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Blowing the whistle on plans to shift Amtrak's route south of Tacoma

The state wants to move Amtrak's Cascades trains inland south of Tacoma, routing them through Lakewood. But the cars would roll through at 79 miles an hour, raising concerns about safety and noise.

An Amtrak Cascades train

An Amtrak Cascades train Eric/Wikimedia Commons

Washington state's plans to reroute its Amtrak Cascades trains through Lakewood are meeting stiff opposition. The reroute would bypass the so-called Point Defiance route that the trains currently follow along the Puget Sound shoreline between Tacoma and Nisqually.

The bypass would shave six minutes off Portland-to-Seattle trips, and could ultimately facilitate a Sound Transit expansion to Olympia — but that's not enough to mollify trackside communities.

Upgrading the inland bypass to allow operation of fast passenger trains has been planned by the state Department of Transportation (WSDOT) since1995, according to Ron Pate, high-speed rail program manager at the department's Rail and Marine Office. But the project received a big boost from the recent arrival of federal stimulus funds.

That funding will cover the entire $91.6 million cost of the project, defined as the upgrade of the 13.5 miles of track from Lakewood to Nisqually. Upgrades to the Tacoma-Lakewood segment already have been nearly completed in anticipation of Sound Transit's 2012 introduction of its Sounder service as far south as Lakewood. The infusion of funds means that seven Amtrak round-trips will be running daily over the new route by 2017, two years earlier than the state had previously planned.

Even the 2017 deadline, binding under the terms of the federal grant, seems a long way off, however, as a mountain of environmental documentation must be assembled and a torrent of protests from adjacent communities must be reckoned with.

David Anderson, who heads the neighborhood association in Lakewood's Tillicum district, along whose edge the trains would zoom by at up to 79 mph, says that some local residents would drop their opposition in return for certain mitigations but that “the majority position is that we don't want Amtrak through here at all.” He knows of only one Tillicum resident who approves of the current plan.

Amtrak operates the Cascades corridor trains under contract from WSDOT, which is responsible for the service's overall development.

Anderson's group stands with the cities of DuPont and Lakewood, which have both passed resolutions opposing the WSDOT plan as currently formulated. The Clover Park School District, which serves the entirety of Lakewood, has filed a similar statement. Lakewood's resolution states that WSDOT has “disregarded” city concerns, safety paramount among them. For a time, DuPont's city website included a colorful page announcing a January public meeting on the project. The page — headlined “What Will the 'Amtrak Invasion' Cost You?” — excoriated Amtrak on several points. The city took the page down after Crosscut inquired about it.

Sound Transit owns virtually the entire 20 miles of the route, on which freight is carried by Tacoma Rail under terms of an easement with the commuter provider. The traffic amounts to four to six trains weekly.

In contrast to the Cascades, the Sounder expansion enjoys Lakewood's support. The Sounder trains would not exceed 40 mph, but Amtrak's trains would hit their 79-mph limit on most of the route, and wouldn't stop anywhere between Tacoma and Lacey, the stop that would serve Olympia.

The Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway, which owns the Point Defiance route now used by Amtrak, “will need that line more than was anticipated a decade ago, and they and WSDOT definitely felt that the bypass was the best [solution],” explains Lloyd Flem, executive director of All Aboard Washington, a passenger rail advocacy group. “The total volume of freight is continuing to grow.”

Flem's group supports the project. “We’re not wildly enthusiastic about it, but I accept the wisdom and necessity of it now. Some of the most physically attractive scenery on the Northwest Corridor will be gone,” he adds, referring to the views passengers get along the more roundabout shoreline route.

Initial funding plans for the bypass project required only a so-called document of categorical exclusion from the federal government, lessening the need for environmental review, and that document was issued in 2008. However, receipt of the stimulus funds, which WSDOT applied for instead in 2009, required a more elaborate environmental assessment, entailing a range of social concerns and “a lot of community involvement,” Pate says.


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Comments:

Posted Wed, Apr 20, 3:29 a.m. Inappropriate

Is there a map of the current and proposed routes available online anywhere?

Posted Wed, Apr 20, 6:01 a.m. Inappropriate

If sidewalks equal happiness, what do train tracks mean?

“Shareable” is an online magazine that describes what it means to live in a happy place, sidewalks being key according to the author of a recent article. Given we have sidewalks here in Lakewood but we are also due rail – high speed rail - does that mean we’ll be even happier?

