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.

17 Replies to “From high hopes to low hopes”

  1. what happened?! I thought Washington was one of the better states in terms of the way they supported rail!

    All I can do now if figure out the offending lawmakers and vote them out…

    1. I call them Subaru Greenies. They are all for “Environmental” stuff, but they want their 4WD and their multiple Briggs & Stratton-powered garden tools.

      1. Presumably the same people who live in Roosevelt and fight for getting a light rail stop, but then work to sabotage any attempt to increase density there, because it “wouldn’t fit the neighborhood.” My girlfriend lives there, and the neighborhood association newsletter is full of how they’re blocking any re-zoning, even four story buildings, and how they’re working with state government in order to ensure that Roosevelt is exempt from any requirement that neighborhoods with transit stops have higher density near the stops.

      2. You should probably actually read the newsletter if you think Roosevelt is against the upzoning of Sisley properties. There are understandably reservations about the possibility of a 160 ft building one block from Roosevelt High School. I like big buildings and I’m not sure about dropping something like Rollin St at 15th and 65th. They want moderate density near the light rail station and I-5.

        Some, based on a misunderstanding that new buildings would be required, did want to exempt Roosevelt from the density requirement law. Remember it was actually average zoning density. It’s dead now anyway.

  2. What it’s full of is Eastern Washingtonians who whine about Seattle getting all the breaks.

    Let’s hope we’re all writing letters to our legislators and to the Times and P-I.

  3. There’s a NARP (Nat’l Assn Rail Pax) regional meeting in Essex, MT tommorrow. All Aboard Washington and Assn of Oregon Rail Pax will be well represented.
    The whole subject of the Cascades Corridor, funding, staffing, and legislative manuvers the last couple of days will be topic one, two and three.
    I’ll try to post an outcome early next week.

    1. Cool. I was also going to ask what great things other states are doing. To be fair, maybe just west of Chicago.

  4. They better put those projects back in in 2011. I wonder what’s next Senator Haugen? The 2nd Train to Canada, and Stanwood Station? Those benefit your district. Better not cancel them.

  5. I am seeing Judy Clibburn in a little over a week in Olympia and I have a spreadsheet of concerns to bring to her attention – the Point Defiance bypass and Vancouver switching yards are two of them. I’ll also be saying that we need the second train to Canada and more trainsets to PDX and Eugene.

    Anyone else have an urgent request and I will add it to my list?

    By the way, Brian, have you or anyone else heard anything about Amtrak’s negotiations with the Canadians over the second train to Vancouver, BC? Is there anyway we can prod the State to get behind this or are they already?

    I am sure there is a sense that Amtrak Cascades will get some money from the $8bn stimulus for HS rail, but WSDOT should not be eliminating or downgrading their focus on projects in Washington State based on that assumption.

    As I said in an earlier post, worrying about Amtrak gets exhausting because it does seem like it is the despised stepchild of State concerns.

    There is the possibility I hope that if the City of Seattle can secure the funds it needs to continue with the King Street Station restoration project that it will inspire WSDOT to fall into place with accelerating its own list of projects.

    We can just wait and see? Are Stanwood and Leavenworth still going ahead this year or not?

    1. Got an email last week from our freinds up north about the 2nd train. Some really good people are working with the national govt. to resolve this soon, without breaking the bank on either side of the border.
      The problem is a whole new crew of agents would have to be hired to staff the Vancouver rail station, to service one train. There looking into shuttling a crew from the airport to the station for the that.

      Apparantly, states that remove existing projects from local funding, to get the feds to pay for HSR stuff(ie: Washington), will not be playing by the rules, even though there’s nothing in the ARRA bill that says that. That message really needs to ‘sink in’ with our electeds. Hell, the AP piece that ran in the Seattle Times today, and hit newspapers around the country, doesn’t even mention the Cascade Corridor.

      We need some leaders to step up to the mic, and say something!

  6. Quick and dirty from my Blackberry, excuse the typos.

    Tim, check the funding for Leavenworth and Stanwood station if you could please. If the funding for the already started Vancouver project and Point Defiance projects were canceled, that is not going to go well in the end.

    Mike, no need to shuttle them (by a vehicle) They’ll have the Canada Line to use form YVR to Waterfront and a short walk over to Pacific Central Station =D

    But yes, this is why I am so concerned. The state and its “leaders” are throwing Washington under a bus by deleting these projects. This will hurt Washington’s chance for any federal funding, for any project, road, Amtrak, bus, light-rail. This all has a very, very profound ripple effect that they just are not seeing or if they are seeing, they are doing it willingly to damage the state.

    1. It is also another example of the state screwing Sound Transit as the Pt. Defiance bypass, particularly the D-to-M portion is needed for extending Sounder South of Freighthouse Square.

  7. I answered my own question by looking it up, Stanwood is in Haugen’s District, and almost Mt. Vernon too. What track improvements were scheduled in her district. If BNSF brought in track gangs from other areas, I am sure they would be spending money at fast food places, might bring in some more sales tax revenue, revenue that SKAT and Island Transit could use. Was she ever pro-rail? If so, maybe voters can remind her of something that happened in Canada on the national level to a pro-rail party that changed their mind when the budget got bad. When Mulrooney’s Progressive Conservatives got elected with one of the biggest majority governments in Canadian History, his Transport Minister had the authority to bring back much of what was cut under Trudeau at VIA, and it was not just in Mulrooney’s home province of Quebec, but also in the west, with the Super Continental restored, but in 1989 when the budget got out of balance, what got hit? VIA, and the west took the brunt of the hits, including services in Vancouver. Heading into 1992 with the election, Mulrooney decides to retire, while his party was fracturing. The then-splinter parties like the Reform and Canadian Alliance helped split the vote, won some seats, gave the Liberals the majority, and the PCs came out with, as one commentator said, a number that cold be counted on one hand, just 2! Included in the Tories that lost, was the MP from Vancouver-Centre, Kim Campbell, the Prime Minister! Wonder if the fewer people coming through Pacific Central Station had anything to do with that.

    What Murray, Cantwell, and all 9 of Washington’s Congressmembers(might be able to win over Riechert, McMorriss and Hastings, while next to impossible, we need them) need to write to Haugen and the other cutters, that if they make this course, the fight to get even enough to pave one mile of road in the 10th Legislative District will be even harder.

  8. While it looks like Murray is coming through with money to improve the maintenance facility, if it depends on a state match, I want the groundbreaking or some kind of press conference scheduled for a rainy day, with mechanics working on an F59PHI in that open air shed, preferably when the wind is blowing. That might get something going in Olympia to get some of these projects done. I noticed she has time for a photop in Sidney(I hope I got that one right, and not confused for the capitol of the Australian State of New South Wales) at the beginning of the annual restoration of service. I thought we can’t afford WSDOT funding non-highway projects, especially ones that cross International Boundaries? (I saw her in a piece on Global BC’s vodcast yesterday)

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