September 28, 2022

All Aboard Washington’s 2023 Legislative Priorities

AAWA presented at the Rail Caucus meeting in the Tri-Cities on September 28. We received an enthusiastic reception from legislators from around the state.

AAWA’s goal is to provide robust, safe, and convenient passenger rail service that 

  • Integrates with the local transit improvements in which the state has invested in 2022.
  • Provides economic benefits to local communities in all areas of the state.
  • Provides environmental improvements as called for in the Climate Commitment Act.
  • Improves equity of mobility options for underserved communities.

Now is the time for next steps toward considering East-West passenger rail service via Burlington Northern Santa Fe tracks (Stampede Pass).  This is an essential statewide corridor providing access to and from the national network for underserved, burgeoning and diverse population centers in Kittitas County, Yakima County, the Yakama Nation, Benton County, and Franklin County.

Estimated East-West service ridership, compared to other state-supported services (click to enlarge):

Conduct a Benefit-Cost Analysis (BCA)


  • Is a tool that can be used to support funding decisions for long-term infrastructure investments.
  • Is required for U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) discretionary grant programs.
  • Assesses and quantifies the net benefit of a project to society by measuring factors such as safety (reduced fatalities, injuries, property damage), emission reductions, reduced vehicle miles traveled,  value of improved service, reliability, and quality.

Conduct an Economic Impact Analysis (EIA)

An EIA measures economic impacts that are not part of a BCA.  Common metrics used for measuring economic impacts include:

  • Retail spending
  • Business activity
  • Local tax revenues
  • Jobs & wage income

An EIA is another tool that decision-makers can use to evaluate the merits of long-term investment in the project.

Submit an “expression of interest” letter to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA)

FRA is requesting “expression of interest” letters in establishing new intercity passenger rail routes [Federal Register Notice dated 5/13/2022: “Establishment of the Corridor Identification and Development program”].

FRA intends for the Corridor ID program to become the primary means for directing Federal financial support and technical assistance toward development of new or improved passenger rail services throughout the United States. The USDOT Secretary is required to give funding priority to routes that are selected for the Corridor ID program.

Corridor ID funding will be require little or no local match, as shown by this FRA slide (click to enlarge).

The letter should express Washington State interest for including the Seattle -  Stampede Pass - Spokane route in the Corridor ID program for purposes of supporting:

  • Long-distance service from Chicago to Seattle via Stampede Pass (restoration of discontinued Amtrak North Coast Hiawatha).
  • Potential for additional service between Seattle and Spokane over the same route.

Establish an Interstate Rail Compact

An Interstate Rail Compact would initially include Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana. 

The primary purposes are to:

  • Advocate for funding and authorization necessary to make passenger rail improvements a reality for the region.
  • Seek development of a long-term, interstate plan for high-speed passenger rail service.
  • Identify and seek to develop ways that states can form partnerships, including with rail operators and labor, to implement improved passenger rail in the region.
  • Cooperate with other agencies, regions, and entities to ensure that the region is adequately represented and integrated into national plans for passenger rail development.
  • Educate state officials, federal agencies, and members of Congress to ensure funding and authorization necessary to develop a long-term interstate plan for passenger rail service including high-speed passenger rail service implementation.

A competitive Federal grant program for interstate rail compacts is available through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to cover costs of administration, systems planning, and operations coordination. Local matching funds are required.   

Recent Press Coverage

Interest in upgrading passenger rail service is growing throughout the region.

Best of the West: Regional investments in trains | Western Governors' Association

Idaho leaders push for Amtrak service from Boise to Utah | Idaho Statesman

Rock Springs City Council Hears Pitch on Return of Passenger Train Service

All Aboard Northwest stops in La Grande to advocate for passenger rail

Do Utah and the West need more passenger trains? These groups make the argument