Rail projects will speed freight, make more Amtrak trains possible in Pacific Northwest

October 18, 2015

If you want to hop on an Amtrak train in Kelso and go to Seattle for the day, the first train leaves at 9:10 a.m. and arrives at the King Street Station at noon. You have six precious hours in Seattle before the last train back home departs.Website Insert State Supported Passenger Trains copy

That will change in 2017, thanks in part to $171 million of construction work underway near Kalama and Kelso.

By the time the work is done two years from now, about eight miles of a third rail line will be built through Kelso and near Kalama so that freight trains can get out of the way as Amtrak’s sleek units clack by.

The work will result in fewer late trains — and two more northbound and southbound trains a day, according to Frank Green, the project manager for the state Department of Transportation.

Train rides between Portland and Seattle should get at least 10 minutes faster, Green said, and the goal is for trains to arrive on time 88 percent of the time, compared to 73.1 percent now.

Amtrak has been a political football for decades, with politicians debating how much federal funding should go to the government-supported company.

Still, about $800 million of federal stimulus money went to Washington in 2009 for work on the railroad, including the local projects.

Amtrak ridership in Washington has declined from 848,000 in 2011 to 781,000 in 2014, according to WSDOT.

See photos and maps and read the fully story by reporter Tom Paulu in TDN.com by clicking here.


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