Prospectus Blog

Why Washington state should invest in passenger rail

Over at Transportation Issues Daily, Cascadia Center director Bruce Agnew has written a guest post arguing in favor of continued investment in passenger rail in the state of Washington. [Washington] successfully competed for $750 million in new federal rail funds for projects with BNSF Railway from Vancouver, Washington to Blaine. These projects have multiple benefits from more passenger service to better freight access to ports and safer highway/rail grade crossings. … The state should encourage public private partnerships for new and expanded train/bus ferry centers linked by more passenger rail. … [M]ore trains requires more public investments in the BNSF line. Since they carry millions passengers every day, the state should explore new revenue options with them as partners. The Read More ›

Greyhound Lines looking for new Seattle home

Image via Wikipedia The last time Greyhound Lines had to look for a home in Seattle, Calvin Coolidge was still president. But with an eviction notice earlier this fall, the bus line will need to move from its Stewart Street location by April 2013.  As Crosscut’s C.B. Hall writes, the company says if a location can’t be found, it’ll need to leave Seattle. It’s a test, he says, to Seattle’s “commitment to mass transportation.” Greyhound officials, according to Hall’s reporting, say the company’s preference for a new home would be at or near King Street Station in Pioneer Square. According to Hall’s Crosscut article, “Greyhound’s first choice, says [Greyhound] district manager Mike Timlin, ‘would be to go in with King Read More ›

U.S.-Canada agreement will speed-up train service

Image via Wikipedia An agreement signed between the U.S. and Canada will make traveling between Vancouver, British Columbia, and Seattle, Wash., faster and more efficient.  The “Beyond the Border” accord, signed by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and U.S. President Barack Obama, includes provisions for pre-clearance. That means, among other things, that travelers heading south from Vancouver will no longer have to undergo inspections in both Vancouver and Blaine, Wash. The inspection functions will be consolidated in Vancouver. From the Cascadia Center’s official statement in support of the accord: By eliminating duplicative inspection functions and increasing the speed of travel between Canada and the U.S., the Beyond the Border accord serves as a long-awaited landmark agreement. … By December 2012, with Read More ›

The Precarious State of the Highway Trust Fund

On November 18, President Obama signed into law a bundle of appropriation bills for FY 2012 including appropriations for the U.S. Department of Transportation. The measure had been passed earlier in the House by a vote of 298-121 and in  the Senate by a vote of 70-30.

The bill provides $39.14 billion in obligation limitation for the highway program, a reduction of
almost $2 billion from FY 2011; however, an additional $1.66 billion is appropriated for highway-related “emergency relief.” The transit program is funded at $10.31 billion (incl. $1.95 for New Starts), a $400 million increase from FY 2011, and Amtrak at $1.42 (incl. $466 million for operating expenses). The discretionary TIGER program is retained at $500 million, a
slight decrease from FY 2011.

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Thousands descend on Orlando, Fla., to talk transportation technology

Thousands descend on Orlando, Fla., to talk transportation technology
Experts focus on technology’s role in moving people and goods quicker, safer, cleaner

By Larry Ehl

 When you travel today — whether by car, bus, rail, plane or bike — technology made your trip safer, faster and cleaner than in the past. That technology may have been obvious to you (hybrid vehicles, GPS) or not (traffic light synchronization, interstate weigh-in-motion for trucks).

Yet our transportation network can be much, much safer, efficient and cleaner. Every year nearly 40,000 people are killed on our highways. Congestion cost about $101 billion and 4.8 billion wasted hours in 2010. Transportation accounts for nearly 30% of our greenhouse gases.

Making transportation safer, more efficient and cleaner was the focus of a recent conference — the Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) World Congress, held Oct. 16-20, in Orlando, Fla. —  attended by about 8,000 public- and private-sector transportation specialists from more than 65 countries.

