GROUNDBREAKING ceremonies were held in Seattle on April 26 for a $43m maintenance depot to be shared by Amtrak and Sound Transit. Amtrak is contributing $21m, and Washington State will invest $22m. Opening in 2003, the depot will service Amtrak’s Coast Starlight, Empire Builder, the Cascade Talgos, and the 69-vehicle commuter rail fleet which Amtrak is to maintain under a $50m 10-year contract.

ST hopes to launch its first Sounder commuter trains between Seattle and Tacoma in September, following the signing of an outline agreement with Burlington Northern Santa Fe after two years of negotiations. Under the $310m agreement, ST will pay $285m for increasing capacity and installation of bi-directional signalling, to accommodate up to 18 Sounder trains per day. Under a 40-year operating agreement, ST will also pay $4m a year in track usage fees.

The rolling stock has already been delivered, and services were due to start last December. However, following the delay in negotiations, the full service is not now expected to be running until the end of 2002.

Construction of the 2·6 km light rail link between Tacoma Dome station and the city centre is expected to get under way later this year. The free passenger services will start in the autumn of 2002, following delivery of three Astra articulated LRVs on order from Skoda.