There is quite a bit going on and wanted to give an update of what’s happening;
Amtrak Cascades projects
BNSF will start construction of the new siding in Swift/Blaine for Customs. This will keep the main line clear at all times, eliminating the upwards of 2 hour delays at the border crossing.
The Mt. Vernon siding upgrade and extension is currently on hold while BNSF finds additional funding to finish the project.
Work has begun at the future Stanwood Station and Stanwood siding as part of several improvements. BNSF crews will be at Stanwood for the next few weeks to improve and extend the siding an additional 3500 feet in length roughly and relay rail and new ties. This will increase the speed from 10mph to 35mph.
BNSF and WSDOT have located additional funding to complete the PA Jct/Curve Relocation project and will start construction this Summer. This will increase the speed dramatically from 15mph to 50mph.
Amtrak will be awarding contracts sometime this year or early 2010 for the new Amtrak Maintenance Facility. The facility will finally give employees shelter and turn Seattle into a Medium maintenance facility. Still, major work (engine replacement, major accident repair work, etc) will need to go to Los Angeles or Beech Grove. This will improve the reliability of the current Amtrak locomotives dramatically.
With the Governors new budget, the Point Defiance Bypass in its new form will not be completed until 2019. While this will give another 10 years of a wonderful waterfront trek, it also will remain on a heavy congestion railroad. If the State of Washington does secure any HSR funding, this project will be completed in 2012, around the same time that Sounder is expected to start service to Lakewood Station.
Also, with the Guv’s budget, several projects that were in the 2012-2013 time frame have been eliminated. These projects would have installed 2 new crossovers, one at Newaukum and replaces the Chehalis crossovers from 30 to 50mph. This project would have helped the congestion on Napavine Hill between Chehalis and Winlock, where trains are common to be very slow or even known to stall on the hill and wait for assistance.
Speaking of new crossovers, the new Tenino 50mph crossover project should be wrapping up soon. The new signal masts have gone up and signal and crossover testing should start soon.
The Amtrak Cascades refurbishment is still moving forward though I am not sure what train set they are working on. I would assume the train set that is sitting on King Street 7 in Seattle for the past couple of weeks.
The first phase of the Vancouver Rail Project has been completed which installed several new 35mph and 50mph crossovers at “Fruit Valley” and at 39th Street. With this completed, crews are finishing up the last bit of work and moving into phase two. Phase two focuses on Vancouver Center, which is the North end of the Amtrak Platform. This work will consist of a minor rail relocation, a bypass that connects at Fruit Valley and eliminates the diamond. The maze of switches, will be reduced dramatically, along with several new crossovers that will improve train movements, in, out and around the Vancouver yard. The major benefactor from this project will be the freight railroads. 90% of the congestion is due to the maze of switches trains must go through in order to continue North to Seattle or South to Portland. The other 10% is due to the Vancouver Rail Bridge.
As reported previously, we are still waiting on the Canadian border services to make up their mind or the government to pay for the second and possible third train. While the Mayor of Vancouver is all for another 7 daily trains, the government expects the United States or Amtrak to pay the $1500 a day ($500,000 a year) fee.
Commuter Rail Projects
There are only 13 projects for Sounder remaining!
Everett Station Phase 2 was slated to open on April 13th but has been delayed “Due to construction related issues” Whatever this means is naturally holding up an additional 440 of much needed parking space.
Phase two of Mukilteo Station should be starting sometime in the near future. While there is still a TBD on the project page, I have an understanding that the project will start construction late 2009 and finished by Summer 2010. I could of course be wrong and happy to be stood corrected =)
Contrary to what I have reported previously, grading for the new double track project at Milepost 27-28 (Near Nelsons Corner/Mile West of North Runway of Paine Field) will begin soon. This project will add a second track and some fill to accommodate the new right of way.
Moving further South, a new 50mph crossover will be installed at Mosier, an old railroad name just North of Picnic Point on the tangent (straight) track.
