Agreement earmarks $590 million for Amtrak upgrades

Agreement earmarks $590 million for Amtrak upgrades
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OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington state will get $590 million in federal stimulus money under a new agreement that calls for improving the Amtrak rail corridor from Portland to Seattle, Gov. Chris Gregoire said.

The agreement was signed between the state Department of Transportation and the Federal Railroad Administration.

The $590 million initially was awarded in early 2010, and this new agreement guarantees the money.

Separately, another agreement was signed that outlines how the funding will be used to improve service on the Seattle-to-Portland route. Some key points in that agreement:

• Two additional daily Amtrak Cascades round trips will be added between Seattle and Portland, for a total six, by 2017.

• On-time reliability is expected to increase from 62 to 88 percent.

• More consistent speeds will be possible throughout the corridor, resulting in faster travel times between Seattle and Portland.

• Major construction projects will be completed that will include building bypass tracks to allow for increased train frequency and multiple upgrades to existing track.

• Several safety-related projects will be completed that will make passenger travel times shorter with more reliable on-time service.

"This is another great development for our state in that this rail work will generate thousands of highly skilled construction and operating jobs and result in important improvements in rail passenger service," Gregoire said.

Ridership continues to grow on Amtrak Cascades, with a 10 percent increase between 2009 and 2010. Since Amtrak Cascades service began in 1994, annual ridership has increased from 100,000 to 840,000 last year.