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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
This thread will be dedicated to only railroad and rail infratructure news in the Pacific Northwest. This includes mass transportation projects, constructions and updates, passenger and freight rail news, projects, constructions and updates, derailments, major transit reroutes, and everything else rail related.

I will move the Stampede pass reopening information into here for easy access with all rail developments.
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Transportation officials seek solution to bottlenecks on rails
By BRAD WONG
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTER

Puget Sound-area port officials often boast that they can handle the goods arriving to meet an insatiable nationwide demand for inexpensive Asian imports.

In the region's transportation network, though, the bottleneck in the coming years likely won't be the ports, but the train system.

Trains hauling international cargo and other goods from the Puget Sound area over Stevens Pass will encounter congestion by 2009, according to a report conducted for the Washington Public Ports Association.

The reason: Stevens Pass, one of the main and direct rail lines to the major inland market of Chicago, has a sustainable capacity of 28 trains per day. But by 2009, especially near the winter holiday season, those tracks could see a peak of 34 trains daily.

"This is not a simple fix," said David Hatzenbuhler, MainLine Management Inc. president and the author of the report. Using import projections of sea cargo, he estimates that Stevens Pass could see about 50 daily trains by 2025.

A second track and other major rail improvements to the pass are unlikely because of that area's steep topography. Improvements, his report said, could cost $500 million.

Higher demand could divert trains to routes along the Columbia River, a flatter area. But on that route, which also can be crowded, it can take longer to bring time-sensitive goods to market.

With more imports in mind, BNSF Railway Co., one of the main freight haulers in Washington, is considering improving Stampede Pass, the third major rail route across the state.

The pass cannot accommodate international cargo, which travels double-stacked on train beds and can stand more than 20 feet high. MainLine Management estimates that adding about 3 feet of space through the pass tunnel, either by lowering the tracks or notching its ceiling, will cost $25 million.

"We are looking at the possibility of modifying the Stampede Pass tunnel to accommodate international cargo containers," company spokesman Gus Melonas said.

BNSF, the state Transportation Department, shippers and the ports of Seattle and Tacoma have yet to identify specific improvements necessary or the source of funds they would need.

"That has yet to be determined. We're in uncharted territory," said Barbara Ivanov, freight strategy director for the Transportation Department.

Hatzenbuhler believes that tens of millions of dollars, if not hundreds of millions, worth of railroad improvements are needed statewide to avoid gridlock associated with increased rail demand.

"Millions won't get this job done in the short term," he said. "The railroads alone cannot fund this. We're not just talking about international trade. The railroads are in a much bigger business than that."

Garbage, passengers, boxcars, automobiles and grain, in addition to international cargo trains, make their way throughout the state by rail.

Historically, railroads have paid for their own infrastructure improvements. But given the scope of rail upgrades necessary, Melonas said, his company wants to talk with the state government and the ports about a partnership in funding.

The ports association released the rail capacity study last year, months before delays at Southern California ports got national attention and pushed more cargo ships to the Puget Sound area. This year, the report is taking on greater significance because of the increase in port traffic.

The ports of Seattle and Tacoma report that at least 60 percent of all the international cargo that goes through their facilities is destined for major inland markets. Last year, according to the Port of Tacoma, nearly $17 billion worth of imported goods moved on long-distance rail to other markets.

If the anticipated rail problems are not fixed, "The cargo could go elsewhere," Port of Seattle Commissioner Patricia Davis said.

The port's cargo director, Michael Burke, believes that public policy officials still have time to find solutions to any possible rail congestion. "This is not a crisis," he said. "But we are very concerned to make sure the rails can work."

So, in other words, due to the back log of traffic and cargo in California and the huge demand for Asian products , major sea traffic has been rerouted to the Puget Sound ports of Tacoma and Seattle. These shipping companies depend primarily on rails to transport their cargo.

With the extra traffic on these lines, the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway (BNSF) is already strained. Now add the possibility of Amtrak trains serving the Cascades, we are in a rail transport crisis.

Now for those who do not understand the situation or just don't know the area, as of right now, there are 3 direct rail routes across the Cascade mountain range in Washington State.

The Stevens Pass route located by the red line.

Stampede Pass route located by the blue line.

The Gorge route located by the orange line near the bottom.




The steep Stevens Pass main line leaves Spokane and travels west, across the Columbia River into Wenatchee. From this point, the rail line extends over the Cascade Range via the historic 8-mile long Cascade Tunnel. The line continues west into Everett where it joins the BNSF north-south main line. It takes a train 45 minutes to clear the Cascade tunnel and another 15 minutes to clear the tunnel of fumes before another train can pass. That is 24 trains a day max and Stevens pass has reached capacity. Stevens mainly carries intermodal traffic.

The Columbia River Gorge route is from Spokane to Vancouver, Washington (Columbia River Gorge main line). To reach the Columbia River Gorge main line from Spokane, the route follows the former Northern Pacific (NP) main line out of Spokane through Cheney, Ritzville, and Connell to Pasco. The old NP main line then connects with the Columbia River Gorge main line in Pasco, following the north bank of the Columbia River from Pasco into Vancouver, Washington. She is primarily a flat grade and this route is near if not at its capacity.

