$322 million improvements to Tacoma/Seattle rail corridor will have long-term benefits for passenger and freight trains region-wide

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TUKWILA, WA - A major agreement in principle that will improve rail passenger and freight mobility throughout the Pacific Northwest was announced today by a joint partnership between Sound Transit - the Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority - and the Washington state Department of Transportation, Amtrak, The Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railroad Company (BNSF), Union Pacific Railroad and the Ports of Seattle and Tacoma. Together, the partnership will accomplish $322 million in extensive improvements to the 40-mile rail line between Tacoma and Seattle. About 25 miles of track will be significantly upgraded and the entire 40-mile line will receive improved and safer railroad crossings and a new signal system. Click here to see the map of improvements.

"Sound Transit thanks and appreciates all our partners for the great spirit of cooperation that makes possible these important investments and improvements in passenger and freight rail service between Tacoma and Seattle," said Tacoma City Councilmember and Sound Transit Board Chair Paul Miller. 

"During the past five years, Amtrak, the state of Washington, railroads and ports have delivered hundreds of millions of dollars in rail improvements to keep passengers and freight moving," Washington state Department of Transportation Secretary Sid Morrison said. "The welcome addition of Sound Transit to the partnership will not only help deliver commuter rail, but also will improve Amtrak Cascades service, freight service and rail safety."

"With one out of four jobs in the state dependent on international trade, the Ports of Puget Sound depend upon competitive rail transportation service," Tacoma Port Commission President Clare Petrich said. "This project will ensure that future port business and passenger rail services will be accommodated over the next decade." 

Amtrak West President Gill Mallery says the joint partnership is a smart way to do business. "This is an excellent example of leveraging of public-private partnerships to meet regional transportation needs. While customers may not see or notice the track improvements, they will benefit from improved efficiencies, more reliable service and reduced operating time," Mallery said.

The Port of Seattle Commission President Patrica Davis agrees that a strong partnership between government and the private sector can benefit the entire region. "Easing congestion and speeding the movement of cargo and people is a top priority of the Port," Davis said. "Our region has a big stake in expanding international trade and these improvements will play a major role in maintaining our economic vitality." 

"Since 1991, The Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad Company has cooperated with regional planners and transit operators to bring improved passenger rail service while accommodating the needs of our customers and those of the ports and Union Pacific," said BNSF Assistant Vice President for Passenger Services and Joint Facilities D.J. Mitchell. "The improvements being funded by each member of the joint partnership will move us forward to accomplishing our shared objectives."

"Union Pacific Railroad is proud to support this important rail project," said Union Pacific Western Regional Vice President Jeff Verhaal. "The joint partnership underscores our desire to work cooperatively with participating communities, ports and Union Pacific customers as we develop a system providing improved service to all."

The Tukwila site was selected for the announcement because it will serve as a joint station for both Sound Transit's Sounder commuter rail and Amtrak's new Cascades service, representing a new wave of partnership for regional passenger rail service.

Sounder commuter rail will offer two-way, peak hour service between Tacoma and Seattle on existing Burlington Northern/Santa Fe tracks targeted to begin by the end of this year. Along with service between Tacoma and Seattle in late 1999, in 2001 Sounder commuter rail will extend service north to Everett and south to Lakewood. Sounder is just one part of Sound Move, the regional transit plan approved by voters in 1996 which also includes the development of 21-miles of Link light rail connecting SeaTac, Tukwila and Seattle; a 1.6-mile downtown Tacoma Link line; and the Regional Express program which includes 17 new limited-stop, two-way ST Express regional bus routes and numerous improvements to transit centers, park-and-ride lots and HOV lanes throughout the region.

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Sound Transit plans, builds and operates regional transit systems and services to improve mobility for Central Puget Sound.