The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) is implementing a program of infrastructure improvement projects along the Pacific Northwest Rail Corridor (PNWRC), also known as the PNWRC Improvement Program (Program). The Program is made up of approximately 17 independent component projects defined in terms of improvements to passenger rail service along the PNWRC and is designed to improve passenger rail service and deliver service outcomes in Washington State. To fund these projects, WSDOT applied and was selected for grant funding through FRA’s High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail (HSIPR) Program. In accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and FRA’s Procedures for Considering Environmental Impacts, FRA and WSDOT completed a Programmatic Environmental Assessment (EA) to analyze the potential impacts of the Program that resulted in FRA issuing a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) in November 2010. In that Tier 1 Programmatic EA and FONSI, FRA anticipated completing project-level analysis for each of the independent component projects.
Although the projects to improve service outcomes are distributed throughout the PNWRC, some projects are clustered in certain geographic areas and address particular conditions that result in delays to passenger rail service. One such area is composed of three independent projects referred to as the Kelso Martin’s Bluff (KMB) Improvement Projects. Two of the KMB Projects (Tasks 5: New Siding and Task 6: Kelso to Longview Junction) are proposed to improve passenger rail operations around the Port of Kalama and the Port of Longview in Washington State. Task 5 and Task 6 will help facilitate two additional Amtrak Cascades service round trips between Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington, with improved reliability and reduced travel time, and will also support Amtrak’s long-distance passenger rail service, the Coast Starlight. The majority of the Task 5 and Task 6 construction activities will occur on rail infrastructure owned by the BNSF Railway. Additional information regarding the KMB Improvement Projects Task 5 and Task 6 is available on WSDOT’s website (http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/projects/rail/kelsolongviewjct/ and http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/projects/rail/kelsonewsiding/).
WSDOT was awarded HSIPR grant funding for KMB Improvement Projects Task 5 and Task 6. WSDOT prepared a project-level EA to analyze and document whether these two tasks would have significant effects on the environment. FRA approved the EA in August 2014.
On April 10, 2015, FRA signed a FONSI for the KMB Improvement Projects Task 5 and Task 6.
In July 2016, FRA conducted a NEPA re-examination and signed an amended FONSI to address project changes that had arisen since the original FONSI.