With Olympics On Horizon, Coalition Urges Action To Accelerate Second Amtrak Cascades Run To Vancouver

In a letter delivered to Canada’s Minister of Public Safety Peter van Loan, a cross-border coalition made up of think tanks, business executives and elected officials encouraged the Canadian government to relax customs fees for train travel between Washington State and British Columbia. Cascadia Center’s Bruce Agnew, who also serves as the co-chair of the PNWER Transportation Working Group is among the signatories of the letter.

“…we urge you to expand the fee waiver period from June 1, 2009 to June 1, 2010 to allow commencement of service as proposed by Amtrak and Washington State Department of Transportation.”

As the commencement date for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver approaches, at issue in the immediate short term is the ability of “Amtrak to test and market the service (a second Amtrak Cascades train) during the busy summer tourism and cruise ship season.”
The letter cites a study by the Border Policy Research Institute that found that “implementation of the service over a year would allow the federal, provincial and municipal governments in Canada to collect $1.87 million in GST, PST and room taxes combined as a result of increased passenger travel.”
Click below to read the extended post and the coalition’s letter.

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Cascades Corridor Intercity Rail Poised For Growth

The newly-signed federal stimulus legislation includes $8 billion for intercity passenger rail projects – preferably high-speed rail in major corridors connecting metro regions. In addition, as reported by The Politico, the Obama administration will seek an additional $5 billion in high-speed rail funding over the next five years. The U.S. Department of Transportation has designated six main high-speed rail corridors, all of which would link major metro areas. Here’s a map. The corridors are: Eugene-Portland-Seattle-Vancouver, B.C.; San Diego-Los Angeles-Bay Area-Sacramento; South Central; Midwest; Southeast; and Northeast (a.k.a. “Keystone-Empire”). The California High Speed Rail Authority, which last fall won voter approval for $10 billion in bonds to help develop its system, has already prepared preliminary plans for how it would spend Read More ›

Commuter Rail Projects, Proposals Multiply Across U.S.

In Austin, Texas, Capital Metro’s new 32-mile long commuter rail line using state-of-the art diesel multiple unit (DMU) cars will begin operations this fall. Officials from around the U.S. are flocking to Austin for demos. Among them were a transportation-focused Washington state contingent in early April organized by the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce, including WSDOT Secretary Paula Hammond, King County Council Member Julia Patterson, Cascadia Center Director Bruce Agnew and Cascadia Senior Fellow Steve Marshall. Agnew is spearheading our Eastside TRailway commuter rail and recreational trail initiative, and Marshall is leading our charge on plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, which are gaining traction thanks in part to the outstanding work of Austin-based Plug-in Partners and their national grassroots initiative. The Read More ›

Freight Railroads Undergoing Dramatic Expansion

According to the Association of American Railroads, freight railroads carry more than 40 percent of the nation’s freight measured in ton miles, and had aggregate revenues of $54 billion in 2006. The Association’s January 2008 report “Overview Of U.S. Freight Railroads” notes that “a typical train takes the freight equivalent of several hundred trucks of our highways.” And freight railroads are experiencing unprecedented expansion. “For the first time in nearly a century railroads are making large investments in their networks,” wrote Daniel Machalaba in the Wall Street JournalĀ (“New Era Dawns For Rail Building,” February 13, 2008). He reports that since 2000, freight railroads have spent $10 billion to expand track, build freight yards and buy rolling stock and they have Read More ›

“Get On Board With Eastside Commuter Rail”

“Get on board with Eastside commuter rail,” urges the Everett Herald in a Sunday editorial following two community forums on the policy initiative last week, in which Cascadia Center previewed a new 501c4 non-profit – the Eastside TRailway Partnership – to raise public and private funds for a pilot route between Snohomish and Bellevue on old Burlington Northern and Sante Fe tracks to be purchased by the Port of Seattle. The Herald: Imagine relatively small, quiet, fuel-efficient trains carrying thousands of commuters and tourists between Snohomish and Bellevue, and perhaps farther south, each weekday — running every hour or even half-hour on tracks that already exist. Imagine a comfortable, scenic rail commute that includes seamless connections to buses to get Read More ›

One Step Closer To Eastside Commuter Rail

The action taken by the Port of Seattle yesterday in moving forward with purchase of the BNSF rail line east of Lake Washington is an extremely important milestone for the future of rails and trails on the Eastside. The new wrinkle has King County purchasing rather than leasing from the Port the Renton-to-Bellevue and Woodinville-to-Redmond sections, to remove the track and develop a gravel trail. That will need to be reckoned with, but it isn’t a deal killer. The Renton-to-Bellevue portion of the rail line was scheduled to be severed anyway, due to construction of an expanded section of I-405 at the Wilburton Trestle. What’s left right now, for possible – and we believe, eminently feasible – Eastside commuter rail Read More ›

Eastside Commuter Rail An Affordable Regional Asset

Under a planned deal between the Burlington Northern Sante Fe railroad, the Port of Seattle and King County, a key 31-mile stretch of the Eastside BNSF rail line could be ripped out for scrap, and soon, to make way for a recreational trail. A recreational trail is a great asset, bring it on! But road congestion is a growing problem in Central Puget Sound; population is projected by regional planners to swell 52 percent by 2040; and current transit options are limited. The full Eastside rail corridor should be not only preserved, but utilized for commuter rail and a trail. The Seattle Times reports today on Cascadia Center’s proposal for an Eastside commuter rail line on the existing, 42-mile BNSF Read More ›

It’s Time for the Federal Government to Get Serious About Rail

Recently, The Wall Street Journal provided a rosy update on Amtrak service and an increasing federal budget, particularly for the New York-Boston corridor. Airplanes are getting stuck in lots of traffic jams this summer, but Amtrak is on a roll. Ridership on the passenger rail system is up 6% so far this year, the biggest jump since the late 1970s. On the Acela Express, trains that run at higher speeds between Washington, New York and Boston, the number of riders has surged 20% over the past 10 months. That’s enough new passengers to fill 2,000 Boeing 757 jets. Ridership is up, according to the article, as business people – wary of endless hassles at Northeast airports – increasingly turn to Read More ›

Greater Scrutiny Urged For I-90 Light Rail Plan

In a Seattle Times op-ed published today, the former chief examiner of the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission, George Kargianis, and former state Supreme Court justice Phil Talmadge assert Sound Transit’s proposal to build light rail across Lake Washington to Eastside suburbs via the I-90 floating bridge just doesn’t pencil out. We have taken no official position yet on either the Eastside light rail proposal or the larger November, 2007 roads and transit ballot measure of which it is a part. However, our Cascadia Center of Discovery Institute supports system wide, time variable automated highway tolling; taxpayer-friendly design-build contracting; enhanced opportunities for public-private partnerships to build and operate transportation infrastructure; improved transportation technology to help address congestion; regional governance in Read More ›