Washington state gets $590 million for rail

By:  Steve Wilhelm
Source: Puget Sound Business Journal

Washington state has landed $590 million in federal stimulus funding — about half the funding it had originally sought — to boost the speed and frequency of Amtrak Cascades trains in the Northwest.

The funding will add two new daily trains to the Seattle-Portland route for a total of six, according to a release from U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash. It also will reduce travel time by at least 5 percent, and improve the trains’ on-time performance.

Some of the funds will go to remove bottlenecks that have slowed trains below the 79 mile-per-hour limit on the route.

Washington was competing against more than 40 other applicants for a share of the $8 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act stimulus package. On the West Coast, California was the biggest winner of stimulus money, with several awards totaling $2.3 billion.

Ridership on the Amtrak Cascades system has been growing, and hit a record 775,000 in 2008, according to Andrew Wood, deputy director of the Washington State Department of Transportation’s rail and marine division.

Cantwell said the rail funds will generate 6,5000 jobs.

“Today’s announcement on the high-speed rail project is huge for Washington state and will provide tremendous short- and long-term economic stimulus to our region while generating approximately 6,500 family-wage jobs,” Cantwell said in a statement.

Gov. Chris Gregoire also applauded the stimulus funds.

“These funds will offer great returns: We will put people to work and improve a transit service on which more and more Washingtonians rely,” Gregoire said in a statement.