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First Hill Streetcar: Funded and Moving Forward!

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This was a great week for rail news! We posted an article on high-speed trains a few days ago and now we have word that the Sound Transit Board has finalized $132.8 million in funding for the First Hill Streetcar line. Covering a 2 ½-mile route, construction is expected to begin in 2011 and finish in 2013.

Plans are to link the First Hill Streetcar line to the Capitol Hill and Chinatown/International Districts. Stops are planned at nearby light rail stops, the medical centers of Harborview, Swedish, and Virginia Mason, plus Seattle Central Community College and Seattle University.

Monies for the line were approved by the voters two years ago, but initial plans were being made to put an underground light rail stop on First Hill. This has now been officially scrapped due to construction problems and the cost to cover them.  Steps are now being taken to select a general contractor/ construction manager, and is expected to be awarded the week of December 13th.

Finally, before the first shovel of dirt is ceremoniously turned for the First Hill line, the City Council needs to decide two outstanding issues.  The first is where to place the terminals in Pioneer Square.  Community meetings will be set up with local residents and business leaders to determine the best locations, and then submitted for a vote. The second is for a maintenance yard and barn. Two sites under consideration are the city’s Charles Street Shops at South Dearborn and 8th Avenue South, and at a block bordered by East Yesler Way, Boren and 12th Avenues, plus East Fir Street.  The latter choice is owned by the Seattle Housing Authority, and would need their approval.

Down the track, the First Hill line could be extended another half a mile at its most northern stop on Capitol Hill, as well as extending a mile into downtown to connect to the South Lake Union line.  The extensions would need federal funding, but it’s expected that their grants of up to $75 million could cover both projects.  

For more project info, just click on this link.

High-Speed Rail Plans Still On Track

October 29, 2010 by  
Filed under Featured, MISC, Puget Sound Region

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An October 28th press release issued by Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood announced the second round of recipients receiving funding under the High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail (HSIPR) Program. Guess who got $18.2 million for King Street station? The Seattle Department of Transportation will use the funds to continue building restoration and seismic retrofitting work, adding security features, and implementing ease-of-use enhancements.

The funding didn’t stop there. A $9 million award will go towards Sound Transit’s new Tukwila station, providing service for both commuter and the Amtrak Cascades line. Another $3.3 million will help build siding tracks (passing lanes for trains), improving reliability for both freight and passenger trains. Currently, Amtrak shares the rails with Union Pacific, with UP getting the right of way if trains need to use a track at the same time. Finally, $400,000 was allocated to develop a WSDOT state rail plan better integrating freight and passenger service.

Portland and Eugene, Oregon weren’t forgotten either. A $4.2 million grant pays for that corridor’s planning and environmental studies. An additional $4 million will fund a preliminary engineering and environmental study for renovations and track improvements at Portland’s historic Union Station to increase capacity, enhance reliability, and reduce congestion.

HSIPR is intended to help address the country’s transportation challenges by investing in an efficient network of passenger rail corridors connecting communities nationwide. Check out the map below. The solid lines represent high-speed rail work underway, the dotted lines represent where high speed rail will eventually get to.

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For our area, the goal is to develop a dedicated track all the way from Eugene, Oregon to Vancouver, BC where trains will operate up to 150 miles per hour. In January 2010, the Obama Administration awarded the Pacific Northwest area $598 million in stimulus money to help make this happen.

King Street Station serves more than 3 million intercity rail passengers annually on Amtrak’s Coast Starlight, Empire Builder, and Cascades routes. It also serves 13 daily Sound Transit commuter trains. 

King Street Station serves more than 3 million intercity rail passengers annually on Amtrak’s Coast Starlight, Empire Builder, and Cascades routes. It also serves 13 daily Sound Transit commuter trains.  Here are links if you’d like  more information on the King Street Restoration project, and the Washington/Oregon corridor.