NW High Speed Rail Corridor Receives $590M in Funding

Part of the President’s announcement made from Florida this morning. Reported in the Tacoma Daily Index.

21 responses to “NW High Speed Rail Corridor Receives $590M in Funding”

  1. I’m disappointed it doesn’t go down to Eugene. There is no way to go from portland to eugene by train in the morning and back in the evening. Driving I5 is getting pretty old and on the train at least I could get some work done.

    OTOH, you gotta start somewhere.

  2. Joey,

    Washington State has been planning an upgrade to their chunk of the Cascadia Corridor for quite some time–they’ve got projects to improve their stretch which are shovel-ready.

    The Portland-Eugene corridor, OTOH, is nowhere near. Much of the UPRR mainline south of Portland isn’t even FRA Class 5 track, let alone suitable for upgrade to HSR; most of it is single-tracked (and in many places there is nowhere to put a second track without significant earthmoving–the stretch from Oregon City to Canby comes to mind), etc. The State of Oregon hasn’t even settled on a route–having floated the old Oregon Electric line through Wilsonville as an alternate. (This route is in even worse shape and contains numerous stretches unsuitable for HSR–some suspect, such as I, that it is being suggested as a negotiating ploy).

    There’s a very good reason that the HSR project doesn’t reach Eugene, yet.

    Some more $$$ for investigation and planning would be nice.

  3. Unlike Oregon, Washington has already planned and invested a considerable amount of money for passenger rail service in this corridor.

    So far, Washington has focused its planning on the Seattle to Vancouver Washington segment, leaving in limbo the final 10-mile segment south to Union Station.

    The old (1908) two-track rail bridge over the Columbia River with its opening span cannot accommodate high-speed rail service. A new high-level passenger rail bridges will be needed to bypass the freight trains in this very congested stretch between Vancouver and North Portland but, so far, no serious planning has been done to address this issue.

    Perhaps the CRC should shift its focus from building a freeway bridge to building a rail bridge. This bridge could also carry traffic on a separate deck which would allow trucks traveling between North Portland and West Vancouver avoid the snarls at the I-5 / Marine Drive Interchange.

  4. Jim,

    Any (technical) reason a HSR bridge couldn’t also include LRT (on separate tracks, of course?) One potential obstacle might be that HSR would require longer approaches than LRT due to the grade restrictions on the former; which might make a stop at Hayden Island impractical.

    That would be an interesting political ploy: Build a rail bridge that accomodates various rail uses (possibly some pedestrian infrastructure as well), and forget the CRC. It’s long been assumed that a LRT-only bridge was a non-starter; but a LRT/HSR bridge might have a better shot of construction.

    If that were done, than a saner discussion of what roadway improvements are needed (if any) could take place.

  5. The Whitehouse has a press release available here. There are actually a lot of “smaller” projects on the list, including Oregon getting $8 million for upgrading Portland’s Union Station, and engineering and environmental work for track and signaling projects that will increase service reliability and reduce congestion.

    There are also a lot of projects in the Northeast and Chicago areas that will likely get a lot more people to consider rail as a viable transportation option.

    As far as the CRC, I love the idea. Extend Portland Rd across a HSR bridge (with LRT capability?) and give trucks direct access from one industrial area to the other. If it’s not a freeway bridge, but built similar in function to the Steel Bridge it’s unlikely too many people will try to use it to try to avoid traffic on I-5.

    If downtown Vancouver grows the way the city is hoping, especially if the Boise-Cascade development pans out, having local access to Jantzen Beach and North Portland would really help out both sides. Plus some of the Jantzen Beach ramps could be closed more easily which should help traffic flow quite a bit.

    The Interstate Bridge may need some seismic upgrades, but replacing the rail bridge with a modern multi-use span could eliminate a lot of traffic problems, improve rail, allow MAX across the river, remove the shipping navigation hazards, reduce needed bridge lifts, etc. Probably for quite a bit less than $4 billion.

  6. EngineerScotty,

    I think we need two new bridges, one, downstream from the RR Bridge for high-speed trains and another downstream from I-5 for light rail. Both bridges could be tolled, carry local traffic and bicycles and could be built for a fraction of the cost of the proposed mega-bridge.

  7. I think we need two new bridges, one, downstream from the RR Bridge for high-speed trains and another downstream from I-5 for light rail. Both bridges could be tolled, carry local traffic and bicycles and could be built for a fraction of the cost of the proposed mega-bridge.

    How much good is one mile of MAX going to do in Vancouver? Lot of Portlanders going to Clark College?

    How many extra bridges do you want? Do you want the local connector, too?

    Isn’t it possible to do all things that people have been requesting in one project.. and retain the existing I-5 bridges?

  8. Jim, this is sounding a lot like the “6-2-2” option that the Governors’ I-5 TF came within one vote of recommending for inclusion in the DEIS (9 yes, 10 no)in 2002. And Mayor Adams is right, some agency other than ODOT/WSDOT needs to do this study.
    Provide a local option, high capacity transit and some commuter rail, and the existing bridges are fine, especially if tolled, once substandard on/off ramps are removed at either end.

  9. Would two separate bridges be cheaper than one? Keeping in mind impacts on Hayden Island; and anything east of the current Interstate Bridge would have to contend with Pearson Airpark and Ft. Vancouver on the east side.

