WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), the Ranking Member on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, announced that the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) will receive $3,719,000 from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to implement critical landslide mitigation measures along the Pacific Northwest rail corridor.
The funding from FRA, to be matched by state and private funding, will be used for Phase III of WSDOT’s Pacific Northwest Rail Corridor Reliability – Landslide Mitigation Program. Landslides along the coastal bluffs north of Seattle have disrupted passenger and freight rail service for years, and Phase III of the Program will serve a busy section of the rail corridor south of Mukilteo that has a history of slides leading to rail line closures. The area hosts 14 passenger trains and an average of 21 freight trains each day, and a total of more than 740,000 passengers travel through the area every year. Each landslide that reaches the tracks causes a 48-hour moratorium for passenger trains, severely disrupting rail service and leaving passengers to find other transportation options.
“With grant funding, WSDOT will improve slope stability in three locations in Snohomish County that have seen numerous landslides. This will provide a safer route for both passenger and freight rail, reduce delays for passenger rail service, decrease the number of vehicles added on the highway during closures and reduce delays for freight trains,” Senator Cantwell wrote in a letter of support for the grant in August.
Phase I of the Landslide Mitigation Program was completed in 2016 and invested more than $17 million in federal ARRA funds to reduce the risk of landslides at six landslide prone sites between Seattle and Everett. These landslide reduction projects included catchment walls to stop debris from reaching tracks, slope stabilization and drainage improvements, and slide warning fences. Phase II of the Program is currently underway, investing more than $10.9 million of federal, state and private sector funding for landslide mitigation measures at six additional sites. Since completion of these improvement projects, no landslides have reached the tracks in those upgraded areas to disrupt train service.
The federal funding comes from the Federal Railroad Administration’s Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) program, which provides funding for capital projects that will improve passenger and freight rail transportation systems in terms of safety, efficiency, or reliability.