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FRA celebrates Pacific Northwest rail improvements

FRA celebrates Pacific Northwest rail improvements

Tukwila Station construction and mudslide mitigation underway

One of the highlights of my four and a half years as Transportation Secretary has been the progress we've made speeding up intercity passenger rail. Americans are riding the rails in record numbers, and thanks to President Obama's vision for high-speed rail, DOT is working hard to ensure they can ride at higher speeds.

And yesterday, Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph Szabo helped celebrate another milestone in that effort, the groundbreaking of a new passenger rail station in Tukwila, Washington.

Photo of the Sounder Station groundbreaking in Tukwila
Tukwila Station groundbreaking, photo courtesy Dean Radford, Tukwila Reporter

A key part of preparing our nation's transportation infrastructure for the 21st century involves bringing more good transportation choices to Americans, and the Tukwila Station will do exactly that. The Pacific Northwest is home to one of the busiest intercity passenger rail corridors in the nation, running between Vancouver, British Columbia, and Eugene, Oregon. Tukwila lies along the busiest segment on this service--between Portland and Seattle--which is expected to see a 50 percent jump in ridership in the next five years alone.

The multimodal project includes construction of the new station--including two new platforms--a parking lot with long-term parking for Amtrak patrons, an improved pedestrian underpass, and enhanced passenger amenities.

The outcome? A modernized train station that enables customers to make safe, easy connections to Amtrak's Cascades line, Sound Transit's (ST) Sounder commuter rail, ST Express buses, and King County's Metro Transit bus service.

Architect's rendering of the Tukwila Station

Improving connections between car, rail, and transit for thousands of area residents and visitors is good for travelers, good for businesses, and good for our environment. And, with passenger rail capturing close to 70 percent of the Seattle-Portland market, it just makes sense.

As Administrator Szabo said, “With congestion already costing Seattle and Portland $2.7 billion annually, it's important that we improve safety, reliability and trip times.”

It's the kind of project this Department has championed for the past four years and the kind of project this Administration will continue to champion.

And, as Administrator Szabo noted yesterday, our commitment to the region's passenger rail service does not end there. The Tukwila Station is only one of more than 20 federally-funded projects now strengthening the Pacific Northwest intercity rail network. In addition to modernizing stations, we're improving signals and adding track capacity.

We're also investing close to $16 million exclusively to address the critical issue of mudslides and debris flow. Projects will begin this summer in six locations and will include stabilization efforts and new maintenance and warning measures, including catchment walls.

Touring this stabilization zone, Administrator Szabo said, “The slope stabilization project set to begin this summer is fundamental to safety and will enhance reliability for passengers and freight.”

This rail activity in the Pacific Northwest is one more way that we're helping states, local governments, and the private sector invest in the transportation network our economy needs and that the American people deserve.

It's an effort we began four and a half years ago, and it's an effort I am still proud of today.

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