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Old May 29th, 2009, 07:45 PM   #1
CrazyAboutCities
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Northwest High Speed Rail

High-speed rail could run from Oregon to B.C.

High-speed rail could carry trains between Oregon and Vancouver, B.C., thanks to federal stimulus money.

By Bill Sheets
Herald Writer
Imagine being able to hop on a train at Everett Station and be in Vancouver, B.C., in less than two hours, compared with three hours or more now.

Or you could go to Portland, Ore., in 3 1/2 hours, instead of the nearly five hours it now takes by Amtrak.

The countryside would zip by at speeds of 90 mph or more. It would be a smooth ride. The price would be comparable to today's fares.

Obstacles remain, but it might not be far off.

The corridor between Eugene, Ore., and Vancouver, B.C., is one of 10 finalists in the nation for a chunk of $8 billion included in this year's economic stimulus package for high-speed rail.

Anywhere from six to all 10 of the corridors could receive money as soon as this fall, with more possibly on the way later. Work could begin on overpasses and other improvements as soon as next year.

"No question about it, that's our intention," said state Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island. She said the state in August plans to ask for $900 million for improvements.

Washington, Oregon and British Columbia have already spent nearly $1 billion on improvements to the Amtrak Cascades line that has run between Eugene and Vancouver since 1994, giving the corridor a competitive edge, advocates and officials say.

"That puts us in good position to compete with the other high-profile corridors," said Bruce Agnew, policy director of the Cascadia Center for Regional Development, a Seattle transportation policy group. Agnew also is a former Edmonds resident and two-term Snohomish County councilman.

The Obama administration plans to include $5 billion more in its 2010 budget, which would parcel out $1 billion a year behind the original investment.

Still, $13 billion is a tiny fraction of what will be needed to develop high-speed train lines nationwide, said Larry Salci, a public transportation consultant who spoke at a Cascadia event in Seattle on Thursday.

"This is seed money," he said. He did not give a total estimated price for bringing high-speed train service to all 10 routes.

The major routes include California, where voters have already approved state funds for a line between San Francisco and Los Angeles; Washington, D.C., to Boston, where improvements to a current high-speed line are sought; and a Midwest network centered in Chicago.

While high-speed trains have been running for decades in Europe and Japan, Amtrak's Acela route on the Eastern seaboard is the only one in the U.S. that runs trains at high speed, up to 135 mph, Agnew said.

The Talgo trains operating on the Cascades route are capable of traveling up to 150 mph but are limited to 79 mph because of road crossings and other safety factors.

For trains to travel at full speed, safety requires building expensive new tracks to keep the high-speed trains from sharing tracks used by lumbering freight trains.

Without separate tracks, other improvements can get trains into the 90 to 110 mph range, officials say.

Use of the Cascades route has steadily grown to more than 676,000 riders in 2007 and 775,000 riders last year. One train per day goes from Seattle all the way to Vancouver, B.C.; plans are in the works to extend another train into Canada daily in time for the 2010 Winter Olympics next February.

The goal is to have four or five high-speed trains running every day between Seattle and Vancouver, B.C., Agnew said.

The challenge on this stretch is that there's only one track, while between Seattle and Portland there are two parallel tracks, he said. The trains wouldn't be able to travel at high speeds in some stretches, such as in urban areas or along the water between Seattle and Everett.

The money would first go to "siding" -- short stretches of parallel tracks where freight trains could pull over and let faster passenger trains go by, Agnew said. Everett Station, Stanwood, Bellingham and Blaine are likely candidates for side tracks, he said.

Money also would go to overpasses, underpasses and equipment. A GPS system could be used to better coordinate between passenger and freight trains using the tracks, Agnew said.

"That will expand capacity on that corridor tremendously," he said.

Reducing intersections with roads by building overpasses will allow the trains to operate at higher speeds for much more of the route. Marysville is a prime candidate to receive some of the money, likely in the second wave, for overpasses, Agnew said.

In Marysville, Fourth Street, 88th Street NE, 116th Street NE and 136th Street NE each cross the tracks. Marysville Mayor Dennis Kendall said he is all for overpasses at the crossings.

"Every time a train comes through with a hundred cars it just stops traffic at every placement," he said. "I would welcome anything to get folks off the freeway and get traffic out of town."

Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439, [email protected].

http://www.heraldnet.com/article/200....Oregon.to.B.C.
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Old May 30th, 2009, 01:38 AM   #2
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If they can get it up to 110mph and reach Portland in 2.5 hours, that will be great.

