Posts Tagged ‘Washington’

Cruising in Back in Time in Washington State

February 23, 2021

The Amtrak wayback machine has landed us in Steilacoom, Washington, on Aug. 12, 1974. We’re just in time to see E8A No. 346 leading a corridor train between Seattle and Portland, Oregon.

The photographer didn’t say which train it was but it appears to be either the Mount Rainier or the Puget Sound. Both of those trains in 1974 operated with dome coaches and offered snack and beverage service.

No. 346 was built for the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy in September 1950. Amtrak would retire the unit a year later.

Photograph by Robert Farkas

FRA Releases Preliminary Maglev Project Review

January 18, 2021

The Federal Railroad Administration has released a draft of a preliminary review of a proposed 40-mile maglev train service between Washington and Baltimore.

The report said the line would cost between $13.8 billion and 16.9 billion, and could be operational as early as a decade from now pending regularly approval.

However, that timeline might be thwarted by local opposition.

The Maryland Department of Transportation said public comment on the report of the proposed maglev system is being accepted between Jan. 22 and April 22.

The report noted that current highways and rail lines between the two cities are nearing capacity. The region’s population also continues to grow.

Trips aboard the proposed maglev system are expected to take 15 minutes.

The FRA report noted there is a need for additional transportation in the Washington-Baltimore corridor.

The report examined multiple route alternatives that included a variety of underground and elevated sections.

Stations would be located in Washington, Baltimore, and Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.

Unions Seek Protection for Trains in Washington

January 13, 2021

Two railroad labor unions have asked the Federal Railroad Administration and Department of Homeland Security to protect passengers and railroad workers of Amtrak, MARC and Virginia Railway Express services in and around Washington.

The Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers, Transportation Division and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen said they are seeking additional security measures in the wake of rioting that occurred in the nation’s capital on Jan. 6.

The unions have asked federal authorities for a minimal standard that any regulation granted to prohibit the interference of a train crew’s duty be in line with that of aviation statutes and regulations.

The letter to the FRA and Homeland Security sent by the unions cited  “the very real risk and potential for additional violence and riots.” It noted that Washington remains on high alert.

Environmental Review Completed for New Bridge Over Potomac River Near Washington

September 11, 2020

An eEnvironmental plan for replacement of a bridge in Washington has been completed.

The Long Bridge, which is owned by CSX, is used by Amtrak, Virginia Railway Express, CSX and Norfolk Southern to cross the Potomac River between Washington and Virginia.

The bridge has long been a rail chokepoint and has just two tracks.

Built in 1904, it is operating at 98 percent capacity during peak traffic periods, a fact that has precluded expansion of rail passenger service.

Plans are in the works for Virginia to fund construction of a new two-track bridge over the Potomac that will be used only by passenger trains.

Officials said the completion of environmental work means the project can advance to the final engineering, design, financing and construction phases.

The $1.9 billion project now is eligible for additional federal financing opportunities.

Group Pushes to Reopen Point Definance Route

January 25, 2020

All Aboard Washington is trying to turn up the heat to get Amtrak, the Washington State Department of Transportation and Sound Transit to resume using the Point Defiance Bypass.

The route has been out of service since a December 2017 derailment of a Cascades train that left three dead and several others injured.

Two of those killed were members of the rail passenger advocacy group, Jim Hamre and Zack Willhoite.

They were riding the first southbound revenue service Cascades to use the route.

In urging that the route be reopened as soon as possible AAW acknowledged that it was necessary to take safety measures on the route, including the installation of positive train control.

“The need for fast, frequent, and reliable passenger rail service has never been more urgent,” AAW said in a statement. “The traveling public wants a convenient, environmentally-friendly service that is safer than driving.

“With the right service improvements, the Cascades can meet this demand. But additional daily Cascades trains, with shorter running times between Seattle and Portland, cannot be implemented until the Bypass is in use.”

The statement contends that the installation of PTC plus other safety measures that have been undertaken made the route safe enough for scheduled passenger service.

“We believe that further postponing Cascades service on the Point Defiance Bypass — for which we have already paid $181 million — is detrimental to the interests of the Puget Sound region, the Pacific Northwest, and the traveling public as a whole,” AAW said.

“The taxpayers of Washington state have invested a significant sum of money to improve a useful service along a busy corridor. Let’s make that improved service a reality without delay.”

Neither Amtrak or WSDOT has indicated when the Point Defiance Bypass might reopen.

A consultant is conducting a study to be completed by Jan. 6, 2021, of “rail safety governance best practices and recommendations for the implementation of these best practices in Washington.”

Washington Ballot Measure Seen as Not Affecting Proposed Pacific Northwest High-Speed Rail Project

November 17, 2019

Supporters of a proposal to institute high-speed rail in the Pacific Northwest believe that the passage of a ballot measure in Washington State curtailing vehicle registration fees will not necessarily halt the project.

Washington voters approved Initiative 976, which caps the annual state and local car tab fees at $30.

In the wake of that vote, public transit officials expressed concern that funding for projects in the works or in the planning stage could be stymied for lack of funding.

Janet Matkin, communications manager for the Washington State Transportation Department, said Initiative 976 should not affect the high-speed rail project because it is still in the early planning stages.

She said there are a number of funding options that could be examined for the high-speed rail project, which envisions trains traveling 250 mph in the Portland-Seattle-Vancouver corridor.

Public Hearing Set on Long Bridge Project in Washington

September 7, 2019

Public comment is being sought on a proposed project to rebuild the Long Bridge over the Potomac River between Washington and Virginia.

The bridge is used by Amtrak, Virginia Railway Express, Norfolk Southern and CSX and is the only railroad crossing of the river between the district and Virginia.

The Federal Railroad Administration and District of Columbia Department of Transportation recently completed a draft environmental impact statement regarding the project.

A public hearing will be held on Oct. 22 and comments are being accepted through Oct. 28.

The bridge is owned by CSX and the project will involve either rebuilding or replacing the two-track bridge, which was built in 1904.

The study examined a 1.8-mile section between RO Interlocking near Long Bridge Park in Arlington, Virginia, and the L’Enfant Interlocking near 10th Street SW in Washington.

Funding OKed for Washington Passenger Study

June 10, 2019

The Washington state legislature has approved funding for a study of a cross-stand passenger train route.

The $250,000 study will look at using the former Northern Pacific line over Stampede Pass for the Seattle-Spokane, Washington train.

The route would pass through Yakima Auburn, Cle Elu, Ellensburg, Toppenish, and the Tri-Cities.

The study is due to be finished in June 2020 and will focus on potential ridership, station locations, equipment needs, and operator options. However, Amtrak is expected to operate the trains.

The route, if developed would be funded by the state in the same manner as those of other Amtrak corridor operations.

Amtrak’s Empire Builder currently operates between Seattle and Spokane via Stevens Pass.

The legislature also agreed to spend $671,000 for “continued analysis of the ultra-high-speed ground transportation corridor in a new study, with participation from Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia.

Some funding for that study is expected to come from other sources, including computer software developer Microsoft.