Seattle receives $2 million to study potential railroad closures



(The Center Square) – The U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded $2 million to the City of Seattle to conduct a study on the potential impacts of closing two railroad crossings in the SODO District.

The study is intended to support the city’s Vision Zero goal to have zero fatalities and serious injuries by 2030 through the evaluation of potential South Holgate Street reconfiguration options. Specifically, the study will look at the transportation, economic and equity impacts of closing two railroad crossings located there.

Amtrak and Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway requested the City of Seattle to find possible solutions to reduce incidents at the South Holgate Street railroad crossing, as Amtrak is seeking to expand and rebuild parts of its maintenance facility located in the SODO District.

The expansion would include adding five to seven new tracks across South Holgate Street, which would, in turn, close to pedestrians and street traffic, according to the city.

The city expects other railroad crossings in the area to see increased traffic if the street is closed off. This is due to the railroad crossing on South Holgate Street being one of only a few routes that connect the neighborhoods within SODO. The crossing also ranks among the highest-risk at-grade rail crossings in the nation, according to the city.

“The results of this collaborative study will help Seattle determine key infrastructure investments and safety priorities within our region’s largest freight hub,” Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell said in a statement. “It will also help us create a more efficient transportation system that supports the diverse needs of freight, commuter rail and people traveling by all modes.”

Amtrak and Burlington Northern Santa Fe supported the option of closing South Holgate Street from Occidental Ave. S to 3rd Ave. S to reduce the potential for collisions between trains and people or vehicles.

According to SODO Business Improvement Area Executive Director Erin Goodman, the SODO District consists of over 45,000 employees.

“We support the study because it is important to understand the potential impacts of the closure on the many varied users in the district,” Goodman said. “We look forward to engaging with the city to ensure that SODO stakeholder needs and priorities are represented and understood in the process.”

The $2 million grant stems from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Railroad Crossing Elimination Grant Program. The program is intended to help communities eliminate points where railroad tracks intersect with roads. These points can lead to deadly vehicle-rail collisions or prevent first responders from reaching emergencies, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The program is part of President Joe Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

Earlier this month, the Railroad Crossing Elimination Grant Program awarded over $570 million to 63 projects in 32 states to reduce train-vehicle collisions.

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