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USDOT awards Seattle $2 million to study rail safety around S Holgate St in SODO

A photo of the rail crossing at S Holgate St in the Duwamish Manufacturing/Industrial Center of SODO. Photo Credit: SDOT

Blog Stats: 1,300 words | 7-minute read

Editor’s Note (January 4, 2024): A link to our grant application document was added.

Editor’s Note (June 26, 2023): This blog was updated for clarity and to add details about an additional $400,000 supplemental grant from WSDOT.


  • The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) has awarded Seattle a $2 million grant via its Railroad Crossing Elimination Grant Program. 
  • This federal funding will allow us to conduct a study to help us better understand the transportation, economic, and equity impacts of closing two railroad crossings at South Holgate Street in SODO.  
  • The study will support our Vision Zero goal to end traffic fatalities and serious injuries by evaluating the impact of potential S Holgate St reconfiguration options, especially for vulnerable people like mobility challenged residents, bicycle riders, pedestrians, and school buses.
  • You can also find additional details in our full grant application document.   

We are excited to receive $2 million in federal funding for a study to evaluate potential options to enhance safety and support vehicle and freight movements in SODO in the context of a future railroad expansion project near S Holgate St. This study was awarded federal funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) through the Railroad Crossing Elimination (RCE) Grant Program. The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) will also provide a $400,000 matching grant for this project in addition to the federal funding.

The study will support our Vision Zero goal to end traffic fatalities and serious injuries by evaluating the impact of potential S Holgate St reconfiguration options, especially for vulnerable travelers like mobility challenged residents, bicycle riders, pedestrians, and school buses.

“Funding this study is an important step towards improving safety and reconnecting neighborhoods with SODO. Grants like this help move the ball forward on important work. I’m going to keep working hard to make sure the federal government continues to invest in making our streets safer and more accessible, while also making sure we are connecting our communities to expand opportunity for everyone.” 

– U.S. Senator Patty Murray

Amtrak is planning to expand and rebuild portions of its maintenance facility located in SODO, including adding five to seven new tracks across S Holgate St alongside the nine existing tracks. This expansion would likely impact S Holgate St putting a heavy burden onto other railroad crossings in the area.

BNSF Railway and Amtrak have asked the City of Seattle to explore solutions to reduce conflicts at the S Holgate St crossing. One option supported by Amtrak and BNSF is for the City to close S Holgate from Occidental Ave S to 3rd Ave S to reduce the potential for collisions between trains and people or vehicles. This would also facilitate their yard rebuilding project and protect railyard employees with tighter security against theft, vandalism, and terrorism.

The goal of this study is to help us better understand what impacts the proposal to close the S Holgate at-grade crossing would have on freight movements, general traffic, and public safety. The study will help us understand the tradeoffs of various potential options for S Holgate St, so that we can make a well-informed decision to address these concerns.

“This critical federal funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will go toward studying the effects of closing two train crossings in Seattle. The Railroad Crossing Elimination Grant Program is a wonderful opportunity to find the best options to improve safety and mobility for people and goods in our city. I was proud to support the infrastructure package that has already invested billions in our roads, bridges, highways, drinking water, public transit, and so much more, and I look forward to seeing more money delivered across our city and state in the years to come.”  

– U.S. Representative Pramila Jayapal

This crossing is one of only a few east-west routes that connect neighborhoods within SODO, but also ranks among the highest risk at-grade rail crossings in the nation. It is important to a wide variety of people including commuters, truck drivers, eventgoers, and people walking, rolling, and biking. 

We believe it is essential to study various alternative solutions in this critical commercial area that consider transportation, economic, and equity impacts. Safety is a priority for SDOT and is one of six adopted core values that guide all our decision and investment priorities. Major changes on S Holgate St would potentially have significant safety impacts on our surface streets, railroads, the port, and industrial operations. We look forward to collaborating with the Port of Seattle, Amtrak, BNSF, Sound Transit, SODO residents, businesses, and organizations, as well as other local neighborhoods and stakeholders to complete this study.

About the grants

The Railroad Crossing Elimination Grant Program is the first-ever dedicated federal grant program to help communities eliminate points where railroad tracks intersect with roads leading to blocked vehicle and pedestrian traffic, deadly vehicle-rail collisions, or preventing first responders from reaching emergencies. This program is part of President Biden’s historic Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

In April 2021, Sen. Cantwell introduced legislation to establish the Railroad Crossing Elimination Grant Program to help states, cities, and Tribes plan and construct grade crossing separation and improvement projects. In June 2021, Sen. Cantwell led the legislation through the Commerce Committee as part of the Surface Transportation Investment Act of 2021. This legislation was included in the November 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which provided $3 billion over five years for this program.

Additionally, the WSDOT has authorized an additional $400,000 state funded-grant from the Move Ahead Washington Railroad Crossing Grant Program to supplement the federal funding.

“We are grateful to receive the Federal Railroad Crossing Elimination Grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation. The results of this collaborative study will help Seattle determine key infrastructure investments and safety priorities within our region’s largest freight hub. 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. I want to thank our federal delegation for supporting this important work and continuing to raise awareness for at-grade rail crossing safety.”

– Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell

“This grant enables Seattle to study the benefits, impacts and tradeoffs involved with expanding intercity rail service at a highly complex rail crossing. Our goal is to use this analysis to develop a plan that improves safety and mobility for all modes, with careful consideration of how goods move through SODO.”

– Greg Spotts, Director, Seattle Department of Transportation

Grants are an important way we supplement local funding to advance projects in Seattle. Since 2022, we’ve been awarded over $40 million in federal grants, including: 

We continue to seek grants building on our momentum; you can read more about some of our recent grant applications here.

We want to thank our local officials, transportation advocates, and our congressional delegation — U.S. Senator Patty Murray, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell, U.S. Representative Adam Smith, and U.S. Representative Pramila Jayapal — for aggressively advocating for funding to improve safety and mobility for people and goods around at-grade rail crossings. 

“South Holgate Street is an essential East-West Connector in SODO, a working district with over 45,000 employees. In addition, there are hundreds of thousands of people that patronize SODO’s commercial, industrial, sports, and entertainment facilities. The SODO BIA is committed to advocating for a Safe, Clean Connected, and Engaged SODO, for the benefit of SODO’s property owners, businesses, tenants, employees, and patrons. We support the study because it is important to understand the potential impacts of the closure on the many varied users in the district. We look forward to engaging with the City to ensure that SODO stakeholder needs and priorities are represented and understood in the process.”

– Erin Goodman, Executive Director, SODO Business Improvement Area

“By working together, we truly believe that we can chart a better future on S Holgate Street. We’re confident that with the City of Seattle, we can help create a safer environment and maintain necessary mobility for all people in the region.”

– Steve Predmore, Amtrak Executive Vice President and Chief Safety Officer

Thank you for your interest! We look forward to providing additional updates as this work gets underway.