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WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation today awarded more than $3.2 million to the State of Washington to enhance capacity and improve reliability for intercity passenger and freight rail in the Pacific Northwest. The grant will support the $8.4 million Mount Vernon Siding Extension Project, which will reduce intercity passenger and freight rail congestion, add rail capacity, and improve a substantial bottleneck, providing long-term benefits to both Amtrak’s Cascades service as well as freight operations.
“This project will provide greater rail capacity and improved reliability for passengers and businesses in the Pacific Northwest,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “When it’s complete, this project will bring Washington and Oregon’s Pacific Northwest Rail Corridor Project one step closer to achieving its vision of providing people with a comfortable, reliable and affordable alternative to rush-hour gridlock and crowded airports.”
Completion of the project will improve reliability for Amtrak Cascades service operating on BNSF Railway’s Bellingham Subdivision by reducing conflicts with freight operations. The project will extend the existing siding track that is currently not long enough for freight train use in order to accommodate both intercity and freight trains, helping avoid backups when freight and passenger trains had to share the same track.
“With nearly one in four people traveling between Eugene and Vancouver choosing rail, it’s more important than ever that we invest in rail in the Pacific Northwest,” said Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph C. Szabo.
The Pacific Northwest’s population is projected to grow 40 percent by 2050, and the region is running out of room to build more highways or expand airports. Washington and Oregon’s Pacific Northwest Rail Corridor Project is transforming historic train stations into modern transportation centers, acquiring new trains and putting people back to work improving the rail corridor.
Investing more than $800 million to support 21 projects since 2009, the Federal Railroad Administration and its state partners are making great progress on High-Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail projects across the Pacific Northwest. Nationwide, more than $12 billion has been invested in 153 projects in 32 states, laying the foundation for a 21st century passenger rail network.