments that would improve the Cascades corridor, which connects Vancouver, British Columbia and Eugene, Oregon, via Seattle and Portland, and which opened for service in 1993. Washington state’s request is moderate enough that it is likely to receive something close to the entire amount demanded once the grants are appropriated in June. It will also allow the state to take better advantage of its Talgo trainsets, which have the potential to travel at speeds up to 125 mph, but which are currently limited because of track issues.
Eventually, the service will be increased from four daily roundtrips between Portland and Seattle to 13, and four trips extending to Vancouver, versus only one today. The trip between the two major cities would decrease from 3h30 today to 2h30.
The money would go towards a number of improvements, including:
- $222 million for the rail project between Kelso and Martin’s Bluff. This is the southern Washington section of the line. Project would involve the construction of a third main track and allow more Cascades to operate by pushing freight trains off to the side.
- $120 million for Seattle King Street Station track and signal upgrades.
- $108 million for four new train sets.
- $97.4 million for capitalized maintenance.
- $60 million for Port Defiance bypass. This project, in Tacoma, just south of Seattle, will provide new tracks for passenger trains so that they can avoid the curves, single-track tunnels, and freight trains that currently crowd the Tacoma area. This project will reduce trip times by six minutes.
- $45 million for yard bypass at Vancouver (across the river from Portland, OR). This project is already in construction and will allow passenger trains to bypass freight trains moving about in the rail yard there.
- $30.2 million for positive train control and advanced signal system. This project will prevent disasters such as that which occured in Southern California last year on Metrolink.
- $3.8 million for customs facility sidings in Blaine, near the Canadian border.
- $3 million for new crossover tracks near China Creek.
- $2 million for curve realignment in Everett. This project eliminates several sharp curves in the area and eventually faster speeds.
- $600,000 for Stanwood Station. This city north of Everett would get a new stop on the Cascades line.
Image above: Amtrak Cascades corridor, from Washington State DOT