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Sound Transit's board yesterday approved agreements with the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and Amtrak to proceed with passenger-rail service improvements between Portland, Ore., and Vancouver, British Columbia.Under the contract, Sound Transit will manage construction activities that enable WSDOT to improve speed and reliability by moving Amtrak service through Pierce County to a more direct and less congested track owned by Sound Transit near Interstate 5, rather than along the Puget Sound shoreline, Sound Transit officials said in a press release.Sound Transit will administer all necessary track improvements for WSDOT's Point Defiance Bypass project between Nisqually and Tacoma, a role that will minimize impacts to Sounder commuter-rail service and help complete the work efficiently, they said.The agreements outline WSDOT's coverage of all capital costs for the bypass project while providing Sound Transit up to $34 million in federal High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail funding toward its recently completed D to M Street track and signal improvements project. Starting in 2017, the investments, which supported the recent extension of Sounder commuter-rail service to South Tacoma and Lakewood, will also benefit Amtrak passengers. In addition, the agreements establish parameters for the operations of Sounder and Amtrak trains on the corridor and for Sound Transit's maintenance of the tracks.
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