Tempe Light Rail Bridge
Tempe Light Rail Bridge, photo by rail life.
  • Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) is serious about competing for the $8 billion in High Speed Rail (HSR) stimulus money. The USDOT is going to complete an initial “application guidance” with instructions on how states can apply for HSR money by June 17th. There’s also a $1 billion per year HSR grant program whose application procedures were published May 18th, with WSDOT scheduled to supply an application and a final application by August 18th. Funded projects will by announced by February 17th 2010. There’s a stakeholder meeting scheduled for May 27th, where WSDOT will outline it’s plan for acquiring funding for HSR. We’ll keep you posted.
  • Pressure is mounting – this time from the Vancouver Sun – north of the border for the Canadian government to chip in border services for a second daily Amtrak Cascades run to from Seattle Vancouver BC. Previous posts on this topic here, here and here. Via the P-I.
  • NPI’s Andrew Villeneuve shares his thoughts on Link’s coming opening.
  • Here’s an easy (but expensive?) way to increase bike ridership in Seattle. H/T to Lloyd.
  • This is a great idea for a bus stop. H/T to Oran.
  • The Tempe Town Lake LRT bridge looks great during the day (see above) but even better at night.

20 Replies to “News Round-Up: HSR”

  1. Bicycle Lift is a great idea but I imagine we’d see a million lawsuits per hour if one was to be built in the states, unfortunately.

    1. I doubt that. We live in a city where they don’t even salt icy staircases. The Trampe looks no more dangerous than, well, riding a bicycle.

      1. My aunt and cousin rented bikes and tried this out when they were in Norway two years ago. It was really easy to use, hard to screw up and cause an accident. If you fall off, it’s not any different than falling off a bike, except you’re only going 3 to 4 mph so the possibility of getting seriously hurt is far less.

        The only issue with putting something like this in Seattle is deciding where the first one would go. Trondheim is much concentrated around a few big hills, so the chosen route works for a large segment of the population that has the steepest climb. Choosing one of the many hills in Seattle to get this sort of technology would probably be a political nightmare. Even if all the cyclists could agree on a deserving route, SDOT would probably want something else.

      2. Seems like having this on Queen Anne Ave from Mercer St to Galer St would be the best choice. Very steep, long hill combined with already high density.

  2. This should be a good week for Intercity High Speed Rail in Seattle. Unfortunately, two competing events have been scheduled. Discovery Institute’s Cascadia corridor week, and Seattle to Portland train event on the 27th, was scheduled well in advance of Wsdot’s stakeholder meeting in the 27th, and the FRA’s HSR work session that afternoon. It’s not WSDOT’s fault, the FRA has their own schedule!
    All Aboard Washington will be well represented at both events. Orlando had their FRA workshop last week, with positive results, and several more are scheduled around the nation to define the specifics over HSR guidelines.
    I hope the press picks up on this, as they (what’s left in town) have choosen to cover more important topics than fuel depletion, global pollution, and travel ineffiencies.

    1. I’m going there! We are doing a case study on high-speed rail in the Pacific NW for our Global Trade, Transportation, and Logistics class for presenting before an audience of professionals in the industry. I would like more insight into the politics behind it.

  3. When the MLS comes to Portland and Vancouver BC, Amtrak will be playing a huge, huge role in transportation to both stadiums. If the Seahawks and Mariners were any good, I am sure WSDOT and Amtrak would restart the special trains again. Having travel times in the 2 hour and 45 minute range and trains every other hour could easily handle the traffic between Seattle and Portland. With 8 passenger trains a day between Seattle and Vancouver would not only strengthen our international ties, it would also help with trade and commerce. To be able to travel from Vancouver BC to Portland, Oregon, without the hassles of security check points, lost baggage, stress, etc will also be a major bonus to anyone.

    I had a fun time figuring out just how many trains would be needed to fill up PGE Park. PGE Park will host 19,566 guests and BC Place Stadium will host 60,000 guests. Our Amtrak Cascades, in the 12 car configuration (4 non-revenue cars) will hold about 220 passengers. It would take 88 Amtrak Cascades trains to fill up PGE Park and would take 13 1/2, ten car (assuming each car held 144 passengers) Sounder trains to fill up PGE Park.

    1. I am looking forward to the Sounders hooligan trains to Vancouver and Portland.

      1. Ditto! Perhaps not the hooligans, but certainly the scarfs! You should see us wearing our scarfs on the buses to the bemusement of our bus drivers before and after the games!

