by MIKE SKEHAN
Congress, in a bold stroke of progressive thinking, has quadrupled the investment in High Speed Rail (HSR) to 8 Billion. The funds will be doled out by the FTA on a competitive basis, and with just 12 HSR corridors in the nation to date, our own Cascade Rail Corridor, using existing Talgo tilt trains is in line for a huge chunk – Maybe?
1/12th of 8 Bil. Is 666 Mil. – but I’m not naive enough to think we’ll out compete California and other large states for a full share. As I have advocated here before our state is in a very competitive position to capture the needed funding to accelerate progress towards making the dream a reality.
We have many of the pieces in place. You can learn more about the latest plan from the WSDOT here.
Many of these projects, such as the Ft Deviance Bypass and Vancouver, WA rail yard bypass are or will be shovel ready. This makes sense on so many levels: Consider a trip from Seattle to Portland via car, plane or HSR.
• Car Travel: 144 miles @ 60 mph takes 2.4 hours, costing $70 (IRS 50.5 cents/mi)
• Plane Travel: About 3.3 hours, costing $70. (LRT to/from airports, 1 hour security and boarding, and a 50 minute flight)
• HSR Travel will take under 3 hours, and cost about $30. For the business traveler who can use the time on the train as billable hours, it’s a no brainer.
Greenhouse emissions are much lower for trains than planes and all but a few cars. Fuel efficiency is a hands down winner for rail!
Using and “Incremental Approach” to funding our HSR line adds train sets, more frequent trips, and increases train speeds to 110 mph along sections of the line. On-time performance is increased from 60% to 97% Ridership will nearly double over 10 years, and the entire corridor, when fully built, could be operated at a profit.
I’m referring to our adopted state plan for Option 3, costing $537 Mil. The report concludes that thousands of jobs will be created, and benefit cities all along I-5 in the billions.
With the Feds now aiming to pressure freight railroads to reduce or eliminate slow orders and improve on-time performance to 80% or greater, now is the time to look towards the future.
Again, the support STB has given to rail transport is appreciated. I hope you can find the time to encourage our elected leaders to grab this low lying fruit. Thanks.