    Looking at the back of the envelope known as google maps, a LRT/arterial bridge across the south channel just west of the Interstate Bridge (with an interchange at Marine Drive for cars, and ramps permitting quick access to I-5 from and to Portland), might work–it would consume part of the Expo Center parking lot (not a bad thing, especially if a garage can be built, and the MAX stop located closer to the door) and remove a few houseboats, though probably less than what the current CRC would do. MAX would then head west on Hayden Island (with one stop on the island, probably near the mall) until it reaches the BNRR line, and then join the HSR (running parallel to the BNRR line) and cross the main channel on a new bridge with no lift span. HSR would have access to the Vancouver Amtrak, and LRT would turn east through downtown Vancouver, to Clark College.

    Allowing vehicle traffic on the main bridge may or may not be useful; certainly through traffic shouldn’t be routed on the streets of Hayden Island. Not sure a freight route would be useful–is there much truck traffic between the ports of Vancouver and Portland?

  10. Engineerscotty,

    Two bridges would be less expensive than the proposed mega-project and could be phased. The freeway would not be negatively impacted – no traffic diversions – no demolition – no new interchanges. A local bridge downstream from I-5, at the west edge of the Jantzen Beach Super Center could connect to the Boise Cascade development site in Vancouver. It could be high enough to avoid lifts and only 4 lanes wide, 2 for local traffic and 2 for light rail and/or buses.

    I believe routing light rail west of the RR bridge to operate over a new high-speed rail bridge sends it too far out of direction to serve Vancouver efficiently.

    A 2-bridge solution would provide 2 alternative routes for local traffic, greatly reducing freeway congestion at the Hayden Island and Marine Drive Interchanges.

  11. Where would a HSRR likely go, anyway? I’m assuming it would run parallel to the existing BN line, through the Portsmouth trench, and across a new Willamette River crossing (higher than the current lift span, in order to clear the Willamette shipping channel?)

    Would it be east or west of the existing BNRR line–and how would effects on North Portland residents be mitigated?

    If anything, another Willamette river crossing in this location would be beneficial for other reasons–if it could keep freight off the St. Johns bridge, and/or provide a transit route between N. Portland and downtown.

  12. Part of our reasoning behind the Third Interstate Bridge (just downstream from the BNSF RR) was to accomodate improved rail service. I would think HS interstate rail could make the grade to get over the Columbia w/o a lift span. Freight rail is another issue, though… Unless they could start the elevation process all the way back at Columbia Bv. If they could, this could lead to elimination of the present RR bridge and clearing the river navigation channel of its obstructions. All rail traffic could be on a lower level, with everything else on the upper.

    Paul Edgar who has been working with our group is pretty knowledgeable about rail, having served on some advisory groups. I wish he would weigh in more.

    Our bridge concept just has one big pier in the middle of the main channel, so this would be completely out of the shipping channel.

    I don’t know why MAX couldn’t go on this bridge. Vancouver already has plans for high density expansion westward towards the present RR bridge, and who knows what the next phase of core expansion there might be. With a larger business district they would probably also attract population infill as Portland has, so a light rail line through there would be even more sensible than just extending to Clark College.

    I keep hearing the same list of alternative bridge concepts over and over. Couldn’t our one, new bridge do it all?

  13. One reason for putting transit and such on a HSR bridge is to get the state highway departments, I mean departments of transportation more or less out of the picture.

    (Any reason why the <strike> attribute doesn’t work here? Or similar tricks with <span> and CSS?)

  14. I know that I am kinda nuts and all, but doesn’t anybody else see the lunacy off putting in high speed rail while mass transit systems across the country are going broke?

    What the hell is wrong with this country? Has everybody lost their minds?

  15. Are you people actually calling Portland/Seattle Amtrak “High Speed Rail”?

    Yes al, there is something very wrong.

  16. John, the long term goal is for it to be there. For now, it’s incremental improvements as funding is available.

    Al, this doesn’t compete with local transit funding directly, and it’s a much more regional/national use than a local use like transit.

  17. If the final result is high speed rail, why is calling it a high speed rail corridor lying? 90+ mph is defined as high speed rail in the US, and this corridor’s maximum speed will be 110 mph.

    I do think that we’re vastly underfunding it. $8 billion for the whole nation’s rail infrastructure when we’re looking at a $4+ billion dollar bridge/freeway upgrade to serve just the Portland Metro area is a joke. The FAA has given away about $20 billion to help open a single airport before, but we’re only willing to spend $8 billion nationally on rail? That’s why we’re going to end up with a solution that doesn’t live up to expectations.

  18. You’ve got to be kidding. Amtrak to Seattle 90mph?

    “If the final result is high speed rail”

    OMG is that ever a worn out ploy.

    If the final result is a biotech cluster?

    If the final result is a bussling Round?

    If the final result is WES reducing congestion on 217 and I-5?

    If the final result is a ped/bike/tranist mini-city at Cascade Station?

    If the final result is adequate land for growth in the region?

  19. You seem to have trouble understanding that nobody’s saying it’s high speed rail yet. It’s a designated high speed rail corridor, since that’s the long range plan. Just cause you apparently don’t like improving infrastructure doesn’t change the meaning.

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