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Washington state seeking $1billion in federal stimulus for rail

(The Associated Press circulated the following on August 29, 2009.)

TACOMA, Wash. Washington state is applying for $1 billion in federal stimulus money to pay for high-speed rail projects.

The state Department of Transportation applied earlier this week for $435 million to pay for 20 rail projects along the "high-speed" corridor between Eugene, Ore. and Vancouver, B.C. State officials say the projects will add additional daily Amtrak passenger trains between Seattle and Portland, as well as reduce rail congestion and improve on-time reliability.

The project list includes upgrades to tracks and facilities in Blaine, Everett, Seattle, Kalama and Vancouver.

By October, the state plans to apply for another batch of federal money for rail projects, boosting Washington's total request to $1 billion.

Andrew Wood, deputy director of DOT's Rail and Marine Division, said the state has a good chance of getting money for several projects.

"We're a long-established corridor and our long-range plans have been out there for a long time," Wood told the News Tribune of Tacoma. "A lot of our competitors have only just started getting their plans together."

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act signed in February provides $8 billion for high-speed rail corridors.

Wood said the state should know by October which of Washington's projects would get federal money. All of the projects on the state's $435 million list would be ready to go to construction within 90 days of getting money. He said the total list of projects would create between 4,000 and 5,000 jobs.

Two projects would speed up Amtrak passenger trains by letting them bypass the scenic but congested route around Tacoma's Point Defiance. A more direct route for passengers trains would shave six minutes off the travel time for Amtrak Cascades trains between Seattle and Portland.

Another project would build 3.5 miles of new track and replace 10.5 miles of old railroad tracks on the main line that runs from Nisqually through Lakewood and South Tacoma.

In Vancouver, the state wants to construct new railroad tracks for freight trains to prevent delays for passenger trains.

In Blaine, the state is also seeking money to provide new siding track to allow freight trains awaiting customs inspections to move out of the way of oncoming passenger trains.

Monday, August 31, 2009

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