The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) is proposing a program of infrastructure improvements along the existing 297-mile BNSF north-south main line between the Columbia River and the Canadian border that will initially allow for operation of four additional passenger daily round trips between Seattle and Portland (for a total of eight round trips), will help achieve greater schedule reliability, and will reduce the travel time between Seattle and Portland by up to 18 minutes. The proposed infrastructure improvements will also improve reliability for existing train service operating between Portland and Vancouver, B.C., and Seattle and Vancouver, B.C. The proposed improvements primarily follow the existing rail corridor to avoid and minimize impacts. Intercity passenger stops would be maintained at Bellingham, Mt. Vernon/Burlington, Stanwood, Everett, Edmonds, Seattle, Tukwila, Tacoma, Olympia/Lacey, Centralia, Kelso/Longview, and Vancouver, Washington. Maximum operating speed related to the corridor program would be 90 mph.
WSDOT prepared a Tier 1 Environmental Assessment (EA) in September 2009 (see: http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Rail/PNWRCReports.htm) to analyze the potential environmental effects of the program of improvements that is consistent with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), FRA’s Procedures for Considering Environmental Impacts (64 FR 2854, May 26, 1999) and FRA’s guidance on Compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in Implementing the High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program, issued August 13, 2009 (which describes Service NEPA for corridor programs).
WSDOT was selected to receive Federal funds from the FRA’s High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program to cover a substantial portion of the cost of the proposed program of passenger rail improvements.
FRA issued a Draft Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) on July 8, 2010 for the proposed program of infrastructure improvements. Comments were requested on or before August 9, 2010. On November 19, 2010, FRA signed the FONSI for the proposed program of infrastructure improvements along the Washington State portion of the PNWRC.