For those whom hoped the state would change its act in regards to rail transportation, I am steadily learning that you can not count on Washington State to make the commitment that involves transportation, unless it is roads. Other states however are jumping hard and fast to get on stimulus funding and are matching funds to ensure they get funding for projects. What are we doing however….?
Major rail projects at Vancouver and Point Defiance near Tacoma also were canceled. Lawmakers acknowledged the budget would hurt the rail system, but said the state can’t afford the projects.
“We worked hard to prioritize with our limited resources,” said Senate Transportation Committee chairwoman Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island. “Unfortunately, we are not able to do some of the things we had hoped to.”
Those of you that may have been looking forward to riding the Cascades service at 110mph or even an increase of trains within the next 2 to 5 years got another shot in the foot with the elimination of rail funding, for passenger and freight trains.
As the senator says, they can’t “afford” the rail projects but they can afford now to pay for the rest of the I-405 expansion, the budget for the Viaduct Tunnel magically rose from $2.4 billion to $3.14 billion dollars, new HOV lanes from Pierce County to the Tacoma Mall, increase in SR-520 funding. They also found funding to fund 4 new ferries (which I support, they are badly needed).
It is very interesting and puzzling that the state continues to shoot down rail projects, let it be light rail or heavy rail. This hostility can not continue if the state is to be any competitor for our region. The rail line between Vancouver BC and Portland, Oregon is a very strong part of our economic success and the State of Washington is more than happy to let it fail. This move, if approved by the House and Governor, will effect our economy even worse. Containers that come through either Seattle or Tacoma, they can simply go to Canada or Oregon. Canada has several ports, including a new mammoth facility in Prince George. Oregon has several ports and capable of a very huge expansion. Lack of containers here, means less jobs at the Port of Seattle or Tacoma. Less jobs at the Ports mean less truck driving jobs, no crane operators, etc.
Boeing is vastly dependent on rail transportation to ship parts for the 737, 747, 767, 777 and 787 products in Everett and Renton. Boeing satellite division in Auburn? Served by rail. Delaying these items means delaying of planes to be built and that equals out a huge lost in revenue.
Senator Haugen believes that because there is $8 billion in stimulus funding, that Washington State will magically get the money needed to fund the projects and mind you, the projects only qualify for passenger rail advancement. She neglects to mention or not educated, knowing that there are 12 other projects that are fighting for this money as well and there is no guarantee that we will see any money at all.
With the elimination of these projects and with rail traffic expected to increase by 47% by 2025, we are setting ourselves up for failure. The projects would have dramatically helped Amtrak maintain on-time performance, freight traffic moving, entice move rail business by showing the railroads are able to deliver goods on time. Keeping the main lines clear and free is what keeps the gears moving. An increase of 47% will cripple this corridor. What we have now, will be all we will have for the next 10-20 years if rail is not funded. This is no longer about moving just people, this is about everyone.