News Column

Larsen Asks DOT for Better Investments in Rail Crossings

July 31, 2014



WASHINGTON, July 31 -- Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash. (2nd CD), issued the following news release:

Rep. Rick Larsen, WA-02, sent a letter to Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Anthony Foxx today asking for better investments in rail crossings to mitigate the impacts of increased rail traffic in the Pacific Northwest. Larsen's letter follows a report released last week by the Puget Sound Regional Council that analyzed potential safety and traffic impacts of increased rail shipments through Northwest Washington, with a focus on the traffic resulting from the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal in Whatcom County.

"Moving goods and people safely and efficiently creates jobs and keeps our economy strong. Washington state's trade in products from airplane parts to apples means we need a robust transportation system, including railways.

"I have asked Secretary Foxx to invest in better rail crossings in Washington state because as our economy grows, our railways and roads are getting more congested. The PSRC report is a wake- up call that underscores the need for sustainable, long-term transportation investments," Larsen said.

Full text of the letter follows.

July 31, 2014

The Honorable Anthony Foxx

Secretary

U.S. Department of Transportation

1200 New Jersey Ave., SE

Washington, DC 20590

Dear Secretary Foxx,

Last week the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC), the designated Metropolitan Planning Organization for the Seattle area, released a report highlighting the potential safety and traffic impacts of increased rail shipments through Northwest Washington. They found that rail shipments are growing quickly, and that there could be serious impacts on my constituents and our economy. I ask that you work with me and my colleagues on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to make investments to mitigate these impacts.

Transportation infrastructure is the key to the economy in Washington state. Much of our economic activity is based on trade, making essential strong roads, bridges and rail to move our agricultural goods, high-tech equipment and airplane parts. According to PSRC, the value of goods moving through the ports of Everett, Seattle and Tacoma totaled more than $105 billion in 2012, including nearly $40 billion in exports.

The growth of the Puget Sound comes with increased congestion on our roads and rails. PSRC found that additional construction of commodity export terminals in Northwest Washington could increase that congestion even more. While more economic activity is helping bring our unemployment levels down, it also creates new challenges for our transportation network and for safety.

PSRC found that between $50 million and $200 million in rail crossing improvements may be needed to mitigate increasing volume on rail lines in Washington and lessen the wait times at rail crossings. Wait times could climb to 90 minutes at some crossings intensifying the economic implications and the difficulty for people and goods to move throughout my district. I am also concerned about the safety impacts of increased shipments of crude oil by rail through my district, and I thank you for your continuing work to improve the safety of those shipments.

Last week's report underscores the fact that we need to get to work on funding our national infrastructure needs, and soon. I look forward to working with you to make sure we meet the needs our growing economy demands.

Sincerely,

Rick Larsen

Member of Congress

Washington State, 2nd District

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