Here’s an excerpt:

“The way we design our communities plays a huge role in how we experience our lives. Neighborhoods built without sidewalks, for instance, mean that people walk less and therefore experience fewer spontaneous encounters, which is what instills a spirit of community to a place. That’s a chief cause of the social isolation so rampant in the modern world that contributes to depression, distrust and other maladies.”

http://www.shareable.net/blog/how-to-design-a-neighborhood-for-happiness

So, to extrapolate on this principle – that “designing a neighborhood for happiness” means sidewalks, and sidewalks means spontaneous encounters, and spontaneous encounters leads to smiley faces and less trips to the therapist – what means the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) plan to run 14 high speed trains per day through Lakewood and DuPont? Spontaneous combustion?

Without sidewalks, where would we be? And if WSDOT’s plan succeeds, that’s a good question. Where will we be?

Cut-off from civilization, alone in the world, we can walk those sidewalks right up to where they’ll end – and watch the trains go by.

Now if you think Jay Walljasper is ‘out there’ - in his article on the reason for “happy towns” - he has a following, at least in terms of far-fetched foolishness: WSDOT.

In the Washington State Amtrak Cascades Mid-Range Plan, there are a number of foibles but here’s one example: “Of every $1 billion invested in rail, an estimated 20,000 new jobs would be created curbing global warming and supporting cleaner energy.”

No, seriously. That’s a quote. ‘Open your wallet. Save the world. Ride Amtrak.’ Makes you want to get on board doesn’t it?

The truth however, which is normally preferable when you’re talking money of that magnitude, is likely more in keeping – certainly more down to earth – in the research of the Cato Institute. These scholars and analysts conduct independent, nonpartisan research on a number of public policy issues. Because the Cato Institute accepts no government funding, they can tell it like it is.

So, according to Cato, here’s how it is with regards WSDOT’s outrageous contention of curbing gas emissions.

“Amtrak has virtually no impact on reducing traffic congestion, pollution, or energy use. Even a doubling of train ridership would reduce energy consumption and traffic congestion by less than 0.1 percent. It is estimated that Amtrak removes barely 2 percent of lane capacity - considerably below the threshold required for construction of a new lane, much less a new freeway or toll road. Growth in traffic is dependent on economic growth, business expansion, and suburban growth, which Amtrak has virtually no capability of affecting.”

The excerpt above can be found in its entirety at https://www.cato.org/pubs/pas/pa-266.html but for now it is worth noting that it is entitled "Amtrak At Twenty - End of the Line for Taxpayer Subsidies".

Now that is a good idea, especially given the amount of money we taxpayers underwrite this losing proposition called Amtrak.

Happy now?

Posted Wed, Apr 20, 8:20 a.m. Inappropriate

I am the communications manager for the Point Defiance Bypass project.
A map of the project and more up to date information about our progress can be found on our project webpage: http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/projects/rail/pnwrc_ptdefiance/

Posted Wed, Apr 20, 8:22 a.m. Inappropriate

"Some of the most physically attractive scenery on the Northwest Corridor will be gone, referring to the views passengers get along the more roundabout shoreline route."

Speaking as a passenger who has made the train trip to and from Portland on several occasions, I believe trading those 15 minutes of fabulous views for a saving of 6 minutes in the overall journey is simply not worth it. I'm surprised that a group which supposedly represents the interests of rail passaengers (i.e., All Aboard Washington) could be persuaded to go along with such a scheme. Hats off to the various communities and activist groups that are trying to scuttle these plans!

Posted Wed, Apr 20, 10:18 a.m. Inappropriate

Six minutes in total time savings? At 79 mph? Is this figure correct? It doesn't pass the common sense test.

gabowker

Posted Wed, Apr 20, 11:26 a.m. Inappropriate

I too, very strongly agree that it would be a real shame to lose the Sound and Olympics views from the Point Defiance route. That's the prettiest part of the entire route between Eugene and Seattle! Lakewood? To save 6 minutes?? Lame. As for increased freight traffic, I find it hard to believe that with today's technology trains cannot be better dispatched and scheduled than they often are.

