Trains For America

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An application from Washington State

This came in from an alert reader.

Washington state has submitted its Track 1 application for stimulus funds.  A synopsis can be seen at:

this link.

The bulk of the $152 million is for corridor hardening of the rail line.  The rest is for projects that are either underway or about to get underway, and include projects at the US/Canadian border, Everett Washington, and Vancouver Washington.  The projects will improve service and on-time performance.

The Track 2 application will is due in October can be seen at:

this link

Washington state is asking for about $1.8 billion, with which the state and Amtrak could improve the existing level of service between Seattle, Portland OR, and Vancouver Canada.

This brings to mind an important point.  Who gets the money?  A state like Washington, that has invested $350 million over the last 10 years?  Or maybe a state like Oregon, that has spent very little.  Oregon is asking for about $2.1 billion.  The stimulus money would really make a difference, even more so for places like Idaho or Montana, places that have even less to spend.  How does the ARRA intend to divide up the money?

Filed under: Regional USA Passenger Rail, United States High Speed Rail

4 Responses

  1. aw says:

    These are summaries of the pre-applications. A summary of the projects that actually were submitted for track 1 is at http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/NR/rdonlyres/598F842E-0CEC-4271-B3C7-FE33B67767FD/0/WSDOTSummaryTrack1Projects_Summary.pdf

    Some projects got changed from track 2 to track 1. This is because it was determined that they could be completed within two years. In total, the state asked for $435M in track 1 projects.

  2. Woody says:

    All interesting and so much detail almost boggles the mind. But I’ve read and re-read these plans and the Mid-Term plan. A good window into the nitty-gritty how-to steps for other potential routes that is at once encouraging and discouraging.

    Obviously Washington has invested more in rail than almost any other state. Now it is asking for huge amounts of federal funds. It seems to have a coherent plan to put the money to use and stimulate with jobs and spending in the near term. But if it gets the $1.6 billion this request, how much will be left for Cali, the Mid West, and a handful of other very worthy contenders? On the other hand, if they don’t get at least a billion, will we see much bang for the bucks?

    At the lowest level of investment, the plan is to raise on-time performance of the Cascades from the current embarrassing 62%, if I read that correctly, to 90% or 95%. But posted schedule times would not decline much from the current timetables, with only a few minutes saved here and there. But the plan does not forecast a large increase in business travelers without a substantial reduction in the trip times, So Washington will need to spend heavily to get big increases in passenger totals.

    As the spending levels escalate by the hundreds of millions, the plans allow for an increase from the current 4 Cascades trains plus the Coast Starlight, to 5 or 6 or 8 Cascades frequencies. To add the extra trains, new passenger cars and locomotives will be needed. If only one or two at a time are bought, the price will be high. If the orders can be bundled with some from other states, they might all benefit from a volume discount. So who else is ready to buy Talgos? Wisconsin has signed on for one trainset so far. Missouri is asking for stimulus money to buy a trainset to add another departure Kansas City-St Louis. That’s not enough. Who else will be buying more cars? Amtrak?

  3. MadPark says:

    Here in WA, we are hopeful for a chunk of that money for improvements to the VAC-SEA-PDX-EUG corridor. However, it seems unlikely that timid, NEC-focused Amtrak will be placing any orders soon for corridor trains – they seem to have little interest; otherwise they’d be ordering passenger cars a hundred at a time every few months, wouldn’t you think?

  4. Woody says:

    MadPark —
    Not exactly. Obviously I share the frustration that nobody is talking out loud about ordering hundreds or thousands of new passenger cars.

    But the way I think about the problem, “Amtrak” is more a brand than an actual thing. The real thing is Congress.

    My hunch is that the staff members of, say, the House Budget Committee, have more actual influence on passenger rail policies than the Board or top management of the National Railroad Passenger Corp.

    So I don’t bother to bash Amtrak. They surely make some mistakes with the few “M” million bucks at their discretion. But all matters of “B” billions — like the failure to order needed new passenger cars — are decisions made in the real Amtrak headquarters, the U.S. Capitol.

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