January 25, 2022
AAWA's 2022 Legislative Priorities
All Aboard Washington believes that passenger rail can bring significant economic, environmental, and equity benefits to communities throughout the state.
To this end, All Aboard Washington is a member of the It Takes Transportation coalition, whose goal is a transformative approach to transportation that meets our needs for health, safety, and affordability, and addresses climate, social, and economic justice. We are also a member of the Washington Can’t Wait Campaign, which supports changes to the Growth Management Act.
We support the major provisions of the transportation budget focusing on these issues. As our top priorities in 2022, we ask for the support needed to:
- Restore Snohomish, Skagit, and Whatcom Cascades Service
Amtrak Cascades passenger rail service north of Seattle has been discontinued throughout the pandemic. WSDOT, Amtrak, BNSF Railroad and border authorities are negotiating the procedures needed to restart service. The transportation budget needs to include the funding necessary to restart service as soon as feasible.
- Expand Research on a Complete Statewide Passenger Rail Network
Virginia is building a statewide passenger rail network for one-third the cost of a single highway project. Such a statewide network would provide frequent and faster trains on existing infrastructure, while planning for high-speed rail is underway. Meeting our state’s climate goals and addressing our mobility justice issues mean making trains a competitive travel option. The Washington State Rail Plan (2019-2040) states, "More planning is needed to develop an intercity passenger rail system in Washington." (p. 52) We must recommit to realizing the plan in this decade.
Central to a statewide network would be East-West passenger rail service. Initial studies have already been completed; the next step will be to determine costs, benefits, and economic impact to underserved communities, including the value of improved mobility, equity, and other benefits. We request that funding be included for this research.
- Form a Rail Advisory Committee
Rail stakeholders in Oregon can provide feedback to a Rail Advisory Committee that reports directly to ODOT. The Washington Ferry Riders Opinion Group provides a means to represent ferry riders. Washington needs its own rail advisory committee to improve communication between WSDOT and the public.
- Increase Rail Safety
Safety is AAWA's first priority. We support HB 1418, legislation that improves the safety of travel by train.
AAWA asks that groundwork be laid for these priorities in 2023 and beyond:
- Activate County Rail Districts
County rail districts (CRDs), established under RCW 36.60, are an option for funding rail infrastructure improvements in Washington. Counties with an existing CRD, such as Kittitas County, can receive matching funding from the state that applies to local rail projects.
- Improve Regional Corridor Management
Amtrak Cascades is sponsored by both Oregon and Washington. Improving coordination between ODOT and WSDOT will help Cascades build upon the success it has experienced over the past several years.
- Create a Northwest Rail Compact
Regional Rail Compacts are authorized by Sec. 22306 of the Investment in Infrastructure and Jobs Act (IIJA). Such a compact, composed of Northwest states, would help make Northwest Region-wide intercity rail projects a reality by improving coordination among states and opening up new funding opportunities. States that work together on rail planning are more competitive applicants for US Department of Transportation (Federal Railroad Administration) grants. Objectives of such a compact are initially to:
- Study restoration of Pioneer route
- Study of north-south rail connections
- Study of Thruway and local bus connections