Posted Wed, Apr 20, 11:46 a.m. Inappropriate

These last couple comments are interesting because another of my fellow Lakewood City Council members, Don Anderson, has asked a couple times if anyone's told the Portland-Seattle riders that they will lose what I understand is a pretty great view. It's a shame if they didn't know that was at stake. Thanks to Crosscut for educating people on the whole topic.

wneary

Posted Wed, Apr 20, 12:18 p.m. Inappropriate

The rail route along Puget Sound is indeed the scenic highlight of the train trip south, and should be retaied for that purpose. I think even the most time-stapped traveller would rather spend the extra 6 minutes to gaze at scenery that cannot be seen any other way, than to look at the crappy backyards of Tillicum. But, isn't freeing up the tracks for frieght trains one of the objectives? There is a solution that could make everyone relatively happy: route the passenger trains along the Sound, and the freights through South Tacoma. And the frieghts wouldn't have to impact Lakewood to the degree passenger trains would, or Tillicum at all. Looking at a railroad map, there is a rail route branching off of the proposed route at Lakewood, that heads due south for many miles through McCord/Ft. Lewis, reaching the towns of Rainier & Yelm, then again through miles of countyside before rejoining the current route at Tenino. This route bypasses the many level crossings in Lakewood & Tillicum, and should be comparable in cost to upgrading the line through Tillicum; possibly less, since it would be carrying frights going 60 mph instead os passenger trains going 80. So, why don't they create a freight route through McCord/Ft.Lewis, so the passengers can keep one of the nicest features of the trip, and frieghts can speed though an already unpopulated area, and enable the residents of Lakewood and Tillicum to continue to enjoy thier unspoiled, peaceful, bucolic environment.

alally

Posted Wed, Apr 20, 12:19 p.m. Inappropriate

Note to self: Never hit the submit button twice.

alally

Posted Wed, Apr 20, 12:50 p.m. Inappropriate

Your suggestion, alally, as to where they can put their train - is excellent. Your impressions of the community however, is exactly why we are fighting to keep from being futher cut off from the known world.

Kathleen Merryman in her article on Tacoma's East Side (TNT, April 27, 2009) - inarugably in worse shape than ours - quoted Councilwoman Connie Ladenburg as saying, "You can pass all the laws you want, but it's the people in the neighborhood who make the difference." Our strongest assets in Tillicum are our people, each with a skill, gift, talent, or ability who, when they roll up their sleeves, will make a better community with a brighter future. That philosophy is well underway. That grassroots ownership is what has and is making Tillicum the strongest neighborhood - again inarugably - in the city. The sewers going underground and the buildings planned above ground, pale in comparison to what can be accomplished by boots on the ground.

Posted Wed, Apr 20, 1:20 p.m. Inappropriate

Name-calling helps your argument?

Posted Wed, Apr 20, 1:31 p.m. Inappropriate

As a Lakewood resident and a frequent passanger on the Tacoma to Portland run, I fully support the proposed re-route.

quiller

Posted Wed, Apr 20, 2:03 p.m. Inappropriate

DA- My apologies for the unwarranted snarky comments about Tillicum. I am only drawing from my innumerable drives down I-5 which even thinking about causes my eyes to glaze over, & which the new passenger train route would parallel. bjan- while I agree that transit isn't about "taking in the scenery", if it is as world-class as the 15+ miles of Puget Sound, Olympics, and islands, that in itself would bring in significant ridership. The Coast Starlight takes 10 hours or so to go from LA to the Bay area, while the San Juaquin route is closer to 7. The Coast Starlight is usually sold out. This is because it hugs the Pacific ocean coastline for 120 miles, and the San Juaquin goes through Fresno & Bakersfield. If there is a market for a train that takes 3 hours longer by virtue of it's scenery, surely both time-strapped travellers and sightseers can be accomodated on the same train if there is only 6 minutes difference. Also, there would be no pissing off Tillicumites, because the frights wouldn't go through there, but several miles east. The main level crossings are at 56th, 72nd, Steilacoom Blvd, & 100th; which aren't too many overpasses to build. To think of it; if freight trains didn't run through Tillicum, but through Ft Lewis, the railroad right-of-way could be converted to a bike path; providing Tillicum with connection with the "outside world", which it lacks now, as you can get there only by driving the freeway. Plus, I always thought it would be cool if the trains stopped at the old-fashioned train depot in Steilacoom, which could be a jumping-off point to the islands and peninsula via water taxis/ferries. Just an idea...

alally

Posted Wed, Apr 20, 2:34 p.m. Inappropriate

One comment has been removed from this thread because of profanity and name-calling. Please keep the discussion civil.