And finally Stampede Pass. Recently reopened after the tracks were torn up due to lack of traffic in the 1980's, only 6 trains pass through each day. To reach the Stampede Pass line from Spokane, it is necessary to follow the Pasco East main line to Pasco. This connects with the Stampede Pass main line which continues northwestward up the Yakima Valley. A number of communities are located along this route, including Kennewick, Prosser, Toppenish, Yakima, Ellensburg, and Cle Elum.
From Ellensburg the line continues towards the Cascade Mountains where it rises to 2,840 feet and crosses the mountains at Stampede Pass via the 1.8-mile long Stampede Tunnel. The rail line continues west into Auburn where it joins the BNSF north-south main line. From here the main line continues north towards Seattle and south towards Tacoma and Portland, Oregon.

Stevens Pass and the Columbia Gorge route are already too congested to handle extra traffic, nor any Amtrak trains. Both routes would have a second main line constructed to handle the excess traffic, but scenery and topography would make that difficult and very expensive.

The best option would be to fully reopen Stampede Pass. The former Burlington Northern, faced with declining traffic in the early 1980s, took the 77.9-mile Stampede Pass route out of service indefinitely. That indefinitely was short lived. In 1997, faced with a large traffic resurgence, BNSF partially reopened Stampede Pass to allow the excess trains alternate passage, outside the clogged Stevens and Gorge routes. And as I said, partially. This line is closed to intermodal traffic as container cars are too tall for the low ceiling. Notching of the roof as done with Cascade Tunnel (look at the upper edges) or lowering of the floor is required for all trains too pass smoothly over Stampede, along with extensive track and signal upgrades. Cost could be in the several of millions of dollars, but this is the best option for our state's railroad traffic. This could also handle Amtrak traffic.

But if BNSF and the state fail to realize any of the options listed above, there certainly will be a severe crisis on our hands. Traffic would be rerouted to other ports, and our railroads, ports, trucking companies and the economy would suffer.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
King Street Station Renovation and updating

Since King Street Station was built in 1906, it's been remodeled twice—once in the 1940s and again during the 1960s for the Seattle World's Fair. Somewhere along the way, the station's identity was lost. The original architecture and beautiful ornate ceiling are hidden by art deco plaster walls and ceiling tiles.

From this beautiful ceiling:


To this:

(Not actually King Street Station ceiling, but you get the idea.

Another transformation is taking place as King Street Station nears its 100th birthday. This time, the renovation is dedicated to restoring and rehabilitating the historic grandeur of the station and to providing a safe, comfortable experience for a growing generation of rail passengers.

Why is King Street Station being redeveloped?
• Station facilities are run down and inadequate.

• Increases in service will only compound demands on King Street Station. WSDOT and Amtrak plan to increase the number of intercity (service connecting city to city on a railroad right-of-way in densely traveled corridors) trains to 38 per day by 2023. Sound Transit plans call for commuter train services to increase to 26 trains per day with the full build-out of Sounder by 2006.
• The station's rundown condition stands in stark contrast to the growing redevelopment of Seattle's south downtown area, discouraging travelers from using rail service.

The end result
The renovation will be completed in two phases. The first activities started in August 2003 and will significantly change the appearance and function of the station. The second phase envisions King Street Station as a major transportation hub, providing access to major statewide, regional, and local public transportation services.

Project Benefits
• Increased safety for station users through installation of security measures and improved lighting.

• Improved station access, wayfinding system, and parking.
• Improved connections to regional transportation services.

Phase I: Interim Renovation Activities
WSDOT and the station's owner—the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway—continue to work on finalizing the details of a 25-year lease agreement for the station. Once the agreement is in place, the rest of the $16.9 million interior/exterior station renovation project will proceed. WSDOT anticipates that Phase 1 repairs will be completed in 2005.

State funds, federal grants, and contributions from Amtrak, Sound Transit, and the South Downtown Foundation totaling nearly $17 million make the first phase of the renovation possible.

Work on the station's interior includes: • Rebuilding the restrooms

• Expanding the waiting room
• Building a new ticket office and baggage area
• Restoring historic surfaces
• Reopening the exterior grand staircase at the Jackson Street entrance
• Opening long-closed windows
• Putting in new user-friendly signage
• Installing enhanced safety and security systems
The building's exterior is also being restored, with general cleaning and repair, replacing the worn metal awnings, adding a new roof, improving the clock tower, and developing a pedestrian-friendly plaza on the Jackson Street level.

Phase II: Full Build-out of the King Street Transportation Center
The second phase will start with a full-build out plan, as funds become available. The station will be the central component of a major transportation center where all levels of public transportation services will be conveniently linked together.

The King Street Transportation Center will provide a central location for accessing: • Amtrak Cascades regional service

• Amtrak long-distance service
• Sounder commuter rail service
• Regional and local transit buses
• Waterfront streetcar
• Ferry routes crossing Puget Sound
• Planned LINK light rail service
• Planned Seattle Monorail
• Major north-south and east-west interstate highways
• Local roadways
• Pedestrian and bicycle facilities



When all commuter and intercity rail services are in operation, Seattle's King Street Station is projected to become the third busiest railroad station west of Chicago, after Los Angeles and San Jose, California.

What is the project timeline?

• Phase 1 is scheduled for completion in 2005.
• Planning, designing, and engineering work for the Phase II track, platform, signal, and bridgework begins in 2004.
• Further engineering and design refinement, assembling the necessary funds, and related activity will continue over the next few years.
• Additional transportation center upgrades will take place as funds become available.


How is safety being addressed?
As part of the first phase of renovation, enhanced safety and security systems will be installed. Improved lighting, upgraded building systems (electric, plumbing, heating, etc.), and improved accessibility will enhance safety for those who visit or work at the station.

