Cantwell-Created Program Provides Seattle Historic $45 Million Grant to Free Up Train and Car Traffic, Bolster WA Economy
New federal freight program makes first funding announcements, marks Lander Street national priority after Cantwell, Murray support
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Patty Murray (D-WA) announced a $45,000,000 grant award from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to address a notorious bottleneck for train and car traffic in Seattle. The $45 million grant to the City of Seattle for the South Lander Street project will leverage private, state, and local investments to build an east-west grade crossing over the South Lander Street rail corridor in the SoDo neighborhood.
Cantwell created the national grant program, which was passed into law in December. In October of 2015, Cantwell toured the South Lander Street site with DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx. Both Cantwell and Murray sent letters of support for the project to Secretary Foxx.
The grant awarded to the South Lander Street project is the largest single infrastructure grant made to the state of Washington. Current congestion at Lander Street costs the Washington economy $9.5 million per day or $3.4 billion a year.
"Washington state’s economy and regional jobs depend on being able to move freight quickly and efficiently. Today marks the first time these federal grants have been awarded, fueling our export economy and enhancing our competitive position in the global economy,” said Senator Cantwell. “Washington state loses $9.5 million a day in economic activity because of train, truck, and urban traffic congestion - at Lander Street alone. By eliminating this congestion, we can speed up freight movement to the Ports of Seattle and Tacoma and generate significant job growth.”
“These investments will further the work that is already underway to reduce delays, ease congestion, and increase safety in Puget Sound communities,” said Senator Patty Murray. “I’m proud to fight to make sure the federal government does its part as we work at all levels to make our transportation systems safer and more efficient, create jobs, and meet the demands of a 21st century economy."
“We’re now one very significant step closer to building a critical overpass in SoDo that has been greatly needed for improved safety and mobility – particularly for our local maritime and industrial sector – since the 1990s. With the arrival of new stadiums and increased transit, rail and commercial activity over the years, the need for the project has only grown. We’ve always known that this project could only become a reality through cooperation between our many partners, both public and private. The City made a strong commitment this past November when voters approved $20 million for the project in the Move Seattle levy. Now, thanks to the leadership of Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, our federal partners have more than doubled this commitment, raising the secured funding for the project to $100 million. The City will continue to work with our partners, including the state, the Port of Seattle, and those in the private sector to close the remaining gap and finally build this much-needed and long-overdue bridge for cars, freight, bikes and pedestrians,” said Seattle Mayor Ed Murray.
The $45 million award was made through the Cantwell-created Nationally Significant Freight and Highway Projects (NSFHP) Grant Program, authored as part of the long-term transportation bill, the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act). The NSFHP grant program – referred to as Fostering Advancements in Shipping and Transportation for the Long-Term Achievement of National Efficiencies (FASTLANE) – is the first-ever multimodal freight grant program focused on freight mobility. NSFHP grants provide funding for projects of national or regional significance including railway, seaport, and highway projects, such as highway-rail separations, to increase safety and reduce congestion.
The South Lander Street rail corridor is a dangerous confluence of freight train, truck, automobile and pedestrian traffic, creating congestion that stalls economic activity throughout the state. Thirteen thousand vehicles and 100 trains pass through the Lander Street crossing every day, causing 4.5 hours of delays. With freight train traffic expected to double in the next 20 years, building the crossing is essential for continued economic growth in Seattle and Washington state as a whole.
The crossing is also remarkably dangerous. Between 2011 and 2015, there have been a total of 85 vehicle collisions, 7 bicycle accidents, and 6 pedestrian collisions in the South Lander Street rail corridor. Building the crossing immediately makes trains, drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians in the SODO neighborhood significantly safer.
The City of Tukwila was also awarded a grant under Cantwell’s program to address the bottleneck of train, truck, and car traffic on Strander Boulevard. The $5,000,000 grant will construct a crossing to eliminate delays and create a new east-west link in the Green River Valley to provide an alternate freight route thereby saving commuters travel time.
As the most trade dependent state in the nation, Washingtonians recognize the need for the efficient movement of goods and people. For every billion dollars of freight investment, it is estimated that 20,000 jobs are created. The American Society of Civil Engineers has said that a failure to adequately invest in our infrastructure could cost the country more than 875,000 jobs.
Cantwell has been a tireless supporter of freight mobility improvement legislation in the Senate. In a May 2012 letter, Cantwell urged then-Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to launch a comprehensive freight initiative to improve federal freight policy and to focus attention on projects that have the maximum benefit to the nation’s freight network, economy and taxpayers. Cantwell later announced with LaHood the Freight Policy Council, which developed the National Freight Strategic Plan and focused on improving the condition and performance of the national freight network to better ensure the ability of the United States to compete in today’s global economy.
In 2010, Cantwell introduced the FREIGHT Act, which would have established the Office of Freight Planning and Development within the Department of Transportation, to improve efficiency of all the component parts that make up the nation’s freight infrastructure. Additionally, the FREIGHT Act would have authorized a new competitive grant program for freight-specific infrastructure improvements, such as port infrastructure modernization, freight rail capacity expansion, and highway projects that improve access to freight facilities. Cantwell also worked with LaHood to establish the National Freight Advisory Committee in 2012.
Cantwell led the Senate in passing multiple freight and rail safety provisions as part of the FAST Act. For the first time, the bill contains a separate Freight Division focused on goods movement, which is largely based on Cantwell’s National Multimodal Freight Policy and Investment Act (S.1680). The freight division includes America’s first-ever national multimodal freight policy, new strategic freight planning, and a program to specifically invest in multimodal freight and port projects.
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