The California Highspeed project is very exciting! And very expensive at $40 billion
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Old May 30th, 2009, 06:32 PM   #3
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I don't see how this will be anywhere close to useful. This country has one of the most developed air travel in the world. I just don't see how a train, especially running at 90 mph (that's a hilarious speed by the way), would even compete with air travel. Anyone know the price for a ticket between Portland and Seattle? I'm guessing that once this is built, the train ticket might be even more expensive.
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Old May 30th, 2009, 07:39 PM   #4
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The article said the price will be around same as we have right now with Amtrak.

There are advantages about high speed rail... Airports often get overcrowded (especially holiday times), numerous of delayed flights, and unable to operate by bad weather. Traffics on I-5 are getting worse as Northwest metro areas grow and it will delay people's travel time. It is becoming more expensive for everyone to travel. High speed rail can handle it all by able to escape traffic jams, arrive on time, handle bad weather, and more affordable.
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Old May 30th, 2009, 08:20 PM   #5
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So long as it is NEVER expected to break even and people get comfortable with it hitting about twice as many cars and dumbasses walking on the tracks as now, I think it'll be a wonderful way to travel intercity. For the few that will use it, like me probably.
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Old May 30th, 2009, 09:06 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by just4ivaylo View Post
I don't see how this will be anywhere close to useful. This country has one of the most developed air travel in the world. I just don't see how a train, especially running at 90 mph (that's a hilarious speed by the way), would even compete with air travel. Anyone know the price for a ticket between Portland and Seattle? I'm guessing that once this is built, the train ticket might be even more expensive.
Are you serious? (I'm honestly not sure if you're kidding or not.)

Assuming you are serious, I have to say I'm surprised: I see the train competing easily. A 2:30 train between Portland and Seattle would make a train the fastest door-to-door trip between downtown Seattle and downtown Portland, once you factor in the pain of getting to and from both airports, security, etc.. And that's not taking into account that trains are significantly more comfortable, some people are afraid of flying, people who want to go from in-between cities (e.g. Olympia) would have an even longer trip to the airport, etc.

Also, last time I checked, train tickets in this corridor were much cheaper than airplane tickets. Lower fuel prices might have brought them closer to parity recently, though -- I'm really not up on this.

One additional note: I think the DC-New York corridor is pretty close to an even split between air travel and train travel, and that train averages well under 90mph. But it's frequent, low-stress, quicker than driving and gets right downtown in both cities.
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Old May 30th, 2009, 09:17 PM   #7
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Also don't forget that you can work/surf online or walk around the train pretty much the whole time.

Compare that to checking in, security screenings, mandatory turning off of all electronic equipment for a good portion of flight and you end up doing a lot more on the train than on the airplane.
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Old May 30th, 2009, 09:33 PM   #8
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I guess I didn't think about all the positives of traveling by train.

I just checked the price of a ticket to PDX from SEA. It's $159. I don't see why it's so expensive.

My fault. I was basing my thoughts on how it is in Europe. In some cases the plane ticket is 2 euros more expensive than the bus/train ticket. I guess that's not how it is here.
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Old May 30th, 2009, 09:57 PM   #9
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$159 for the AMTRAK ticket?

Here in California I could either take AMTRAK from LA to SF for $55 or I could fly for $50. Train tickets are exact same price as plane tickets, or sometimes even more costly.

I am hoping, though that train prices will lower soon, since most of its building price will be covered by federal grants and the operating costs of train is much lower than operating planes (as long as they don't share same tracks with the freight trains). If the HSR train prices will come down close to 1/2 of flying prices, then I am sure that trains will gain much more popularity.

If this $50 could take me by train not just to SF, but all the way to Portland or even Seattle, and in less time than Amtrak, then I probably would take trains every other weekend, visiting all kinds of cities, just for fun...
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Old May 30th, 2009, 10:25 PM   #10
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No, $159 for a plane ticket. No idea how much Amtrak costs between both cities.
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Old May 30th, 2009, 11:16 PM   #11
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As of May 29th 2009, A one way tix. between PDX and SEA is is $49... $66 if you upgrade to business class.