Edmonds Station, one of the most delayed projects, but not because of Sound Transit but rather WSDOT as they used the ferries to take money from and relocate for other projects (Viaduct, SR-520, I-405 to name a few projects) The City of Edmonds and Sound Transit will thankfully move forward without the ferry portion of the terminal with construction slated to start this Summer and wrap up in 2010. This also includes the new double track segment between Milepost 17 16 and Milepost 18. (Correction by Mike Bjork, Thanks!)
After Edmonds, the next project will be another new 50mph crossover at Richmond Beach. This will be the last new crossover installed North of Ballard. The earlier project between MP 7 and MP 8 installed a new crossover South of Carkeek Park and near Golden Gardens.
Currently in progress is a double track project through the Interbay rail yard. This project should be finishing up this Fall. Currently, crews have installed new rail and re-ballasted the old “NP Main” from Broad Street to Dravus Street. The project will relocate the locomotive load testing booth and move it to another area in the servicing facility. The booth was installed after residences complained about the noise of locomotives running at full throttle all day and night long. The existing set of crossovers at Milepost 5.4 will be rebuilt. This project will increase the speed from 60mph to 70mph for passenger trains. The overpasses over the BNSF rail yard makes for great viewing to see how this is all put together. Also, at Broad Street, the main line will shift slightly and a new switch will be installed for grain trains. This means no more 10 or 40 minute delays as grain trains slowly snake into the Louis Dryfrus terminal. Yay!
Sound Transit is moving forward with construction of the permanent Tukwila Station (10mb pdf) with construction slated to start this Summer! The new station will have improve lighting, 130 more parking spots than the current station, plus a future area for 40 additional spaces that can be used for Amtrak, landscaping, more bike storage, and much more. Like Auburn Station, Tukwila Station will have a provision for a 3rd main line. In the future when the demand comes near, BNSF and/or WSDOT/Amtrak/Sound Transit, etc will add a third main line from Tukwila to Pacific.
Moving down the line to Puyallup, Sound Transit has came into agreement to use the Puyallup Fair Grounds Red Lot which is about a half mile walk to the station. This will provide an additional 200 spots and the Pierce Transit Route 495 will serve the lot to the station in conjunction with the Sounder schedule.
Sound Transit’s black horse continues getting shunted. The D Street to M Street is still nearly $40 million dollar over-budget and unable to find additional funding. While they are still aiming for 2012 opening, their target date is slowly being pushed back each day with this delay. While the good news of federal funding for M Street to Lakewood station is welcomed, Sounder won’t be able to use the route until D Street to M Street is finished. Construction will start on the M Street to Lakewood Station this summer with completion in 2010. Rail Works Inc has been awarded the contract for the improvements.
BNSF is been awarded the contract to use the new on-dock rail facility at Terminal 18 for newcomer CMA CGM with service starting in June. BNSF has also won the contract for Matson, China Shipping (Was at T18), and newbie SSA Marine which will be calling at Terminal 30, the old cruise ship terminal.
Last month, BNSF also reopened Stampede Pass after the January floods created a 150 foot long wash out near Martin, Washington. BNSF is currently hiring for maintenance of way for our region as the summer maintenance projects kicks up.
Union Pacific Railroad is slowly moving its domestic container traffic to Tacoma from Seattle. The reasoning for this is mixed but Union Pacific’s biggest “strong-hold” is more Tacoma than Seattle and has been for some time.
Did you know the Port of Tacoma offers tours? I didn’t neither but it does sound interesting!
WSDOT and Tacoma Rail have finished installation of an automated switch system within the Tacoma Rail yard. This system allows train crews or the yard master to line switches remotely, without stopping, saving fuel and time.
The City of Tacoma has agreed to allocate an additional $500,000 to repair the Nisqually River Bridge, which the bridge approaches washed out in the October 2006 major flood. The contract is expected to be awarded later this month with construction starting in June with the hopeful finish by the end of the year. This will also enable the Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad to return to Elbe on its normal route. This will also allow Tacoma Rail to resume service to Morton once another washout is fixed, just outside of Morton caused by the January 2009 flooding.
Feel free to discuss anything or ask me to break stuff down. I can also field questions off to WSDOT if need be.