Sounder commuter train service moving forward with historic agreements on operations and $310 million in capital improvements with the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway Company
Sounder commuter train service between Tacoma and Seattle will have use of The Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway Company (BNSF) tracks for 40 years, and the mobility of passenger and freight trains throughout the Pacific Northwest will improve, thanks to historic agreements signed between Sound Transit and BNSF.
The agreement guarantees 18 Sounder commuter trips per day plus options for additional mid-day and special event service on 40 miles of BNSF track between Tacoma and Seattle. Sounder service is scheduled to begin this fall with two trains in the morning from Tacoma to Seattle and two trains in the evening from Seattle to Tacoma. To pay for BNSF train crews to operate Sounder trains, regular track maintenance and other related BNSF expenses for the full 18 trips between Tacoma and Seattle, Sound Transit will pay about $4 million per year - well within the budget set by the Sound Transit Board and the Sound Move plan approved by voters in 1996. Service will ramp up to the full 18 trips per day as major track, safety, signal and communications improvements are completed.
Enhancing rail safety and the future mobility of both passenger and freight trains throughout the region will be made possible by a $310 million package of improvements to the 40-mile route between Tacoma and Seattle. The extensive list includes $190 million for track upgrades, $90 million for a centralized traffic control signal system, $20 million for improved safety and grade crossings and $20 million for telecommunications. Of the $310 million, Sound Transit will provide $225 million, the Puget Sound Regional Council $60 million and the remaining $25 million from other public and private sources including $8 million from BNSF. Sounder will service will eventually span 82 miles from Everett to Lakewood by 2001/2002.
Riders won't have to wait until this fall to enjoy Sounder service. Sound Transit is offering Sunday rides from Tacoma to Seattle to Seattle Mariner games on June 25, July 9 and July 23 leaving Tacoma's Amtrak Station at 11:30 a.m. and arrive less than an hour later at Seattle's King Street Station, well before the first pitch at 1:35 p.m. Tickets are $5 round trip, half price for seniors and people with disabilities and children under 12 ride free.
"We're excited to be moving forward with Sounder commuter train service between Tacoma and Seattle, and proud that our investments will improve rail safety and the future service of freight and passenger trains," said Sound Transit Board Chair and Edmonds City Councilmember Dave Earling.
"Since the early 1990's, BNSF has been working with Sound Transit and its predecessors to initiate commuter rail service in central Puget Sound. We are pleased that we are moving closer to making commuter service a reality for this community in the near future" said BNSF Assistant Vice President of Passenger Operations DJ Mitchell.
Voter-approved in 1996, Sound Transit is on track to implement a three-county regional transit system plan known as Sound Move. Along with Sounder commuter rail, Sound Move includes Link light rail, a 21-mile system connecting the cities of Seattle, Tukwila and SeaTac and a 1.6 mile system in Tacoma; and Regional Express, featuring 18 new ST Express limited stop, long-haul bus routes and numerous improvements to transit centers, park-and-ride lots and HOV lanes.
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Sound Transit plans, builds and operates regional transit systems and services to improve mobility for Central Puget Sound.