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OIL TRAINS/TRANSPORTATION: In 2015 Spending Bill, Murray Includes Safety Measures for Oil Trains, Directs Investments to Seattle, Vancouver, Walla Walla, and Pullman

Dec 10 2014

OIL TRAINS: Murray sets January 15 deadline for new oil tank car safety standards from DOT, funds new safety institute for short line railroads that carry oil through smaller, rural communities

Spending bill made possible by two-year budget agreement negotiated by Senator Murray and Congressman Paul Ryan

(Washington, D.C.)  Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD), announced that she has secured critical federal funding for transportation projects and housing programs in Washington state in the 2015 government funding bill released last night.  The bill is expected to pass the House of Representatives and the Senate in the coming days.

The 2015 omnibus appropriations bill was made possible by the bipartisan budget deal that Senator Murray reached last December with U.S. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) that prevented another government shutdown, rolled back cuts to investments in education, research, and jobs—and restored certainty to the federal budget process. 

“From protecting communities across Washington state against the impacts of increasing oil train traffic to investing in transit projects in Seattle and airport construction projects in Walla Walla and Pullman, the 2015 transportation bill includes significant wins for Washington state,” said Senator Murray.  “To support Eastern Washington communities like Pullman and Walla Walla, we’ve changed the federal airport funding program to save several local airports millions of dollars in infrastructure costs.  In Seattle, we’ve invested nearly $90 million to complete the University Link light rail extension, and in Southwest Washington, we’ve invested roughly $40 million for C-TRAN’s Bus Rapid Transit system.  These investments make a big difference for our economy, and I’m proud to have fought for them in the Appropriations process.”

“In Washington state, we’ve seen a startling increase in oil train traffic through communities of all sizes, from downtown Seattle to smaller, rural communities across the state.  That’s why I worked to set a deadline for the Department of Transportation to issue new safety standards for tank cars next month and worked to fund a Short Line Railroad Safety Institute that will help protect smaller communities without sufficient resources to respond to oil trains—and I am going to stay on top of the Administration to make sure that this process moves quickly and protects the interests of Washington state families.”

A list of selected projects and programs that benefit Washington state secured by Senator Murray is below:

Oil train-related safety measures:

  • A January 15, 2015 deadline for DOT to issue a final rule for new tank car design standards
  • Mandated comprehensive oil spill response plans for rail carriers
  • Funding for a new Short Line Railroad Safety Institute for safety training for short line railroads transporting crude and ethanol, which Senator Murray and her Republican counterpart, Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), have called for.
    • Map of short line railroads in Washington state
    • $10 million for grants to improve safety at railroad grade crossings that handle crude oil or other hazardous flammable liquids
    • 15 new hazardous materials and rail safety inspectors
    • $3 million to expand the use of automated track inspections to ensure proper track maintenance on crude oil routes, covering 14,000 miles of rack nationwide
    • A new, web-based hazardous materials emergency response training program to help tribes and local agencies prepare for potential rail accidents involving crude oil
    • Continued research into:
      • The volatility of Bakken crude oil (which is transported through Washington state)
      • Bulk tank car design standards for tank cars carrying liquefied natural gas (LNG)
      • Retrofitting existing tank cars to meet stronger new safety standards

Pullman/Walla Walla:

  • Changes to the federal Airport Improvement Program (AIP) that could save the Pullman-Moscow and Walla Walla airports millions of dollars in infrastructure costs.
    • Despite serving communities in both Idaho and Washington state, the Pullman-Moscow Regional Airport is only eligible for federal infrastructure investments at a Washington state-specific rate of 90% of project costs, significantly lower than the Idaho-specific rate of 93.75%.  Senator Murray included a provision in today’s bill that will allow the Pullman-Moscow Regional Airport to receive more federal funding, at a rate averaged between Washington state’s and Idaho’s.
    • The Pullman – Moscow Regional Airport is currently completing an Environmental Assessment for an approximately $80 million AIP project to ensure the airport’s sole runway meets Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) design standards.  Under the Washington state-specific federal investment rate of 90%, local cost of this project would be approximately $8 million.  Under Senator Murray’s provision, however, the local cost of improvements would be reduced significantly and the community would receive additional federal funds for the project.
    • Under Senator Murray’s provision, the Walla Walla Regional Airport would also be eligible to receive higher rates of federal investment for infrastructure projects, because it serves communities in both Washington state and Oregon, which has the same 93.75% federal investment rate that Idaho does. 

Seattle/Puget Sound:

  • $89.7 million for the University Link light rail extension in Seattle (the final year of funding for the project).
  • Language that encourages the Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Transit Administration to work with states, like Washington, as they plan transportation systems to better withstand the impacts of climate change.
  • Language that encourages the Federal Highway Administration to track bike and pedestrian incidents and accidents as part of its Highway Safety Improvement Program.
  • Language that continues to exempt King County Metro Transit from the Department of Transportation’s charter bus rule.

Vancouver/Southwest Washington:

  • $38.7 million for the C-TRAN Fourth Plain Bus Rapid Transit in Vancouver

Spokane:

  • Changes the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD), which Senator Murray created in 2012, to allow the Spokane Housing Authority to apply to extend the affordability of 50 units of elderly disabled housing for 40 years and replace 75 units of affordable housing with 225 new units.
    • Other Washington state housing authorities, including those in Tacoma, Walla Walla, and the City of Kelso, could also benefit.

Tri-Cities:

  • $5 million for the Federal Aviation Administration Center of Excellence for Alternative Jet Fuels and Environment, co-led by Washington State University

Statewide funding and programs:

  • $597 million in highway formula funding for Washington state
  • $500 million for the TIGER grant program, an innovative program created by Senator Murray which funds a wide variety of transportation projects in Washington state and nationwide, including roads and bridges, public transit, freight and passenger rail, ports, and bike and pedestrian trails. 
    • Past projects in Washington state that have been awarded funding under the program include the North Spokane Corridor in Spokane, the Mercer Corridor Redevelopment project in Seattle, the South Park Bridge Replacement in King County, and improvements to 1-5 to relieve congestion around Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

  • $227 million in transit formula funding for Washington state.
  • Language to improve working relationships between FAA field offices and aviation stakeholders, including WA-based airlines.
  • Language urging the Federal Highway Administration to provide timely payments from the Emergency Relief program to communities affected by recent disasters like the landslide in Oso.
  • Language that encourages the Federal Highway Administration to test regional approaches to innovative finance, like the one used by the West Coast Exchange (a partnership among Washington, Oregon, California, and British Columbia).
  • Language that encourages the Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Transit Administration to work with states, like Washington, as they plan transportation systems to better withstand the impacts of climate change.
  • Language that encourages the Federal Highway Administration to track bike and pedestrian incidents and accidents as part of its Highway Safety Improvement Program.