Phase I:
Interim King Street Station rehabilitation - $16.9 million
Funds currently available from Amtrak, federal, state, and regional sources

Phase II:
Track capacity improvements - $65 to 85 million (preliminary estimate)
Building rehabilitation and other transit elements - $70 to 90 million (preliminary estimate)
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Amtrak Cascades Ridership and Station On-Off Information



Amtrak and the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) measure the public's use of the Amtrak Cascades in two different ways. The first is ridership, which measures how many people are riding the train each year. The second is station on-offs, which measure passenger volumes per station. Both of these measurements are important, yet different.

What's the difference between ridership and station on-offs?
The best way to distinguish between ridership and station on-offs is to keep in mind where the counting is taking place. Ridership is a measurement that is made on the train. Station on-offs are measurements that are made at the station.


Amtrak Cascades Ridership

How is ridership calculated?
Ridership measures the number of people who are riding on the Amtrak Cascades, which travels from Vancouver, B.C., to Eugene, Oregon. This measurement is calculated by counting the number of tickets sold for each train, each day. This number is then converted into monthly and annual totals for each train and for the entire Amtrak Cascades service.

What is it used for?
Ridership tells Amtrak, WSDOT, policymakers, and the public how popular the Amtrak Cascades are with the traveling public, be it for an individual train or the system as a whole. It helps Amtrak and WSDOT plan for future service, manage revenues, develop marketing strategies, and set performance goals.

Amtrak Cascades ridership from 1993 to 2003


Why is Amtrak Cascades ridership on the rise?
We credit the steady increase in Amtrak Cascades ridership to a combination of factors including: • increased train frequency;
• reduced train travel times;
• increased traffic congestion;
• customer service improvements;
• smart, local marketing and promotion;
• custom-built Talgo trains; and
• station improvements.

Amtrak Station On-Offs for the Pacific Northwest, 1993 to 2003

How are station on-offs calculated?
Passenger volumes per station, or station on-offs, measure the number of people using a specific train station. This is calculated by counting the number of people who get on and off the trains at each station each day, which is then converted into monthly and annual totals for each location.

What is it used for?
Station on-offs measures ridership distribution per station and which city origins and destinations are the most popular with train riders. This measurement can help local governments and business owners gain a better understanding of the volumes of people using the community's train station, which can support local planning efforts for increased tourism, new business development, better land use, and improved connections with other types of transportation.

Annual Data
Select from the list below to get annual data about the number of people who got on and off Amtrak trains at each listed station from 1993 to 2003.

Please note: There was no Amtrak service to Mt. Vernon/Burlington, Bellingham, and Vancouver, B.C., in 1993 and 1994.

Washington State:

Bellingham


Bingen/ White Salmon


Centralia


Edmonds


Ephrata


Everett


Kelso/ Longview


Mount Vernon


Olympia


Pasco


Seattle


Spokane


Tukwila


Vancouver


Wenatchee


Wishram


Washinton State Totals


State of Oregon:

Albany


Eugene


Portland


Salem


Oregon State Totals:


Province of British Columbia, Canada:

Vancouver


How has Amtrak Cascades service changed from 1993 to 2003?

How has Amtrak Cascades service changed from 1993 to 2003?
Amtrak ridership and station on-offs trends change for a variety of reasons. These typically include the frequency of rail service, travel times, population, gas prices, economic strength, transportation connection/station improvements, traffic congestion, and more. See below for some of the things that have caused changes in Amtrak Cascades service over the years.

1993
• Amtrak offers one daily Seattle-Portland round trip.

1994
• Washington State sponsors local Amtrak train for the first time.
• Amtrak adds second daily Seattle-Portland round trip.
• Washington State leases European Talgo train for temporary use of Pacific Northwest rail service.
• Renovation of Fairhaven Station in Bellingham completed.

1995
• One of two existing Seattle-Portland daily round trips extended south to Eugene.
• First train sponsored by the state of Oregon.
• After a 14-year hiatus, Amtrak Seattle-Vancouver, B.C. service reintroduced in May. Washington State sponsors this daily round trip.
• Restoration of the Kelso Multimodal Transportation Center completed.

1996
• Washington State leases second Talgo train for temporary use in the Pacific Northwest Rail Corridor.

1998
• Third daily Seattle-Portland round trip started.

1999
• New Amtrak Cascades service and equipment introduced.
• Custom-built Talgo trains replace leased equipment.
• New daily Seattle-Bellingham service started. This service compliments existing Seattle-Vancouver, B.C. service.

2000
• A second daily Seattle-Portland round trip is extended south to Eugene. Oregon sponsors this additional service.

2001
• A stop in Tukwila is added to existing service.

2002
• A new Amtrak station opens in Everett.
• Centralia Amtrak station remodel completed.

2003

• Approximately 40% of Amtrak Cascades customers booked their trips online.
• A new look for Amtrak Cascades Web site offers visitors a better online experience.
• King Street Station renovation begins to upgrade this 1906 historic treasure.
• Construction begins on new Skagit Transportation Center in Mount Vernon.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Workers needed all the livelong day

“It’s not brain surgery,” said Scott Gordon, who has worked as a Tacoma Rail switch operator for six years.
But you might think Tacoma Rail needed scarce brain surgeons if you studied its recent track record of recruiting. Last August, just 10 qualified switch operator applicants made the easy cut. Two came aboard. One made it through probation.

You can understand then why Tacoma Rail managers worry now that they must supersize their work force of 61 switch operators by 10 percent – and fast.

Growth in container shipping through the Port of Tacoma has meant well-publicized mega-growth in the ranks of longshore workers. But it has meant a less-publicized but also growing need for railroad workers in the Tideflats and feeder lines operated by Tacoma Rail.

