Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

US Rail Developments

with 3 comments

We are not the only place that is going to build a huge new bridge with the promise of LRT capacity for the future, but a lot new freeway capacity much sooner. The same mistake is being advocated by the  Columbia River Crossing Project Sponsors Council for the Washington/Oregon boundary. This this is not the same as the Gateway Council set up (where the proponents were mainly business interests). The Seattle Transit Blog reports that

The Columbia River Crossing Project Sponsors Council is made up of leaders both in Oregon and Washington including leaders of Vancouver, Portland, TriMet (Portland’s transit agency) and Oregon DOT and Washington DOT.

This would be a twelve lane bridge – replacing the existing 6 lane – so the outcome – double the capacity double the traffic – is not in doubt. The discussion is also intersting beneath the story since it would appear that, like the Port Mann, there is actually no defined plan for actually connecting up the proposed bridge to the regional rapid transit system.

Just as with the US federal bailout program, there is still a lot of interest in roads and bridges, and much less availble for railways. Yet another opportunity to change the dorection of North America is going to be lost, it seems. Railways are much more efficient people and freight movers than roads – both in terms of land taken and energy consumed. Global warming and peak oil should have seen everyone start to switch towards renewable sources of energy much sooner and faster than they have – and go for electrification, since electricity does not have to come from fossil fuels. Road vehicles rely almost exclusively on oil – most “alterntative” fuels still being fossil fuel sourced or processesed – and electric cars still being something only distant commercially in sufficient quantities to make any difference.

New York seems to be the exception to this rule. There railways lead much of the development of the state – and not a few are already electrified and carrying large numbers of people as well as freight. The North East of the US bing rather different to most of the rest of the country.

State will invest more than $10 billion over 20 years to improve connections between New York’s biggest cities

This morning at the Albany/Rensselaer train station, New York Governor David Paterson (D) announced a major new effort by his state to invest in its rail system

Most of that investment is designed to upgrade existing corridors to enable better transportation of people and goods. This is not yet electrified high speed rail adopted by most other advanced countries, but is an important step in the right direction.

The contrast with BC is stark. He we sold of BC Rail (a process still mired in controversy) and are currently proposing to spend a lot of money enabling freight railways to continue to disrupt communities. This is because we have a government at present that only cares aboiut business – nothing else matters. We actually had an electric railway to move coal up at Tumbler Ridge but we scrapped that. We could have used the Olympics as a way to get good quality passenegr rail between North Vancouver and Whistler – not hard or expensive to do, and common to most ski resorts in Europe and japan – but the porfit to be made from the sale to CN was a quicker fix. And we only have short lengths of rail rapid transit in the core of the region – and one way, peak only commuter rail for one part of the rest.

Rail for the Valley, streetcars and light rail for region, even a second daily train to Seattle all seem to be terribly difficult to achieve – but all objections to yet more roads and freeways are simply swept away as if they had no validity. We plan by staring at the wake of the ship and ignore the hazards now clearly visible from the bridge.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 9, 2009 at 1:34 pm

Posted in Railway, Transportation

3 Responses

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  1. This is what the Columbia River crossing project internet site says in a section called “Local preferred alternative”: “The Columbia River Crossing project’s six local partner agencies have selected a replacement I-5 bridge with light rail to Clark College as the project’s Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA)”. Check
    Noted in the LPA section: “Light rail would extend from the Expo Center MAX Station in Portland to a station and park and ride at Clark College in Vancouver. Pedestrians and bicyclists would travel along a wider and safer path than exists today. Light rail and the pedestrian and bicycle path could be on a third bridge or located beneath the decks of the new highway bridges.
    Light rail would fit within the future express and local bus systems to expand access between Vancouver and Portland. Express buses would continue to serve long distance commuter markets by providing direct access between Clark County and downtown Portland during peak commute hours. Local bus service in Vancouver would connect to light rail and continue to serve Vancouver etc.”
    By the way, for those not familiar with the states of Washington and Oregon, there is a town called Vancouver (WA)just outside Portland..

    Red frog

    March 9, 2009 at 8:16 pm

  2. I can’t wait for May.

    Campbell and his lackey Falcon will feel my wrath, and STV will get my vote… as will the NDP, but only because the Greens don’t have a chance, and the Liberals MUST GO.


    March 9, 2009 at 9:08 pm

  3. The Columbia River Bridge project in Portland is to replace the aging I-5 lift spans and extend MAX into Vancouver Washington, across the Columbia River. The project has been voted down by voters two times as too expensive for what it will achieve.

    But here is the big difference, the Columbia river LRT/I-5 bridge has been debated by the public and voted on by the public, just like every section of the MAX LRT and Streetcar system.

    The taxpayer has had each part of the project vetted, debated and approved; the taxpayer knows the entire cost of the project including debt servicing. Now compare this to how the province plans for SkyTrain – “You are going to get SkyTrain whether you like it or not.”

    Gateway is the same, “You will get Gateway, whether you like it or not.” No debate, no public consultation, NOTHING!

    A personal note: I was asked by some transit types for a “out of state view” on the first I-5/LRT bridge project and I gave my opinion, that for the expected ridership increase (under 10,000 a day) did not warrant the cost of several US billion dollars. Evidently, Portland’s taxpayers agreed with my observations and voted against the project (two times now I believe).

    I also believe there was a ‘stand alone’ light rail bridge project at one time, which was also voted down.

    Malcolm J.

    March 10, 2009 at 6:37 am

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