        Sound Transit should also lay on Sounder trains too for the games – especially when Vancouver and Portland both join and we have a regional rivalry going on!!!

  4. Sound Transit needs to do something spectacular, like the Tempe bridge, on I-90 when they extend light rail. Don’t know if NIMBYs will get in the way though…

    1. My favorite rail bridge is Skytrain’s SkyBridge in Vancouver. It looks really nice day or night, and I bet really fun to take a train through.

      1. The Skytrain suspension bridge is not very far from Seattle, so go up there to Vancouver and ride across the Fraser River! I have, and it’s fun. Skytrain throughout Vancouver and suburbs is mostly above ground with good views provided. The best viewpoint is in the very front of the train looking forward, available because they are all automated with no operators up front and a place for one or two passengers to sit.

        That bridge provides one of the examples of how train rails can work on a “floating” bridge. The flexibility of the track there between the moving part of the bridge and the fixed part has been cited by Sound Transit’s consultants as an example of the kind of flexibility needed for the rail joint at both ends of the I-90 floating bridge across Lake Washington planned to be used by ST for East Link.

        One slight push back on the comparability of suspended-in-the-air bridges and floating-on-the-water bridges comes from this US DOT FHWA comment on the East Link draft EIS: “Sound Transit compared the movements of modern passenger rail
        suspension bridges to the 1-90 floating bridge to see if the bridge can accommodate the light rail. The degree of movement and rotation of the I-90 floating bridge joint substantially exceeds that of a typical suspension bridge. While we agree that this is probably the best comparison to make since there are no floating bridges that have light rail, we do not agree that there has been enough work done to justify the conclusion that this comparison demonstrates that it is feasible to design a light rail track system to accommodate the movements of the 1-90 floating bridge. We think there is additional work to be done to determine if it is feasible to design an expansion joint to accommodate light rail.” [Emphasis added. Complete document at http://www.bettertransport.info/pitf/FHWA'sEastLinkDEIScomments.pdf .]

        Of course Sound Transit has buckets of money now that its tax collections have been doubled, so if time and enough money can solve the problem of how to put permanent passenger train tracks on a floating bridge, a safe design will emerge from the engineers.

  5. Kudos to the Vancouver Sun for the second train between Seattle and Vancouver! It is pressure like this on the Canadian authorities that we need to get this thing going. As I have said before, this is a very pesky problem that needs resolving sooner rather than later. Again, if we ask for four trains between the two cities, maybe it will be just that much easier to get two going.

    As for further High Speed Rail projects in the state, I am going to add my suggestions for funding for King Street Station, the Point Defiance Bypass, M to D Street in Tacoma to help Sound Transit get Sounder to Lakewood, Leavenworth and a long range plan for additional Cascade service to PDX and a second train to Spokane so that Washingtonians do not have to arrive in the dead of night in the Lilac City.

    1. Agree, they should just split the costs for the next 2 years, but make it 4-6 trains per day. If they would just fix the customs issue, Vancouver and Seattle make quite a unique city combo. Bet it would be good for the environment, and the economy. Oh, but gotta speed those trains up to under 3hrs..

    2. Tim,

      I doubt that the line north of Everett would handle four trains a day each way. There are very few sidings although they could be added in many places. However, there is the ten mile stretch south of Bellingham beneath Chuckanut Drive which simply cannot accommodate passing sidings. The track is carved into the nearly vertical cliffside.

      It may be that four per day each way could be accommodated by intelligent scheduling — i.e. northbounds are always scheduled through the stretch at least two hours after the last scheduled southbound. That would accommodate the inevitable delays at the border without making a second train sit. It takes quite a while for even the Talgos to navigate the line. But it is truly one of the most beautiful ten miles of railroad in the US.

  6. There have been two articles on the subject of the Vancouver-Seattle rail service in The Tyee (www.thetyee.ca) by Monte Paulsen:

    The Myth of High-Speed Rail for BC

    Obama’s Billions Bypass BC

    The articles state that WSDOT has given up on getting BC to spend any real money on their portion of this line, and so all, or almost all of their efforts are being devoted to obtaining federal stimulus and other rail monies for the Seattle-Portland route.

  7. One has to wonder if spreading out the $8 billion is the most efficient and effective use of the high speed rail funding.

    I have been really impressed with the ideas being generated from ALT. It seems combining advanced rail technology and smart grid infrastructure in a comprehensive national plan would get the most bang for our buck.

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