Since 2000, the city-owned railroad has added 33 switch operators. It will begin recruiting for six more beginning Friday and might add more later this year.

“I’m hiring for attitude and work ethic,” said Paula Henry, Tacoma Rail’s assistant superintendent.

Tacoma Rail isn’t alone in its need for railroad workers. BNSF Railway Co. (formerly Burlington Northern Sante Fe) and Union Pacific railroads have scooped up rail workers by the thousands and also have current job openings in the Puget Sound region.

“Demand for railroad freight service will grow as the economy and intermodal transportation of goods expands,” according to a recent report from the U.S. Labor Department. “The need to replace workers who transfer to other occupations or retire will be the main source of job openings.”

While the Labor Department projects a slight overall decline in all rail-related transportation jobs through 2012, the railroads need bodies now to keep up with freight traffic.

Consequently, to compete for new hires, Tacoma Rail has dropped a previous requirement that applicants have previous rail experience.

“I always say if there’s an unemployed railroader out there somewhere today, then there’s a problem,” Henry said.

Tacoma Rail does, however, demand that applicants have at least two years of experience working outdoors in construction, manufacturing or manual labor. That requirement unnecessarily narrows the applicant pool for a job that doesn’t require construction or manufacturing skills.

But Henry said she needs proof that new hires can handle working outdoors in all kinds of weather.

“Working in the rain is the worst thing about the job,” Gordon said. “But if you didn’t like the rain, you picked the wrong state to live in.”

On Tuesday, Gordon started his shift moving trains in the Tideflats, then drove with a three-person crew to an industrial area at Frederickson to bring an engine back to Tacoma.

“As a job, this is pretty good. But there is an element of danger to it,” he said. “If you’re not aware of what’s going on, you could put yourself in a position to get run over.

“But if you use your brain and pay attention, you have no problems.”
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Burlington Northern Santa Fe Reports 60 Percent Higher First-Quarter EPS



FORT WORTH, Texas, April 28, 2005:


Record first-quarter earnings of $0.83 per diluted share were 60 percent higher than first-quarter 2004 earnings of $0.52 per diluted share.
Freight revenues increased 18 percent compared with first-quarter 2004 to a first-quarter record of $2.90 billion.
Record first-quarter operating income of $634 million represents an increase of $224 million, or 55 percent, compared with the same 2004 period.
Quarterly operating ratio decreased more than five percentage points to 78.1 percent from 83.3 percent in the first quarter of the prior year.
Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corporation (BNSF) (NYSE: BNI) today reported record first-quarter earnings of $0.83 per diluted share, a 60 percent increase over first-quarter 2004 earnings of $0.52 per diluted share.

"For the fifth consecutive quarter, BNSF experienced double-digit freight revenue growth compared with the same periods in the prior year. The Company continues to leverage unprecedented market demand from its customers with operating efficiencies. As a result, over a period of only two years, BNSF doubled its earnings per share this quarter from the same 2003 quarter [before cumulative effect of an accounting change]," said Matthew K. Rose, BNSF Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer.

First-quarter 2005 freight revenues increased $451 million, or 18 percent, to an all-time first-quarter record of $2.90 billion compared with 2004 first-quarter freight revenues of $2.45 billion. For the month of March 2005, BNSF’s monthly revenues exceeded $1 billion for the first time in Company history. Double-digit revenue increases were recorded in all four business groups compared to the first quarter of 2004. Consumer Products revenues increased $203 million, or 22 percent, as a result of higher revenue per unit and double-digit volume increases in international and truckload sectors. Agricultural Products revenues were up $86 million, or 20 percent, to $524 million driven by strong export moves to Pacific Rim countries and higher revenue per unit. Industrial Products revenues increased $84 million, or 15 percent, to $647 million reflecting strong demand in the building products, petroleum products, and construction products sectors, as well as higher revenue per unit. Coal revenues rose $78 million, or 15 percent, to $598 million resulting from higher demand by utility customers and higher revenue per unit.

Operating expenses for the first three months of 2005 of $2.35 billion were $268 million, or 13 percent, higher than the same period in 2004, primarily driven by a 9-percent increase in gross ton-miles and 31-percent higher fuel prices after hedge benefit.

First-quarter operating income increased $224 million, or 55 percent, to $634 million compared with the first quarter of 2004. BNSF’s operating ratio decreased more than five percentage points to 78.1 percent from 83.3 percent in the same quarter of the prior year.

BNSF’s subsidiary, BNSF Railway Company, operates one of the largest railroad networks in North America, with about 32,000 route miles in 28 states and two Canadian provinces. The railway is among the world's top transporters of intermodal traffic, moves more grain than any other American railroad, transports the components of many of the products we depend on daily, and hauls enough coal to generate about ten percent of the electricity produced in the United States.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Union Pacific Reports First Quarter Results

Omaha, Neb., April 21, 2005 – Union Pacific Corporation (NYSE: UNP) today reported earnings of $.48 per diluted share, or net income of $128 million in the first quarter of 2005 compared to earnings of $.63 per diluted share, or net income of $165 million for the first quarter of 2004.

"Operationally, our performance has improved since the beginning of the year, but our earnings were impacted by the network challenges we continue to face as well as the West Coast storm. We estimate that the storm adversely affected net income by approximately $34 million," said Dick Davidson, chairman and chief executive officer. "The bright spot continues to be the strong demand, particularly in our Energy and Industrial Products markets. Operating revenue grew by nine percent to $3.2 billion – a first quarter record and the fourth consecutive quarter that we’ve topped the $3 billion mark."

