Vancouver WA Amtrak – Wikimedia

Today Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood announced $2B in intercity rail funding.  This 3rd round of intercity rail grants – likely the last money to be available for quite some time – drew on funds rejected by Florida.

While perhaps the money was spread too thinly, many worthy projects received funding.  Acela trains in central New Jersey will travel up to 160 mph by 2017, much more 110 mph track will be built on the Chicago-Detroit and Chicago-St Louis lines, and California will be able to extend its HSR starter segment to Fresno and the future wye where trains will alternately serve Sacramento and San Francisco.  Good news all around.

Washington, however, fared poorly in this latest installment.  WSDOT will receive $15 million for grade separation and congestion relief around the Port of Vancouver (WA), but will not receive the funds it had sought to combat mudslides and to replace the trestle leading into Tacoma Freighthouse Square.  While disappointing, our total share of ‘HSR’ funding ($781 million) remains impressive relative to our population size, and it speaks well of WSDOT’s preparedness in seeking these grants over the past three years.    Even if we lost out on this round, it is encouraging to see substantial federal investment in both the Northeast Corridor and California’s true HSR line.

As usual, The Transport Politic has an excellent summary.

18 Replies to “No Mudslide Relief in Latest Intercity Rail Grants”

  1. The mudslide issue is as much an infrastructure issue as it is a liability issue.

    Fix the liability one and passenger trains can start rolling sooner after the mudslides, just as the freight trains do now.

      1. I wholly agree with Erik, it’s a liability/lawyer issue, and not much more. As for rerouting the tracks, that has to be literally one of the craziest ideas I have ever heard of, and so impracticable that I cannot believe you’re serious. I would like to see straightening of certain curves, it isn’t that unrealistic really.

        The south end deserves more money for sure, but the north will slowly take off, regardless of mainline location.

        On the slides note, I’ve been paying attention to not only the mainline, but the Mukilteo Speedway as well. The similarities are eery. What I see aren’t as much as landowner’s rain run-off as being the culprit, but more in my premise that having a human-made “cut” through the glacial till seems to irrevocably create slide conditions because the flora cannot get enough purchase on the very land itself.

        Sure, some run-off is also a cause here as well. But I think there are multiple factors at work, and as much as I’d like to blame homeowners, they may be a small part of the problem.

      2. Anthony, it’s plan of record to re-route some tracks. We do need a new mainline, even through the city, for high speed rail – and we need to keep talking about it.

      3. Re-Route them to where? Even if you could find a totally new corridor, you’d still run into these same kind issues because of our climate. Its much cheaper to spend money to fix these issues (and work around the lawyers) than to constrcut a totally new ROW. – IF – there was money for such a venture, it’d almost certainly wind up either within the exiting BNSF or I-5 alingments, either alongside, or as a deck ontop of since it would be nearly impossible to construct a new corridor these days. Shifting the passenger traffic over to the lakeview line has nothing to do with landslides, thats a capasity issue at Nelson Bennett. All the landslides, from what i’ve seen are from kalama south. which Kalama has its fair share of congestion problems with the grain terminals there as well.

      4. Ben, I think I understand what you are saying. The only option that was available through downtown used to be the old waterfront streetcar liner, now that the tunnel is in to destroy the city, I’d be hard pressed to see those tracks being used again. I have no problem talking about it, I agree that its a good thing, but I’m hoping for realistic solutions, not a scenario which is likely to never, ever happen.

        I’m talking about the section I ride regularly, the north end. as for the South, Z says Nelso-Bennet is clogging point, soooo true. Same used to be at MP 8 across from Golden Gardens, now that the mains are double tracked through there wait times are considerably better to non-existent.

        As for Kalama, man that place is busy. Clearly the third main needs to be thrown into the mix now, imho. That would help a lot.

      5. There were fairly serious proposals for making 203 into a bypass of the 405 bypass. It’s scary when I agree with Ben (“. We do need a new mainline,”) or Bailo, but if you put yourself into “freeway mentality” it’s not too hard to imagine a RR ROW that gives back our high valued coast. We had a good start on one possibility called the Woodinville Subdivision which the Port of Seattle now controls a large portion of. That combined with existing WSDOT ROW makes it immanently possible. If it were required (say via a cutoff from world oil supply) it would be a reality in short order.

  2. I look at that picture of the Vancouver Amtrak station and reminisce about the day last summer when I waited 55 minutes for a cab after getting off the Cascades. I stood about where the white car is. It really made me reconsider the wisdom of going to Vancouver by train; they don’t have that “last mile” bit taken care of.

      1. Electrification of Amtrak Cascades Line is questionable. Basic upgrades allows 2 additional Talgo Trainset runs between Portland–Seattle and a modest reduction of trip time. Spare electricity should be directed to Link LRT & Trolleybus & Streetcar Lines to deal with much worse traffic problems than inter-city business & leisure travel. Talgo-type Amtrak service expansion also benefits freight rail.

        Talgo is ‘true’ HSR.
        In fact, Talgo was the 1st ‘true’ HSR.

    1. Ctran used to have an intresting way of getting riders Downtown. They had their ADA paratransit service meet the trains and go to the Downtown transit center with the riders. You paid the fixed route fare, and they issued transfers Downtown. Because they monitored the train status, and I guess had the trips placed into standby, so they would always meet the train ontime or not. I think it got cut around 2003 though. Never saw it advertised. Not sure how you got to the amtrak depot but they would take you downtown.

    2. By contrast, Portland always has a line of cabs waiting for the Amtrak’s arrival, and the MAX stop is a fairly short walk from the station.

    3. Vancouver is a suburb like Bellevue. (Historically it’s an old city, but functionally it’s like a suburb.) Also, Vancouver is like a tax haven in that it attracts people who don’t want to pay Oregon’s income tax or Washington’s sales tax. Anti-tax people tend to drive and disapprove of transit (except, nowadays, peak commuter routes). Bellevue’s sales tax is so close enough to Seattle’s that few people even notice it, and even though “Cars Cost Less in Puyallup” it’s still not that much lower. So there’s not the concentration of anti-tax, anti-transit people in one area like there is in Vancouver.

  3. Because of a mudslide we were put on buses in Portland. While we were driving down I-5 the Cascades train passed us. That same train was waiting for the bus we were on so the people going north of Seattle could re-board it. Just by changing policies a mudslide would be a single day affair as apposed to half a week event.

  4. The mudlside problem is huge for both Amtrak and Sound Transit, but less so for the BNSF as they can clear the track and get moving again. I definitely think that we should be shoring up the slopes to avoid future trouble and winning whatever funding we can to do so.

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