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Obama’s New $50 Billion Infrastructure Stimulus — Old Wine in New Bottles

President Obama’s new  $50 billion infrastructure initiative — part of his  $447 billion American Jobs Act (AJA) — offered no surprises. It’s almost an exact replica of his FY 2012 budget request which included a  sum of $50 billion for transportation to “jump start” a proposed $556 billion six-year surface transportation reauthorization.

The rhetoric may have changed — Obama avoided using the terms “stimulus” and “infrastructure” in presenting his AJA initiative to Congress — but the substance of the two initiatives is remarkably similar. Both proposals would fund an identical mix of programs (highways, transit, Amtrak, high-speed rail, aviation and the TIFIA credit program) and both would establish a  National Infrastructure Bank. Read More ›

Second train saved by Canadian government

The second Amtrak Cascades service to Vancouver, B.C., which could have ended in October if the Canadian government had decided to implement a previously proposed $1,500 inspection fee, received a reprieve when Canadian Public Safety Minister Vic Toews announced after a meeting with Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, his decision to permanently waive the proposed fee. Cascadia had worked closely with the Washington Department of Transportation, Amtrak, the Pacific Northwest Economic Region (PNWER) and All Aboard Washington in pointing to the strong ridership and great economic impact to B.C. from both trains. In July, at the PNWER Summit in Portland, we collectively pressed the case with Canadian Ambassador Gary Doer. Canadian Consulate General Denis Stevens also deserves great Read More ›

Seattle voters say “yes” to tunnel

Waterfront Visualization WSDOT.png

Future waterfront visualization. (Photo source: WSDOT)

Though one hesitates to say something in Seattle is ever actually finished, in the land of indecision, it appears that a decision has finally been made. With nearly 60 percent in favor, Seattle voters told their elected officials on Tuesday to move forward with a tunnel replacement for the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

As The Seattle Times reports, the defeat of the effort to recall the earlier decision to build the tunnel sets into motion the final bureaucratic and regulatory approvals that will move the project forward rapidly and allow “the state Department of Transportation (DOT) to tell its tunnel contractors by Sept. 1 to move into final design and construction.”

Read More ›

Infrastructure investment could be “economic driver”

Cascadia Center hubs, corridors, gateways.png

In a bi-partisan pitch, former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell (a Democrat) and current Mesa, Ariz., mayor Scott Smith (a Republican), argue in today’s Wall Street Journal for a stronger U.S. investment in transportation infrastructure.

Whether it involves highways, railways, ports, aviation or any other sector, infrastructure is an economic driver that is essential for the long-term creation of quality American jobs.

When it comes to transportation, Washington has been on autopilot for the last half-century. Instead of tackling the hard choices facing our nation and embracing innovations, federal transportation policy still largely adheres to an agenda set by President Eisenhower.

Investments in transportation infrastructure–especially strategic, long-term investments–are investments in the future of the country. And as Rendell and Smith argue, true transportation investments aren’t (or shouldn’t be) a partisan issue.

Building America’s transportation infrastructure has been a national goal since Thomas Jefferson promoted canals and roads and Abraham Lincoln helped forge the Transcontinental Railroad. And still today, there remains a justifiable federal responsibility to address the country’s infrastructure decline. But it must be addressed thoughtfully, and much differently from the past. The sole responsibility can’t be left up to the federal government–from a financing or management perspective. (Indeed, given the current economic outlook, we’re probably well past the days when this made sense–if it ever did.) Instead, infrastructure investments could benefit tremendously, especially in terms of innovation and financing, from public-private cooperation.

Ultimately, despite the economic chaos we find ourselves in, we need infrastructure improvements that will contribute to the long-term economic growth of the country. Hopefully, Messrs. Rendell and Smith aren’t the only ones willing to cross the political aisle to cooperate on this issue.  
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The future of high-speed rail in the Northwest

Washington state’s Legislative Committee on Economic Development and International Relations held a hearing in Seattle to examine the future of high-speed rail in the state of Washington as well as the Northwest. Cascadia Center’s testimony, done jointly with All Aboard Washington, can be watched in the clip below. Video of the entire hearing can be found at TVW.