First Quarter Overview

Union Pacific Corporation reported record operating revenue of $3.2 billion in the first quarter of 2005 compared to last year’s $2.9 billion. Operating income in the first quarter of 2005 was $313 million compared to $314million for the same period in 2004.

Commodity revenue was a first quarter record of $3.0 billion, up 8 percent, compared to $2.8 billion in 2004. Drivers of the increase were a 1 percent increase in volumes as well as higher fuel surcharge recoveries and improved yields.
First quarter 2005 average revenue per car was at an all-time best of $1,306 per car, versus $1,214 in the first quarter of 2004.
The operating margin decreased to 9.9 percent in the first quarter of 2005 from 10.9 percent in 2004, primarily due to the impact of the January storm and higher fuel prices.
The Railroad’s average quarterly fuel price of $1.45 per gallon compares to $1.02 per gallon paid a year ago.
Although impacted by the January storm, quarterly average system speed, as reported to the Association of American Railroads, averaged 21.1 mph, 0.8 mph slower than the first quarter of 2004, but 0.6 mph higher than the prior quarter.
2005 First Quarter Commodity Revenue Summary versus 2004

Energy up 14 percent
Industrial Products up 12 percent
Agriculture up 9 percent
Chemicals up 8 percent
Intermodal up 3 percent
Automotive down 1 percent
"Energy and Industrial Products posted best-ever revenue performances this quarter," Davidson said. "We see solid demand continuing, with the primary exception being Automotive, which has been affected by softer auto production."

Looking Forward

"Improvements in our operating metrics are encouraging. Although we’ll face daily challenges, we believe our network management initiatives are gaining traction and we will work to build on that momentum," Davidson said. "Demand for our services remains strong and our task is to leverage that strength into better bottom-line results. As we continue to restore fluidity to our network, our customers, our employees and our shareholders will benefit."

Union Pacific Corporation owns one of America’s leading transportation companies. Its principal operating company, Union Pacific Railroad, is the largest railroad in North America, covering 23 states across the western two-thirds of the United States. A strong focus on quality and a strategically advantageous route structure enable the company to serve customers in critical and fast growing markets. The Railroad is a leading carrier of low-sulfur coal used in electrical power generation and has broad coverage of the large chemical-producing areas along the Gulf Coast. With competitive long-haul routes between all major West Coast ports and eastern gateways and as the only railroad serving all six gateways to Mexico, Union Pacific has the premier rail franchise in North America.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I need a train ticket from New York to Anchorage!

Alaska, Canada's Yukon to Explore Rail Link

ANCHORAGE (Reuters) - Alaska and Canada's Yukon Territory have agreed to launch a $5 million feasibility study of a possible 900-mile (1,400 kilometer) rail link that would open the sparsely populated northern wilderness to more economic development, advocates said on Tuesday.

The railroad could carry ore from yet-to-be developed Alaska mines and, if expanded to western Alaska, could even serve Teck-Cominco's Red Dog Mine, the world's largest zinc producer, said Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski.

Murkowski, along with Dennis Fentie, premier of Canada's Yukon Territory announced that they have signed an agreement to do the study. Costs will be split between the governments.

"We could move resources into the Yukon Territory and move those same resources out to the markets of the Trans-Canada railroad system and on into the United States," Murkowski said on Monday.

"I think it's justifiable and I think the economics will support this," the Republican governor said.

But skeptics say the plan is far-fetched.

"Mega-projects like this mean dreaming big, and I think we should do that. But we have to pencil it out to make sure it really works," said state Rep. David Guttenberg, a Fairbanks Democrat. While the idea of a rail link is appealing, railroads around the country have been in financial trouble, casting doubt on chances for a new Alaska-Yukon line, Guttenberg said.

Even if the long-planned Alaska natural gas pipeline is built along the proposed rail corridor, Guttenberg said, it still might be cheaper to ship supplies needed for that project over the sea by barge.

Congress has already appropriated the $2.5 million that the state of Alaska would contribute to the feasibility study, the governor's office said.

Yukon's Fentie said the governments should not wait for the private sector to initiate such a rail link.

"If that's the attitude they took when they were building the trans-continental railroad, we'd still be driving an ox cart east to west," he said.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Tacoma RMDRR Morton Line Repairs


Why is WSDOT repairing the Tacoma Rail Mountain Division Railroad (RMDRR) at Morton?
Currently the rail line is in poor condition and is nearly impossible to use. It was severely damaged in a 1996 flood.

The End Result
The project will place thousands of new rail ties and tons of ballast to stabilize the aging track bed and prepare the line to carry more freight cars. New businesses along the route will help shippers use the restored line.


Project Benefits• Help to maintain more than 200 jobs
• Minimize the added wear and tear on state roadways caused each year by 66,000 heavy truck loads
• Increased safety for freight rail service

What is the project timeline?
Four of the six projects are complete. The remainder are scheduled for completion in June 2005.


WSDOT continues to work with port districts, county governments, and rail-dependent shippers to collaborate on how to preserve this rail system for now and in the future.


Environmental Protection
Rail transportation per ton-mile requires less fuel and produces less pollution than other forms of transportation. This translates to significant fuel and pollution savings for farmers and end customers.

Please visit the WSDOT Environmental Services Web site for more information.

Increasing safety is one of our priorities
The track improvements will stabilize the track bed, making freight rail service safer and more reliable.

Will this project impact tribal resources?
Tribal consultation with the Nisqually Tribe and Puyallup Tribe will occur on this project.

Financial Information
$3.18 million is funded from the 2003 Legislative Transportation Package.