Posted Wed, Apr 20, 2:53 p.m. Inappropriate

Routing Amtrak through the old Prairie line makes sense for the following reasons:

1. Amtrak will only add ten trains a day, five northbound and five southbound. Additionally, the Sounder commuter trains and Amtrak would pretty much be a daylight operation only.

2. Adding freight trains to the Prairie line could add up to 30 trains a day, 24/7/365

3. I share with BNSF a property line on the Stampede subdivision; we get from five to twenty trains a day depending on the economy. Trains are not a safety issue, nor is there any disruption to our family life.

4. Unless the state wants to pay to enlarge the Nelson Bennett tunnel, traffic will continue to build and be more congested. Having to sit in the Tacoma station waiting for a window to clear the tunnel is not my favorite means of relaxation. I have had to do it many times; running over the Prairie line is much more pleasing to me than the waiting in Tacoma. Overall, it will shave the six minutes average, but the big gain will be the dropping of the waiting to clear the tunnel.

Lets get over the NIMBY attitude, this is good for the region, if we carry the NIMBY attitude to it’s logical conclusion, do not let the citizens from Tillicum, Lakewood and DuPont drive over SR 18 by my house because they make too much noise and the extra automobiles are unsafe.

Posted Wed, Apr 20, 2:59 p.m. Inappropriate

Thanks alally for the further illustration of what can be - extremely useful comments for the continuing and sure-to-come debate.

Posted Wed, Apr 20, 3:03 p.m. Inappropriate

Regarding the potential safety issue, in general, it is much safer practice to separate the passenger trains from freight cars. If we are going to advocate for the safety of trespassers wandering across the tracks, we should also prioritize the safety of responsible citizens and paying customers that opt for an efficient and environmentally friendly means of transport.

Also, good points by seattlelifer. The real benefit is not the mathematical 6 minute savings but rather, eliminating potential bottlenecks and delays from freight traffic. We don't want this segment to become like SFO.

cascadio

Posted Wed, Apr 20, 3:17 p.m. Inappropriate

Let me restate my comment then. The people who oppose this project are NIMBYs who don't know what they're talking about. Here are the facts:

* Cascades ridership has steadily increased since its reintroduction in the 90s, as has its farebox recovery, currently around 60%. There is obviously a demand for rail service in this corridor, irrelevant bloviation from the Cato Institute notwithstanding. Cascades has the potential to break even or be profitable, if it can keep growing.
* To continue growing, Cascades needs more daily trips and much better on-time reliability. Every time I have used Cascades, the train has been delayed at the Nelson Bennett tunnel, which the point of this bypass is to, well, bypass. There is absolutely no more capacity at that tunnel, and the existing delays inhibit growth of the service.
* Even though the scheduled difference is only six minutes, the average travel time difference will probably be much more, as trains are routinely delayed for 20 mins or more at the tunnel.
* In theory, we could build this bypass and run the freights through Tillicum and the passenger trains on Point Defiance, but that would actually be much worse for the people in Tillicum. Freights are much louder, and take take up to five minutes to clear an intersection; Amtrak trains will be done in 45 seconds, plus the grade on this bypass is steeper than through the tunnel, so the big freights probably couldn't take it anyway. And the bypass will be slightly faster.
* This crap about safety is a canard. WSDOT will be rebuilding these crossings with all the best safety features. Amtrak trains already move nearly this fast through Puyallup, and I don't hear horror stories about people dying in droves at the crossings. If you manage to get killed while trespassing elsewhere, well, that's kinda your fault.

WSDOT is trying to build a medium-high speed rail corridor that puts Seattle in the middle of all the population centers of the PNW, a rail corridor that will serve us well in the rapidly-impending future of high-cost oil. Stories like this are just giving airtime to irrelevant whiners. Lead, follow, or get out of the way.

bjan

Posted Wed, Apr 20, 4:08 p.m. Inappropriate

First, I fail to see why CATO is summarily dismissed - unless you don't want to be bothered with the facts. Second, if there is a nimby argument here, it's what's-in-it-for-passenger-me as opposed to what is best for the economy, the region, the traffic nightmare - none of which, none, does Amtrak address, per CATO or Wisconsin, Florida or Ohio governors all of whom reject the ARRA funds.

Amtrak's plan, foisted upon us by WSDOT, is money, marketing driven.

