While the legislature continues to shoot down R8A, I did some investigation in regards to the Amtrak rail funding and its dramatic change mentioned here previous. It appears that 98% of the rail capital project funding has been completely eliminated. The remaining 2% is going to very, very small projects, such as Tacoma Rail engine facility improvements, a new connection for BNSF/Tacoma Rail in Roy, and a spur to a cement plant in Everett. Yippe…

Stanwood Station however did keep its funding and Amtrak Cascades will serve the station when it opens this Fall. I have heard that the funding for Leavenworth Station has been eliminated but I have not found anything that confirms this officially.

24 NEW SECTION. Sec. 225. FOR THE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION–
25 RAIL–PROGRAM Y–OPERATING
26 Multimodal Transportation Account–State
27 Appropriation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .$34,933,000
28 The appropriation in this section is subject to the following
29 conditions and limitations:
30 (1) $29,091,000 of the multimodal transportation account–state
31 appropriation is provided solely for the Amtrak service contract and
32 Talgo maintenance contract associated with providing and maintaining
33 the state-supported passenger rail service. Upon completion of the
34 rail platform project in the city of Stanwood, the department shall
35 provide daily Amtrak Cascades service to the city.
36 (2) Amtrak Cascade runs may not be eliminated.
p. 27 SSB 5352
.

1 (3) The department shall begin planning for a third roundtrip
2 Cascades train between Seattle and Vancouver, B.C. by 2010

While the state will “aggressively” seek federal funding from various stimulus sources, the damage and lack of credibility has been done. What the state has effectively done is damage any chance of securing funding because all projects require matching funding from the state. With the state effectively killing this funding, this no longer gives the state the chance to receive any stimulus funding.

While I understand the need and reasoning for reducing the budget, a lot  more critical things were cut. I am still at a lost however how I-405 manages to get a several million dollar increase in funding, along with the I-5 Pierce County HOV lanes while rail and other projects are being cut.

We talk about alternatives and ways to reduce GHG but when it comes to making progress on doing that goal, a few select people make sure that it does not happen. In this situation, we, the people of Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia all want alternatives to driving. We all want an alternative to flying. The Amtrak Cascades service and passenger rail are our ways to that goal. Until we have people in our government that also see that goal, we will never go beyond what we have currently for many more years.

We all know by 2012, gas prices will be at record levels. By 2012, we could have had a very good and integrated transportation system, ranging from buses, carpool, light-rail, and passenger rail. Each mode works together but people will not make the critical change needed until the services are provided. The Cascades program will be very critical and by not investing now, we will lose any forward movement at such a critical time.

Nearly every state is looking forward to adding more passenger rail, except for our region, where roads are now king of our society.

10 Replies to “Meanwhile in the Rail news….”

  1. Are you sure about that? What about this:

    17 NEW SECTION. Sec. 309. FOR THE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION–
    18 RAIL–PROGRAM Y–CAPITAL
    19 Essential Rail Assistance Account–State Appropriation . . . . $675,000
    20 Transportation Infrastructure Account–State
    21 Appropriation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $9,416,000
    22 Multimodal Transportation Account–State
    23 Appropriation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .$50,000,000
    24 Multimodal Transportation Account–Federal
    25 Appropriation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .$16,054,000
    26 Multimodal Transportation Account–Private/Local
    27 Appropriation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $81,000
    28 TOTAL APPROPRIATION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $76,226,000
    29 The appropriations in this section are subject to the following
    30 conditions and limitations:
    31 (1)(a) Except as provided otherwise in this section, the entire
    32 appropriations in this section are provided solely for the projects and
    33 activities as listed by fund, project, and amount in LEAP
    34 Transportation Document ALL PROJECTS 2009-2, Rail Capital Program (Y),
    35 as developed March 30, 2009. However, limited transfers of specific
    36 line-item project appropriations may occur between projects for those
    Code Rev/BP:mos 40 S-2434.8/09 8th draft
    1 amounts listed subject to the conditions and limitations in section 603
    2 of this act.

  2. This boneheaded maneuver by some of our electeds has me puzzled. Do they really think they can cancel funding for all rail improvements, and waltz up to the feds, asking for 692 million for High Speed Rail (HSR), and expect to get a big “sack–o-cash”, with no down payment. Maybe that’s how it worked with the housing market, but well informed sources tell me, that the FRA is going to expect some seed money locally. This action just dumbfounds me!

    This is the first real opportunity to build HSR in our region, and our local politicians have figured out a way to squander the opportunity. This is starting to sound like a repeat of ‘Forward Thrust’ funding that was rejected in 1970 – remember all the federal dollars that flowed from Seattle to Atlanta for Light Rail.