 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
King Street Renovations Continue

SEATTLE — Beginning this week workers will restore Seattle King Street Station's 98-year-old Compass Room entry hall to its original appearance. This work, sponsored by Amtrak and the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), is another step forward in the transformation of the busy and historic station.

"The Compass Room is one of the most beloved rooms in the station,” said Kurt Laird, Amtrak District Superintendent. “Though well-worn today, it has served as a welcome mat for millions traveling to Seattle during the past century. I can’t wait to see this room restored to its original beauty so it can more fittingly welcome the millions who will travel to Seattle by train in the next century.”

The Compass Room embodies many of the original finishes that remain in the station today. Non-historic features of the room will be removed and replaced with new materials that replicate the original materials and detailing. The only remaining original chandelier will be rebuilt and installed in the center of the Compass Room ceiling.

Other station upgrades starting soon include new exterior canopies and lighting, refurbishing the main entrance at Third Avenue and King Street, and restoring long boarded-up windows in the Waiting Room in keeping with the historic character of the station. This work will be completed by summer 2005.

Recently completed King Street Station construction increased the size of the Waiting Room and, for the first time in 40 years, visitors can experience some of the Waiting Room’s original architecture. The run down bathrooms also received a complete make over

In 2004 over 600,000 people passed through King Street Station, the busiest train station in the Pacific Northwest. The station is currently served by 14 daily Amtrak passenger trains and eight weekday Sounder commuter trains.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Willamette & Pacific wants to cut rail service on Benton line

Some shippers on a branch line south of Corvallis, Oregon will lose rail service under a proposal by the Willamette & Pacific.

The railroad, also known as the Portland & Western, said Thursday it would file for autority to discontinue service on a 16-mile segment of the Monroe branch. The affected segment runs from Greenberry Road south to Monroe and includes the spur from Alpine Junction to Dawson, site of the Hull-Oakes Lumber Co.

Larry Phipps, president of the railroad, said he had talked with shippers the day before and met with opposition to the request. He also has briefed Benton County Commissioner Linda Modrell, a strong supporter of rail service.

The track is nearly 100 years old and restricted to 7 miles an hour. The railroad had a derailment on the line on Mar08.

Phipps said the company would file to stop service with the federal Surface Transportation Board. He expects the Union Pacific, which owns the track leased by the W&P, to file at the same time for abandonment of the route.

Train service — two trains a week — is to continue until the federal board acts, which might take seven or eight months.

Wayne Giesy, a former part-owner of the Hull-Oakes mill and a vocal advocate of rail transport, said he would lead opposition to the railroad request.

"I told them they will have a hell of a fight," said Giesy, 85, of Philomath.

He blamed the railroad and its predecessors for letting the track get into "deplorable shape."

And he said it would be shortsighted to give up the right of way, which he thinks may one day be important if rail service to Eugene on the west side of the valley is ever to be restored to relieve the east-side corridor. The track on the south end of the branch to Eugene was removed years ago.

The move to discontinue service below Greenberry Road would affect Crocker Farms, Van Beek Dairy, Goracke Brothers, Wilbur Ellis, and on the Dawson branch, Nusbaum Farms and Hull Oakes, totaling some 455 carloads in 2004, mostly from the lumber mill.

Phipps said a loading station would be set up at Greenberry Road so shippers who wanted to connect to the rail network could load their goods there.

The Legislative Emergency Board granted the railroad $250,000 to fix the line in 2001 and the state added another $100,000 in 2003, Phipps noted, and those repairs were done.

Still, improving the entire track would require crossties and new rail on 15 miles, at a cost of $400,000 per mile for rail and ties.

He noted that elsewhere on its 530-mile regional system, the P&W last year had laid 32 miles of new track, replacing 75-pound rail with heavier gauge rail, such as 112 pounds per yard.

Just now, the railroad is replacing 20 miles of old track southwest of Albany on the old Oregon Electric line, which the P&W is leasing from the BNSF Railway Company. The BNSF is donating the rail, and the P&W is doing the installation. - Hasso Hering, The Albany Democrat-Herald, courtesy Larry W. Grant
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
CN, Maher Terminals and the Prince Rupert Port Authority to launch new container terminal


With $60 million in funding for the new Port of Prince Rupert container terminal now secured from the Canadian and British Columbia governments, the Canadian National Railway and Maher Terminals of Canada Corporation and the Prince Rupert Port Authority announced today plans to make the new terminal a reality in the first quarter of 2007.


CN has obtained approval from its board of directors to increase its financial contribution to the terminal to $30 million from $15 million. Of the $30 million total, $15 million will be spent on the intermodal yard at the port, $10 million on terminal trackage, and $5 million on infrastructure improvements to CN's B.C. North line so that it can accommodate double-stack container cars.

Maher Terminals of Canada Corporation has completed plans to proceed with a request for proposals in May 2005 for the acquisition and installation of three large container cranes at the terminal, together with supporting container handling equipment and technology, at a cost of approximately $60 million.

The Port of Prince Rupert is completing bank financing for its $25-million contribution to the container terminal development.

Phase 1 of the terminal development is expected to provide initial throughput capacity of 500,000 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent containers) per year.

E. Hunter Harrison, president and chief executive officer of CN, said: “CN is excited with the progress being made toward launching the Prince Rupert container terminal in the first quarter of 2007. CN will be ready. It has the capacity, service and transit times to make Prince Rupert a true success. CN’s network will offer fast access from Prince Rupert to the key markets of Toronto, Montreal, Chicago and Memphis.”