And then there is Senator Carrell:

"Another area of concern that we all are facing is the ever-increasing congestion along the Interstate 5 corridor as it runs through our district and past Joint Base Lewis-McChord. I recently attended a hearing in the Senate that addressed some of these concerns and once again heard the continuing mantra from the state Department of Transportation that they have no money to fix the problem. One of the things that I learned from that meeting was that the capacity of I-5 (which was designed in the 1950’s) is about 60,000 cars a day. Currently, I-5 has reached its daily capacity on that stretch of highway, meaning that if we do exceed that capacity, backups are only going to get worse.

"When economic conditions improve, more people will begin to drive more often. Add to that the increased number of overseas troops returning home to the base, and the problem will only compound. DOT won’t be able to fix it with “traffic calming devices” like metered onramps. I-5 is now projected to be at 72,000 cars a day within the next decade, which means the highway will be about 20% over capacity and commuters can expect to be stuck in traffic during half of the day. DOT is reporting that even if they started now, they won’t be able to fix the congestion problem for another decade, but they also say they won’t have any money to even consider starting for at least ten years. It’s conceivable that the necessary lane addition may not happen for another twenty years, at which point the freeway could be as much as 50% over capacity! That would, in essence, bring traffic to a complete standstill, which is simply unacceptable."

Again, per the earlier CATO research, Amtrak does not - does not - alieviate traffic congestion, nor reduce emissions, save the polar bears, or any of the above.

Excerpt from Senator Mike Carrell’s Kitchen Cabinet update, 12/17/10.

Posted Wed, Apr 20, 4:35 p.m. Inappropriate

Cato's "studies" of Amtrak are highly suspect in general. For example, their GHG argument is that so few people take the train, it doesn't matter that those people emit less. That's not an argument against Amtrak, that's simply twisting out of context the fact that train ridership vs car drivership, taken over this entire country, is very small. What anyone with a clue about transit knows is that trains work best on short- to medium-distance corridors between cities, and in those corridors they can already compete well with driving and flying (e.g. Acela). It can work here too.

These people on Cascades would be on I-5 or on a plane if they weren't on the train. In choosing the train, not only do they not cause more congestion, they produce fewer emissions than if they drove a single-occupancy car and much less than if they flew. If you can't understand or won't accept that, this conversation is a waste of time.

Somewhat more broadly, in providing non-car options for regional travel, the state enhances the ability for people to live like I do, in the city without a car. Those of us who live this way use a fraction of the energy of people who live in the suburbs and drive a car, whether it's a Prius or a jacked-up F350, and we're largely immune to oil price variations, so all the hand-wringing in the media about how people are suffering at the pump seems rather quaint.

bjan

Posted Wed, Apr 20, 5:04 p.m. Inappropriate

Your argument for commuters of necessity or choice using the train is a good one - if it were true. In WSDOT's very own Washington State Amtrak Cascades Mid-Range Plan, they admitted that “over 80 percent of Cascades trips are leisure-based.” The logical conclusion then is that WSDOT’s proposal is not in fact founded upon the “demand for Amtrak Cascades service” but rather appears to be strongly tied to marketing.

Posted Wed, Apr 20, 5:04 p.m. Inappropriate

The point of trimming 6 minutes off the total time is that the goal is to get the train ride on par with driving. A few minutes here, a few there and then you've got a 1/2 hr saved.

That said, I found the ride along the shore well worth the extra time. When I first rode the train to Portland I had no idea it would be so beautiful. And I'd rather they fix the tracks North of Seattle to stop the slides that close the line all the time.

GaryP

Posted Wed, Apr 20, 7:12 p.m. Inappropriate

I am with GaryP, bjan, and seattlelifer.

DavidAnderson's cite of the CATO Institute is 15 years old. If you want to make arguement about how Amtrak drains tax dollars, get some more recent facts.

As for staying on the route along the water, check out this from the the WSDOT project web site: http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/NR/rdonlyres/955B7A5D-127F-4E10-8338-651C58076104/0/10212010PtDefianceShorelineAlternativeTechMemo.pdf
They can't add trains if they stay on the current route without spending close to $1 Billion, yes I said billion. $100 million vs. $1 billion? sounds like a no brainer.

The rail line through Tillicum and Dupont is right beside I-5. The train schedules I've seen don't have passenger trains late at night or early in the morning - I-5 has trucks and jake-brakes 24 hours a day.

