An agreement signed today by the Washington State Department of Transportation and BNSF Railway clears the way for work to begin on rail improvements that ultimately will generate hundreds of jobs and improve Amtrak Cascades service between Seattle and Portland.
The agreement means the state can begin initial work this fall using some of the $781 million in federal grants awarded to Washington in the past two years. This money is part of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and high-speed-rail grants administered by the Federal Railroad Administration.
Building bypass tracks and making upgrades to existing tracks shared by Amtrak and BNSF will result in faster and more reliable Amtrak Cascades service while also allowing BNSF the ability to provide world-class freight rail service. The ARRA money also will be used to purchase new locomotives and passenger coaches.
The agreement allows BNSF to move forward on projects, worth nearly $400 million, that are expected to generate 1,000 jobs through 2017. BNSF has been working with the state of Washington for two decades in a public-private partnership that has expanded passenger services while maintaining the ability to move goods and freight throughout the region.
With the ARRA funds, the goal is to add two additional Amtrak Cascades daily roundtrips between Seattle and Portland, for a total of six. The improvements are also intended to reduce travel times, as well as improve average on-time performance from the line’s current 62 percent to 88 percent.
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