Brian Maher, chairman and chief executive officer of Maher Terminals of Canada Corporation, said: “We’re forging ahead with our crane order and operating plan to be ready with our partners to start handling containerized goods through the port in the first quarter of 2007. Congestion at major ports along the west coast of North America remains a significant issue, and dialogue with the international steamship and shipping community indicates a real interest in using the Port of Prince Rupert for container traffic. We have a clear window of opportunity to put Prince Rupert on the world map.”

Don Krusel, president and chief executive officer of the Prince Rupert Port Authority, said: “The opening of this new terminal will not only bolster Canada’s international trading ability, but also create a new North American gateway for goods moving between Asia and the principal markets of Canada and the United States. This development will also deliver solid economic benefits to Prince Rupert and Northern British Columbia - Phase 1 of the project alone is expected to generate nearly 500 direct and indirect jobs.”

Phase 1 of the terminal project is part of a broader plan to build a facility capable of handling 2 million TEUs per year. - Mark Hallman, CN News Release, courtesy Larry W. Grant
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Railroad is on a fiscal collision course

Year after year, Amtrak falls deeper into financial ruin. After 34 years — and 29 billion taxpayer dollars later — Amtrak’s mounting financial crisis has put the railroad on a collision course with failure.

But passenger rail service is too important, in too many parts of the country, to just stand by and watch a major mode of transportation strangle under a funding system that is fundamentally irrational. President Bush and I are determined to create a solid future for America’s passenger rail service, and we urge Congress to take swift action on the comprehensive reform proposal we have laid before them.

Amtrak was created in 1970 as a for-profit private company; however, escalating taxpayer bailouts are the only thing now keeping it afloat. Amtrak is the only transportation provider in the country relying on the routes, operations and general business practices developed over a quarter century ago. It has not evolved to meet the demands of today.

With its monopoly status, Amtrak has never been forced to face the realities of the marketplace. For intercity passenger rail to survive and flourish, we must create a system driven by sound economics, where prices and passengers — not politics — determine service.

Some states, recognizing Amtrak’s failures, have given up on the current system in favor of one that provides greater local control over train schedules, stations and customer service. However, under the present system, the federal government cannot provide any support to these states and their initiatives because most federal intercity passenger rail dollars go to Amtrak.

Our plan would create a federal-state partnership not unlike other federal transportation programs, which would allow states to decide what passenger rail service was needed and who would operate it. The federal government would provide a dollar-for-dollar match for track, train and station improvements, and let the states decide how and where to use the investments.

Amtrak would become a pure operating company under our plan, competing with other rail providers to run trains between cities designated by the states. Amtrak would be relieved of the burden of infrastructure upkeep, turning its focus to one thing — running the trains on time.

The answer to our intercity passenger rail problems is not throwing more money into a failed enterprise. The answer is top-to-bottom reform. The Bush administration has a plan to put intercity passenger rail service in America on a sustainable path for the future, where travelers can count on reliable, efficient and cost-effective service. - Opinion, Norman Y. Mineta, U.S. Secretary of Transportation, The Portland Tribune, courtesy Larry W. Grant
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Board assured bridge is not a trick to bring light rail in

A new bridge across the Columbia River will not be used to sneak light-rail service into Clark County, Washington, highway officials promised Wednesday.

In a requested briefing on the estimated $1 billion bridge project, Oregon and Washington transportation leaders pledged there will be public debate on mass transit. One option, they said, could be a system of special lanes for express buses.

Light rail has been a Clark County hot button since voters rejected a train system 10 years ago. The topic comes up frequently even though C-Tran, the county's transit district, has denied any interest in linking to TriMet's light-rail system.

County commissioners asked for the briefing because two of the three board members took office in the past five months. Commissioner Steve Stuart also served in 2001-02 on a planning panel that suggested a new river crossing.

A series of task forces and partnerships have looked at the current Interstate 5 bridge and the freeway itself as a bottleneck for freight. The most recent study by a 28-member bi-state committee ended in 2002, with several options proposed.

Officials from the Washington State Department of Transportation, the Oregon Department of Transportation, and the Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council, as well as Columbia River Crossing Project directors from the two states, came to answer questions.

Betty Sue Morris, chairwoman of the Board of County Commissioners, said light rail "is the most volatile issue" in this bridge-building process. She said all the drawings she has seen "include a substantial amount of steel to support light rail." She asked if that indicates decisions about light rail have been made without discussion.

Don Wagner, regional administrator for the Washington's Department of Transportation, responded that nothing has been decided.

"I know the federal transit agency will be at the table and will require a great deal of public discussion," he said.

Matt Garrett, regional administrator for Oregon's Department of Transportation, added, "That conversation will be robust, comprehensive and transparent. We will be dealing with sensitivities on both sides of the river."

Dean Lookingbill, director of the Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council, said talks about the river crossing began in 1996, shortly after Clark County voters rejected light rail.

Lookingbill said the options now range from doing nothing, to a new crossing in downtown Vancouver, to opening a new freeway corridor through Camas or the Port of Vancouver. He said a new corridor farther east or west is unlikely.

The commissioners were shown a sample of possible river crossings. One featured a new highway and light-rail bridge immediately west of the existing Interstate Bridge set at Columbia Street, jogging to connect to the current freeway near the river; another had a bridge for light rail immediately west of the Interstate Bridge, and a new northbound highway bridge, with the existing bridges handling southbound freeway traffic plus carpool lanes.

In response to a question from Morris about sharing costs equally, Wagner said there will be a formal agreement reached soon between Washington and Oregon. He said the agencies are not paying on a matching schedule because the two states and the federal government are on different budget cycles.