Posted Wed, Apr 20, 9:51 p.m. Inappropriate

The fact that much of the travel is leisure does not alter the environmental and and congestion-mitigation of benefits of Cascades. People want to take weekend vacations, and there is nothing illegitimate about that, nor do I see what it has to do with "marketing." Also, the fact that much of the travel is leisure travel is probably something to do with the unreliability of Cascades, the mitigation of which is one of the points of this bypass.

WSDOT is slowly turning Cascades into a self-supporting rail corridor that will provide both business and leisure travelers with another better alternative to driving on the I-5 corridor. This is a laudable goal, and this bypass is part of that process; I hope the short-sighted local opposition to the project does not inhibit WSDOT's ability to execute the plan. Citing irrelevant hit pieces from Cato undermines none of that.

bjan

Posted Thu, Apr 21, 1:03 a.m. Inappropriate

I agree that NIMBYism is no reason to put the kibosh on an upgrade to a needed public service. The Cascades definitely is that. And yes, I agree that the tunnel is problematic and that overall service speed, reliability, and expansion by several more trains per day, requires a solution to that problem. Still... the views are truly great (even, as someone else mentioned, world-class in terms of what is visible from a train window) on that stretch, perhaps there could be a couple of trains per day each direction (especially during daylight hours) that are "scenic route" versions of the Cascades.

Posted Thu, Apr 21, 6:36 a.m. Inappropriate

Since you asked:

June, 2010:
“Amtrak has been providing second-rate train service for almost four decades, while consuming almost $40 billion in federal subsidies. The system has never earned a profit and most of its routes lose money. Amtrak's on-time record is very poor, and the system as a whole only accounts for 0.1 percent of America's passenger travel.”
http://www.downsizinggovernment.org/transportation/amtrak/subsidies

October 30, 2009:
“Last year, taxpayers gave Amtrak $1.3 billion in direct payments. So it's not just death and taxes that you can count on. You can also count on paying taxes to prevent the death of Amtrak. Only three of Amtrak's 44 lines made a profit last year, despite 2008 being the railroad's second-best-ever year for ridership."
http://current.newsweek.com/budgettravel/2009/10/amtrak_loses_32_per_rider.html

Sept.23, 2010 “What’s wrong with high-speed rail?”
"Revenues collected from ticket sales will not cover operating expenses even under optimistic ridership forecasts. Operating the line will therefore add to the state's existing budget deficit, already at record levels. This will crowd out spending on other public services and spur state tax increases. The overall (federal and state) government subsidy will also be huge — more than $100 per passenger per ride, over and above the ticket price."
http://www.isthmus.com/isthmus/article.php?article=30606

November 3, 2010
"Federally subsidized Amtrak reported a $1.26 billion net loss just last year (2009) alone."
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-11-03/united-delta-s-push-for-maintenance-abroad-global-ties-aided-by-election.html

August 5, 2009
"Are Proposals for High Speed Rail a Boondoggle?"
"Would you pay $1,000 so that someone — probably not you — can ride high-speed trains less than 60 miles a year? That's what the FRA's high-speed rail plan is going to cost: at least $90 billion or $1,000 for every federal income taxpayer. That's only the beginning. Count on adding $400 per taxpayer for cost overruns. Taxpayers will also have to cover operating losses: Amtrak currently loses $28 to $84 per passenger in most of its short-distance corridors.”

October 29, 2010
"High-Speed Pork - Why fast trains are a waste of money."
Author Robert Samuelson writes: “The absurdity is apparent. High-speed rail would subsidize a tiny group of travelers and do little else. If states want these projects, they should pay all costs because there are no meaningful national gains. The administration’s championing and subsidies—with money that worsens long-term budget deficits—represent short-sighted, thoughtless government at its worst.”
http://www.newsweek.com/2010/10/29/why-high-speed-trains-don-t-make-sense.html

June 8, 2009
"Even if a particular rail proposal did save a little energy in year-to-year operations, studies show that the energy cost of constructing rail lines dwarfs any annual savings. The environmental impact statement for a Portland, Oregon light-rail line found it would take 171 years of annual energy savings to repay the energy cost of construction."
http://www.opposingviews.com/i/trains-may-not-be-more-energy-efficient-than-cars