Hands down better value and prettier trip than flying from PDX to SEA or vice versa.
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Old May 31st, 2009, 12:57 AM   #12
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MAGLEV

how about a maglev train instead? I hear they are a smoother ride and have zero emissions. only a few in the world right now so it would cost a lot more but if your going to spend billions on something whats a few billion more. I believe it would have to be elevated like the monorail. They can do 300 plus mph on an elevated track. Im a seahawks season ticket holder and would love to get from bellingham to seattle in a half hour for the games. im already paying 20$ in gas and 10$ for parking plus it takes me around 3 hours round trip. If the cost was low i would rather take the train but it would need to be like 10$ to 15$ each way and under an hour trip for it to be worth it to me. Also if you put the maglev in an under ground evacuated tunnel they can go in exceed 4000 mph wouldnt it be sweet if we connected every major city in north america? You could work in new york and live in seattle. it would cost trillions and take many many years to construct. i would like to see it as easy as taking the subway, trains are easyer than taking a plane but trains can be a pain in the ass sometimes too.
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Old May 31st, 2009, 02:57 AM   #13
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A few billion more?!?! Wow, that's the understatement of the year right there. That's the problem about spending other peoples money, it's so easy to do. And they do have emissions since, last time I checked, we have not achieved that elusive "free lunch" in electrical generation.

The trillions (as you put) spent on such a system would be much better spent (or not spent) on other things. We do not need a rail system of that magnitude. Sorry for raining on your parade.
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Old May 31st, 2009, 04:56 AM   #14
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I would love to have maglev train but we CAN'T afford it period. I think high speed rail is great start since that is something that we can afford it and great long term investment. When economy gets better and more funding, we can upgrade it with much faster trains or adding a new high speed rail route from Seattle to Spokane or something like that.
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Old May 31st, 2009, 06:49 AM   #15
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Here's the problem -- all the above fantasies will be realistic in 2050. It would make perfectly good sense to begin putting them in place now and accept several decades of unprofitability. Spending billions now to avoid spending trillions later. Sadly, we don't do things that way.
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Old May 31st, 2009, 08:21 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Grayproduct View Post
A few billion more?!?! Wow, that's the understatement of the year right there. That's the problem about spending other peoples money, it's so easy to do. And they do have emissions since, last time I checked, we have not achieved that elusive "free lunch" in electrical generation.

The trillions (as you put) spent on such a system would be much better spent (or not spent) on other things. We do not need a rail system of that magnitude. Sorry for raining on your parade.

While you have some good points, I do not agree that that money can be put into too many other uses. The American gov't is the best in the world at spending money where it shouldn't be spent.

Anyways, there is no point to build this faster rail line if it's going to be just a tiny bit faster. Look at trains in Europe, or Asia, for that matter. The "poorest" countries in Europe have high speed rail, and we can't even have one successful line in America. What a shame.
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Old May 31st, 2009, 09:09 AM   #17
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I'd definitely start a Northwest Corridor line that is like the NEC. However, we need the FRA to cooperate and adopt European standards of technology. The FRA believes weight is more important than physics which I believe when Caltrain was testing European EMUs beat the FRA vehicles in collision tests. http://www.caltrain.com/pdf/project2...nalsummary.pdf We get that barrier out of the way, hello to 200 km/h railways. Let the banks return the money, we can use it for HSR corridors.
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Old May 31st, 2009, 10:18 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by just4ivaylo View Post
While you have some good points, I do not agree that that money can be put into too many other uses. The American gov't is the best in the world at spending money where it shouldn't be spent.
I definitely believe the option to keep money in a citizens pocket for their spending preferences is preferable to pie in the sky projects.

Quote:
The "poorest" countries in Europe have high speed rail, and we can't even have one successful line in America. What a shame.
For certain corridors, rail makes sense, but a transcontinental network does not. You could subsidize airfare ( for billions less for many, many, many years before spending as much as a transcon network all the while traveling faster and more efficiently. Believe me, I love trains very much, but I still can't make sense of plans to spend trillions on something (transcon high speed rail/maglev) that won't yield all that much. The opportunity costs for these things are insane.
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Old May 31st, 2009, 10:24 PM   #19
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Sounds like an Awesome project , but only 90 mph, come on most ppl speed on Interstates at 90 mph , especially on the West Coast of US. Don't Japanese Trains have High Speed Lines with crossings? They don't seem to have a problem nor does most of Europe! Maybe if we copy from there crossing technologies we can up the speed to possibly 120 or 130 mph.

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Old May 31st, 2009, 10:41 PM   #20
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Don't get me wrong, I'm all for high speed rail. We need different modes of transportation other than cars. Highways/freeways can only get so wide, then it's useless to make them wider. The traffic is still horrible. I just don't want taxpayers' money to be wasted on this TWICE, not just once. If we're going to build it, let's build it right the first time around.
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