Both Morris and Commissioner Marc Boldt also asked whether a test carpool lane in Vancouver will be made permanent or returned to general traffic. That carpool lane remains in use but no new monitoring has been done in more than a year because state and federal funding dried up. The test was to determine if a carpool lane would move more traffic than the freeway's other lanes. Not all of the goals are being met.

Lookingbill said the lane's fate will be discussed at a meeting Tuesday of the Regional Transportation Council. After that, the decision to keep or eliminate the lane will be made by state highway officials and the federal highway agency. Lookingbill said that process could take four to six months, drawing an expression of surprise from Boldt. - Bill Stewart, The Portland Oregonian, courtesy Larry W. Grant
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Consultants release three streetcar plans


Consultants have released three proposed routes for a new Salem, Oregon streetcar system, part of a feasibility study presented to the Salem City Council this week.

All three routes wend through downtown Salem, coming within two blocks of as many city landmarks as possible. They range in length from 3.2 miles to 4.1 miles.

Members of the grass-roots Salem Streetcar Committee are concerned that the routes' price tags -- $55 million to $61 million, depending on length -- are too much, even if federal funds pay for as much as 80 percent of the project.

"You can't come in with a $62 million project and expect it to fly," said RoyJohn Balduc, a downtown jeweler who serves on the committee.

You have to go with a lower number."

Even as they begin searching for state and federal money for the project, committee members will consider alternatives for a shorter fourth route, he said.
However, coming up with a short route that serves a useful purpose will be tough, said Bonnie Nelson, a senior partner of Nelson/Nygaard Consulting Associates, the firm hired to draft the feasibility study.

"The trick is to build a starter line that goes somewhere, that does something, and generates some ridership," Nelson said.

When fully built, the proposed routes could serve 256,000 to 330,000 riders annually, the feasibility report estimates.

Two of the three proposed routes run from the Salem Railroad Station on 13th Street SE through downtown and up to North Broadway, which was chosen as a destination because of its redevelopment potential.

The third route loops from the Salem Civic Center through downtown to the Capitol Mall.

To draw sufficient ridership, the streetcars should run past locations at 15-minute intervals, the report said.

Although there is public support for running the streetcar to West Salem using the Willamette River railroad bridge, the consultants ruled that out as too expensive.

To get to West Salem, the trolley tracks would have to either be in a bridge over or on a tunnel under the railroad tracks that run along the west side of Front Street.

"We don't believe it's financially viable at this time," Nelson said.

The consultants said that if the streetcar system proves to be popular, extensions could be added to West Salem, Keizer, East Salem and other destinations.

The feasibility study cost $50,000 and was paid for jointly by the city, the Salem Downtown Association and Salem-Keizer Transit.

Proponents will have to continue to find local support if they want the project to move forward, said Jeff Hamm, the general manager of the transit district. That includes finding at least one major business to throw its weight behind the proposal.

"Unless there is a champion for this in the private sector, it isn't going to happen for a while," Hamm said. - Dennis Thompson, The Salem Statesman Journal, courtesy Larry W. Grant
 

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King County trying to buy rail corridor for new trail



King County has entered into exclusive negotiations with BNSF Railway to buy a 47-mile rail corridor stretching from Renton to Snohomish County for use as a trail.

If the county succeeds in acquiring the right of way, the new trail would cut through the heart of the Eastside's major cities and could tie into an existing urban-trail network to create a seamless, countywide recreational path.

"This is the pinnacle, the granddaddy of trails," King County Executive Ron Sims, who is leading the effort to acquire the route, said in an interview Friday. "This would become the spine of our system, and we think the public should own it."

Discussions about purchasing the line, which now carries the Spirit of Washington Dinner Train, began quietly about six months ago, said Sims, who planned to announce the talks today. He would not say how much the corridor would cost, except to say it could be purchased without raising taxes.

If the route became a trail, all rail traffic, including the dinner train, would cease on that line.

The negotiations come on the heels of the county's long-awaited success last week with the East Lake Sammamish Trail. After nearly a decade, and more than 20 lawsuits between the county and property owners, that controversial, 11-mile trail was finally approved.

The new trail, besides being a potential boon for recreationists, would almost certainly attract tourists, county planners say. The corridor would connect with the Sammamish River Trail, which in turn links to the Burke-Gilman. It would also tie into the Centennial Trail, which now runs from Snohomish to Arlington.When the trails are complete, an uninterrupted route could be possible from Renton to Skagit County.

(continued: click above link for full story)
 

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wow, great thread, this is interesting stuff. I need to take amtrak from Pasco to Seattle one of these days, I'm going to go check out prices right now...

GVNY, do you know what route we would take for that? Stampede Pass?



EDIT: Nevermind, I would go down to Portland, then up to Seattle. All day trip, but it would still be fun.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
WoW! I stopped updating this thread as I thought no one cared!

And no, you wouldn't take Stampede as of now. Someday you sure will. There are two ways you could get this trip done. The Gorge route via Vancouver or through Stevens, but I believe the Gorge is your best bet.
 

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^Yeah. Did you take Amtrak from NY to Tacoma when you moved here?



You know what, I was reading up on Talgo, Inc. I never knew it was based in Seattle(as well as their american trains are assembled there. That's pretty cool. I was reading on their website that the Amtrak Cascades is #1 in costumer satisfaction and the fastest growing market in the states.

You'd think Talgo will grow because of this, and provide trains and services to other Amtrak routes. It already has a train running from Las Vegas to Los Angeles, so maybe it will become, like the premier passenger train maker in the states. :D
 
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