November 8, 2021

AAWA News, November 8, 2021

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The Investment in Infrastructure and Jobs Act (IIJA)

The Investment in Infrastructure and Jobs Act (IIJA) passed last week. US Rep. Pramila Jayapal (WA-07) calls it “the largest Federal investment in passenger rail since the creation of Amtrak: $66 billion including $24 billion as federal-state partnerships, $12 billion for intercity rail service, and additional funding for freight rail.” IIJA also includes several provisions of interest to the Northwest, including:

Sec. 22208. Passenger Experience Enhancement: Eliminates requirement that food and beverage services on trains may only be provided if their revenues break even during a fiscal year. This section also directs Amtrak to establish a working group—including nonprofit organizations representing Amtrak passengers—to develop recommendations to improve Amtrak’s onboard food and beverage services.

Sec. 22210. Protecting Amtrak Routes through Rural Communities: Prohibits Amtrak from discontinuing, reducing the frequency of, suspending, or substantially altering the route on any segment of any long-distance route if Amtrak receives adequate funding for that route.

Sec. 22212. Enhancing Cross Border Service: Requires Amtrak to report to Congress on how to improve Amtrak passenger rail service between the United States and Canada, identifying challenges such as delays associated with customs and immigration inspections.

Sec. 22214. Amtrak Daily Long-Distance Service Study: Directs the U.S. DOT to conduct a study to evaluate the restoration of daily intercity rail passenger service along any Amtrak long-distance routes that has been discontinued, and any Amtrak long-distance routes that, as of the date of enactment of this Act, occur on a nondaily basis.

Sec. 22306. Interstate Rail Compacts: Establishes a competitive grant program to provide Federal funding for interstate rail compacts—analogous to the Southern Rail Commission which has led the Gulf Coast Restoration project. AAWA is working with our friends in Oregon, Idaho, Montana and elsewhere to make this happen.

Sec. 22307. Federal-State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail Grants: Requires at least 45% of the funds go to projects not located on the NEC (20% of non-NEC funds must benefit long-distance routes).

Sec. 22308. Corridor Identification and Development Program: Requires the USDOT to establish a program to add and improve intercity passenger rail corridors. 

More details are available on the Rail Passengers Association website. Thanks to our congressional delegation for supporting this groundbreaking legislation. 

Service on the Point Defiance Bypass

Final testing for this long-delayed service is underway, and we understand that revenue service should be available soon.

Update: Service on the bypass will begin Thursday, November 18. The first southbound will be 503, leaving Seattle at 7:25 am. The first northbound train from Portland will be 500, leaving Olympia at 10:13 am.

Cascades Service to Vancouver BC Still on Hold

Today, the US opened its borders to fully-vaccinated passengers, but cross-border rail service remains on hold. “Amtrak Cascades is waiting for both countries to finalize protocols for train passengers crossing the border — particularly related to vaccine verification processes and negative COVID tests,” Washington State Department of Transportation Rail, Freight and Ports Division spokeswoman Janet Matkin tells Trains News Wire. “Once those protocols are in place and Amtrak has incorporated them into its onboarding processes, we will announce a date for resumption of service to Vancouver, B.C. Tickets will go on sale at the same time.”

AAWA Co-Hosted the Week Without Driving

What is it like to try to get around your community without driving yourself? For people who can drive, and can afford a car, this isn’t something you think about. But for nearly a quarter of the people in our state – people with disabilities, young people, seniors and people who can’t afford cars or gas, this is our every day.

We challenged our elected leaders and transportation and transit agency staff to join us for our Week Without Driving, as the decisions they make around transportation planning, policies and funding impact all of us.

Rail Caucuses

With the help of AAWA Government Affairs Director Luis Moscoso, the Oregon Legislature is putting together a Rail Caucus similar to the existing Washington Legislative Rail Caucus. Legislators in both states plan to work together on issues of interest, including improvements to the Amtrak Cascades and rail crossings of the Columbia River.

2022 Activities

In the next few months, AAWA is planning many events, including followup Train Treks, and the 2022 Northwest Rail Forum of the Pacific NorthWest Economic Region in Calgary, Alberta, July 24-28, 2022.

Northwest Rail News

Our friends at AORTA are looking for a new editor for our joint newsletter Northwest Rail News. If you know anyone who may be interested, contact AORTA.

Save the Date!

AAWA’s Annual Meeting will be held virtually on Saturday, December 11. Register now!

Maintain the Momentum - Donate to AAWA Now!

Charlie Hamilton
Co-Executive Director
All Aboard Washington

P. S. If you’re in downtown Tacoma, be on the lookout for our other Co-Executive Director Patrick Carnahan. He’s an operator on the soon-to-be-extended Sound Transit Tacoma Link (T Line).