"To summarize my perspective on U.S. high speed rail proposals, it's not clear to me what problem or problems high-speed rail is intended to solve.”
"A 2010 assessment by the California Legislative Analyst's Office concluded that the revised HSR plan was 'on the fast track to fiscal failure,' as summarized by the California Taxpayers Association. State budgets are in poor shape to take on such new obligations. . . . To take on huge new funding commitments this year, or this decade, strikes me as not being responsible fiscal management. . . . Given the near-certainty that 100% of the capital costs of HSR must come from general taxpayers, and the risk that many of these projects, if built, will require ongoing operating subsidies, state legislators and other officials must think through where the funds to support those expenditures could come from."
http://reason.org/news/show/questions-about-high-speed-rail

The excerpt above is from the linked article authored by Robert Poole, Director of Transportation Policy at the Reason Foundation, a nonprofit public policy think tank. Poole holds two engineering degrees from MIT, and has spent nearly three decades studying both air and ground transportation and advised a number of state DOTs as well as the Federal Highway Administration, the Federal Transit Administration, and the Federal Aviation Administration.

High Speed to Insolvency
“Why liberals love trains.”

February 27, 2011, Newsweek, by George F. Will, an excerpt:

“Remarkably widespread derision has greeted the Obama administration’s damn-the-arithmetic-full-speed-ahead proposal to spend $53 billion more (after the $8 billion in stimulus money and $2.4 billion in enticements to 23 states) in the next six years pursuant to the president’s loopy goal of giving ‘80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail.’ ‘Access’ and ‘high-speed’ to be defined later.”

http://www.newsweek.com/2011/02/27/high-speed-to-insolvency.html

Posted Thu, Apr 21, 9:22 a.m. Inappropriate

Do you have anything intelligent to add to this conversation, DavidAnderson, or are you just going to post right-wing rants about Amtrak?

bjan

Posted Thu, Apr 21, 10:29 a.m. Inappropriate

Thank you, bjan. I couldn't have said it better myself.

quiller

Posted Thu, Apr 21, 10:42 a.m. Inappropriate

A person convinced against his will
Is of the same opinion still.

Posted Thu, Apr 21, 10:58 a.m. Inappropriate

So that's a "no" then. Thanks for clearing that up.

bjan

Posted Thu, Apr 21, 11:31 a.m. Inappropriate

Actually, I think with your inane posting, and my "irrelevant, right-wing, don't-tell-me-the-truth-because-I-don't-want-to-hear-it" facts, we may have taken over first place in the most commented articles on Cross-cut!

How 'bout that!

Oh, and I was responding to "Bigpicture" who ostensibly wanted to be brought up to date.

Here's another one for you that seems to describe you and your ilk (I'm putting it here so as not to appear to pad our number one rating):

“In the ‘Analogy of the Cave,’ Plato talks about people (who) don’t want to face the truth or the light, unless the market imposes that task on them – unless they virtually have no choice but to seek feedback and do something about it regularly. They prefer to live and work in relative darkness, in a comfort zone or a protected market niche. . . .”
(Principled-Centered Leadership by Stephen R. Covey, 1991)

Oh, sorry. That was written ten years ago.

Posted Thu, Apr 21, 11:49 a.m. Inappropriate

So you like living in your anti-rail cave and don't want me to shine any light in there? I figured, but I'm glad to hear it from your own mouth.

I have proffered evidence and arguments that the Cascades corridor is growing in revenue and ridership, and serves valid environmental and congestion mitigation purposes and well as improving the economic competitiveness and quality of life in this state. You have responded with a mix of incoherent drivel and irrelevant anti-rail hit pieces. I therefore conclude that you are incapable of or unwilling to engage in this debate and are conceding the facts and the argument to the rest of us.

bjan

Posted Thu, Apr 21, 12:14 p.m. Inappropriate

Danreedmiller wrote: "perhaps there could be a couple of trains per day each direction (especially during daylight hours) that are "scenic route" versions of the Cascades."

Would such an idea be feasible? If so, I think it sounds good to me!

Posted Thu, Apr 21, 12:21 p.m. Inappropriate

I realize this is an opinion venue so you, bjan, neither have to be forthright with your real name nor do you have to contend factually. To suggest that the evidence you have provided would stand on its own, make your case, and not be tossed out of court is a stretch to say the least. You resort rather to invective (you yourself were tossed twice) and ridicule which hardly merits more than keeping our ratings up.

Posted Thu, Apr 21, 12:30 p.m. Inappropriate

Thanks for clarifying once again that you have no substantive rebuttal to my statements about Cascades and its benefits.

bjan

Posted Thu, Apr 21, 1:36 p.m. Inappropriate

All modes of transportation are subsidized in some way or another.

