A recent $1 million investment in new rail switching equipment is having positive impacts at the Port of Tacoma.

The money was used to install 34 automated switch machines on about 1.5 miles of high-volume track in the Tacoma Tideflats. The switch machines, along with the associated hardware and software, were provided by Global Rail Systems of Marlin, Texas.

The new equipment offers the ability to eliminate manual switching on all westbound trains coming into the Port area. Rail switching is used to align trains onto the right track, based on their destination at the Port. With the old manual system, the train conductor had to get off the train every few hundred feet and manually operate each of the switches over the 1.5 mile stretch of track. In addition, the train would remain idling while each switch was thrown by hand. With the new automated system, the conductor operates the switch control unit and the rail switches are lined automatically.

"As a result of this investment, our train cargo is now moving faster and safer in a more environmentally friendly manner," said Dale King, Superintendent of Tacoma Rail. Tacoma Rail, the shortline railroad that provides rail switching services in the Port area, is owned by the City of Tacoma.

The automated switch machines replaced manual switches on key routes that connect Tacoma Rail, the BNSF Railway and the Union Pacific Railroad to the Port of Tacoma's 63,000 feet of support tack and the Port's four dockside intermodal rail yards.

"We estimate that the new system is saving each train about 15 minutes of time," said Mike Reilly, the Port's Director, Intermodal Business. "We're saving time, and adding velocity to each arriving train to the Port. In today's competitive environment, every improvement helps."

The construction work was completed by Tacoma Rail and Port of Tacoma maintenance crews. Project funding was also a collaborative effort of the Washington State Department of Transportation, Tacoma Rail, the Port of Tacoma, the BNSF Railway and the Union Pacific Railroad.

About the Port of Tacoma
The Port of Tacoma is an economic engine for South Puget Sound, with more than 43,000 family-wage jobs in Pierce County and 113,000 jobs across Washington state connected to Port activities. A major gateway to Asia and Alaska, the Port of Tacoma is among the largest container ports in North America. The Port is also a major center for bulk, breakbulk and project/heavy-lift cargoes, as well as automobiles and trucks.

Contact: Rod Koon, Port of Tacoma, 253-383-9462