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Deal sealed on train money for Washington

Post by Jordan Schrader / The News Tribune on Feb. 26, 2011 at 11:45 am |
February 26, 2011 11:46 am

We knew a while ago that Washington was due to get stimulus money for high speed rail, but the Gregoire administration warned that money was threatened by U.S. House Republicans’ budget proposal.

Now the money appears to be secure with the announcement today from Sen. Patty Murray’s office that a contract has been signed on the $590 million in stimulus funds. 

Murray said in a news release the agreement was reached Friday night between the Federal Rail Administration, the state Department of Transportation and BNSF railways, which operates large parts of the track between the Canadian border and Portland. Projects will start soon along that line, Murray said.

Now that the $590 million has been contractually obligated, officials will try to do the same with $161 million in stimulus money redistributed to Washington after Wisconsin and Ohio’s new GOP governors turned it down.

Read full news release:

Senator Murray Announces Final Agreement on Major Rail Improvements for Washington State

Job-creating work to speed rail travel, improve freight lines along the Cascade line now slated to move forward

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, Chairman of the Senate Transportation Appropriations Committee, announced that a final agreement to invest $590 million in much needed rail improvements in Washington state had been reached between the federal government, Washington state, and BNSF railways. With this agreement, the job-creating rail projects which Senator Murray supported as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will soon begin along crucial sections of the Cascade rail line that runs from Blaine to Portland. 

“At a time when good paying construction jobs are not easy to find, this is welcome news for our state,” said Senator Murray. “This agreement means that we can now get moving on a number of job-creating projects that will get freight and Amtrak trains moving more quickly along the I-5 corridor. And as all of us who have sat in traffic on I-5 know, we need to find better ways to move commuters and goods throughout our state. While this agreement may have been a long time in the making for many of us, the fact is it’s here and it’s time to get workers on the job.”

The agreement, which was signed late last night, is between the Federal Rail Administration (FRA), the Washington State Department of Transportation, and BNSF Railways which operates much of the track along the Cascade corridor. The agreement means that the $590 million in federal funding will now be obligated to the state of Washington to be allocated for several different projects along the rail line.

Recent statistics show that only two-thirds of passenger trains run on time on the 3 ½-hour trip between Seattle and Portland. The state of Washington has estimated that the investments would help eliminate 833 hours of delays annually, according to the state.

The funding obligated today does not include $161 million in rail funding redistributed to Washington in October 2010.

For additional information on Washington state’s vision for these rail investments visit: http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/funding/stimulus/passengerrail.htm

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