Walking: We use low cost labor to make shoes in foreign lands. We use our navy to keep the shipping lanes open so that those shoes arrive safely. We use police & the courts to keep you from stealing the shoes from the store. We use property taxes to fund sidewalks.

Bicycling: We use property taxes to build bike paths. And since bicyclists use shoes, the walking subsidy applies.

Autos: We use property taxes to build roads, in addition to gasoline taxes for state roads. We use the navy and the army and the air force to keep the flow of oil coming from unstable Middle East countries.

Airplanes: We build airports with federal dollars and property taxes, and they burn oil, see auto subsidy.

Trains: We gave the original train companies the land if they would build the track, we use those same tracks for both passenger and freight transport.

Ranting about a subsidy to a particular type of transportation is inane and ignores the reality of all of the other modes that are subsidized. But then someone who hates trains might not bother to look at it that way.

GaryP

Posted Fri, Apr 22, 1:44 a.m. Inappropriate

Right on GaryP, that all modes are subsidized in various ways.
Certainly I'd be curious to see where in this great land highways pay for themselves.
And not only "liberals" can be in favor of rail and other forms of public transit:
http://www.amazon.com/Moving-Minds-Conservatives-Public-Transportation/dp/0982527306/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid;=1303461669&sr;=8-1

Posted Fri, Apr 22, 6:41 a.m. Inappropriate

Rail transportation is definately a non-partisan issue. Here is a pro-train (not necessarily pro-Amtrak) site, which in addition to the blogs contains some very in-depth analyses of the efficiencies of train travel, from a conservative, market-based perspective:

http://www.unitedrail.org/news/index.htm

The late conservative icon Paul Weyrich was staunchly pro-rail. Here is a link to the book Moving Minds, that he wrote with fellow conservative William Lind:

http://www.reconnectingamerica.org/resource-center/books-and-reports/2009/conservatives-and-public-transportation-3/

Numerous Republican politicians support Amtrak. Looking at the roll calls for appropriation votes for Amtrak, many Republican aye votes are mixed in with the ayes from Democrats; the Nay votes are virtually all Republican.

alally

Posted Thu, Apr 28, 3:30 p.m. Inappropriate

Although I support the development of a Northwest High Speed rail corridor the residents concerns here are real - and, sadly, very reminiscent of the very recent Sound Transit led portion of this same Tacoma-Olympia segment.

The only thing that is clearly being accomplished right now is a driving up of the costs of this project - curiously the same folks who are doing the bad job are also the ones making a profit doing so - an all too typical business model in America these days...

Posted Thu, Apr 28, 9:37 p.m. Inappropriate

"[is it] fair for those who own property adjacent to a 100-year-old-plus railroad to object if the railroad's owner decides to run more trains.

“That's a fair argument,” concedes Jeff Brewster, communications director for the city of Lakewood."

Gee, d'ya think?

As for Mr. Anderson, a person who doesn't even understand who owns the shoreline tracks, then throws out a bunch of links irrelevant to the debate, has lost all credibility. The Cascade trains will run, the question is where, not "if".

Finally, the inland line is not economically viable for freight. The grades are much too steep vs. the water-level route along the shore. The NP and BN ran relatively short, local trains on that route, not the long heavy intermodal, coal and manifest freights of present-day BNSF.

MagBill

Posted Fri, Apr 29, 2 p.m. Inappropriate

Anti-transit folks always regard trains as deadly, even though they're loud and follow a totally predictable path, unlike cars, bicycles, or Great White Sharks.

DannyK

Posted Fri, Apr 29, 11:33 p.m. Inappropriate

As a frequent (nearly weekly) rider of Amtrak Cascades, I would gladly trade the beautiful view of the Sound for a savings of six minutes each trip, and much improved reliability and on time performance. Much of the year, the days are short anyway and it's dark the whole trip. The cited 80% leisure travelers is likely an out dated estimate, as a good many that I meet each trip are business travelers or like me have geographically divided family and work. If an excursion train is desired, petition WSDOT to have the Coast Starlight run stay on Pt. Defiance, as that run already takes an hour longer for the Portland-Seattle trip compared to Cascades service. I've noticed over the last six months that the Cascades has gone from generally some extra seats to nearly always full. So, it's already proving an invaluable service to the region despite not yet achieving time parity with driving.

The appropriate safety mitigations will need to be made for Lakewood, but this bypass project should be built, and could not come soon enough.

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