News Releases

Senator Murray Announces $750,000 in Funding for Sounder Commuter Rail between Seattle and Everett

Oct 01 2004

Federal matching funds will assist in improving of commuter rail service that provides more efficient alternative to congested freeways

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) announced today that money she secured will be used to help increase service and efficiency on Sound Transit's Sounder commuter rail, which transports commuters between the densely populated urban areas between Seattle and Everett. The funding will specifically go towards environmental permitting and mitigation for future implementation of additional passenger service in the federally designated Pacific Northwest high-speed rail corridor between Everett and Seattle.

"This is an exciting announcement for traffic-weary commuters in the Puget Sound," said Murray, ranking member on the Senate Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee. "Sounder is already popular among commuters between Seattle and Everett, and this funding will help Sound Transit improve service for those who live and work in the area."

The Sound Transit Sounder Everett to Seattle commuter rail project is part of the regional transportation system approved by Puget Sound voters in 1996. Currently, Sounder operates on track owned by the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railroad Company (BNSF). The new track would increase efficiency by allowing BNSF, Amtrak, and Sounder more of these trains to use the route at the same time.

The original tracks were built along the shores of Puget Sound over 100 years ago. Hundreds of acres of sensitive marine shorelands, at the base of steep unstable bluffs, were filled to establish the original rail corridor. Portions of the corridor also lie within the lower estuary of the Snohomish River, also a sensitive environmental area that is home to several species of fish and wildlife protected by the Endangered Species Act.

Several track and signal improvements are needed to safely accommodate new commuter rail service along with ever-increasing freight traffic. The most significant of these improvements involves adding a second track in three separate segments of the corridor where landslides have reduced the rail corridor to a single track.

In January of 2004 Sound Transit and BNSF finalized agreements for the corridor improvements, after which environmental permitting and the associated mitigation planning began. These federal matching funds will assist in the environmental permitting and mitigation efforts Sound Transit will undertake in conjunction with federal, state, and local agencies.

"We want to thank Senator Murray on behalf of our customers and taxpayers," said Sound Transit Board Chair/Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg. "These funds will speed up the environmental permitting process for Sounder between Everett and Seattle which, in turn, will speed up the process of adding service on that line."