    A new story hits the wires every day about what a wonderful opportunity this is from most of the states back east. Here’s some excerpts from today’s AP story from Ohio.

    “Gov. Ted Strickland has estimated Ohio would need $250 million in stimulus money to begin Amtrak operations on the route by the end of 2010…”

    To press the issue, ODOT Director Jolene Molitoris was to testify Wednesday in front of a House subcommittee studying high-speed rail. Molitoris served as head of the Federal Railroad Administration under President Bill Clinton in the 1990s.”

    “She’s committed to rail, and she knows how things work in Washington,” said Ken Prendergast, executive director of All Aboard Ohio, a nonprofit group promoting passenger rail in the state.

    The story mentions other state leaders.

    “New York Gov. David Paterson wants stimulus money to upgrade crossings so some trains could go from 79 mph to 110 mph within five years”.

    “Illinois wants $500 million to upgrade Amtrak’s Chicago-to-St. Louis passenger service so trains can zoom at up to 110 mph.”

    And the deafening silence of our Governor and the actions of our legislature on HSR is somehow going to parlay into how much federal stimulus? Maybe a token amount, just out of respect for Sen. Murry and Cantwell, but not enough to make much of a difference.

    Source for quotes:
    Ohio faces competition for federal rail money
    By Matt Leingang
    Associated Press
    http://www.ohio.com/news/break_news/42212637.html

    1. An explanation from the Sen. Minority Whip and Vice Chair Sen. Transportation Cmte.
      “Mike,

      The reason for eliminating a number of rail projects was a $121 million transfer of multimodal bonding capacity to backfill the operating budget—a difficult decision necessitated by our unprecedented $9 billion budget shortfall. There is $50 million remaining in cash appropriations for rail capital projects in the ’09-’11 transportation budget, with a similar amount assumed in the ’11-’13 budget. While we would have preferred to provide more funding—in fact, that was the draft plan until operating budget exigencies intervened. Just the same, I am told even with the additional dollars, it would not have been sufficient funding to improve operating speeds on the Portland to Vancouver rail corridor. More to your point—I am told this level of state funding will not jeopardize the initial application for federal ARRA stimulus funding, but could impair pour ability to apply for re-appropriations of funding returned after the initial round (due to lack of compliance with maintenance of effort provisions). I hope this was helpful.

      Regards,

      Sen. Chris Marr
      6th Legislative District

      Senate Majority Whip
      Vice-Chair, Transportation Committee

      Not what I wanted to hear, but not up to my ‘worst fears’. Time will tell.

  3. It makes no sense that they can find any new funding in the budget but cut funding for Amtrak an d R8A.

  4. I should add that the money needed for D Street to M Street got pushed back to 2012. I’m still in a mix on who or how it gets funded but I wouldn’t expect this project to happen until 2014-2016 at the rate Olympia is going.

    Also money for Hybrid buses and other items were nixed as well according to Publicola.

  5. Could you elaborate on the matching funds issue? Are you saying that the state’s projects need to be funded with current dollars before they are eligible for any stimulus money? And are you saying that the Legislature is not being candid if they claim that they’ll seek stimulus money for rail projects while simultaneously de-funding them?

  6. With the rail funding (Amtrak, HSR, or Presidents budget) does not apply to the “shovel” ready process. The funding is available until September 30, 2012.

    According to this document that I found. http://www.theoec.org/PDFs/PressReleases/2-23-09_FederalFundsAvailable.pdf

    “DOT must submit a strategic plan for fund expenditure to the Appropriations Committees within
    60 days (April 18, 2009) and issue interim rules for applicants within 120 days (June 17, 2009)
    with separate rules for the 3 funded programs. The legislation waives requirements that projects
    be part of State Rail Plans to receive funding. It also waives any cost share requirements; all
    grants can be up to 100% of project costs. “Buy American Provisions” apply to all three
    programs. This provision is laid out at the end of this memo.”

    While the waiver exists, this also states the following;

  7. I am insensed by all this on Amtrak I think everyone needs to sit down and discuss how best we can fund state and local government in this country. I am definitely for an income tax because it is a more stable revenue source than is the sales tax that just sends everyone on a roller coaster of a ride through any number of projects.

    Brian, I cannot believe what you said about Leavenworth. This wretched station has been up in the air for at least five years. For the sake of Rob Eaton’s health if for no other reason, just fund the blasted thing. How much realistically does it cost to build a platform?

    I am fuming here! What other rubbish is out there right now on the second train to Vancouver? At this rate, the United States is just going to turn into a post-developed developing nation to ruin

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