Our First Six Months
Eastside Rail Now! was begun on January 2, almost exactly six months ago. Now is a good time to step back and review what has been accomplished and consider what remains to be done.
When we started discussing the shocking plan to scrap the railroad, the outlook appeared to be very gloomy indeed. In fact, it looked like the supposedly "creative" airport trade was almost a done deal. We remembered the fiasco with the railroad between Issaquah and Redmond, with the bulldozers moving in to rip out the tracks as soon as the court gave permission and without seriously considering the good potential this railroad had as a transit route on our increasingly automobile-choked and transit-deprived Eastside. It appeared that the same fate was awaiting the Eastside railroad, perhaps within a matter of months.
Now, six months later, the situation is remarkably different. The signs for the future of the railroad are increasingly optimistic. Specifically,
Much remains to be done, but this is a good start. A main goal for the next six months is to try to prevent the planned severing of the track at the Wilburton tunnel by WSDOT in conjunction with the widening of I-405. This severing is "penny wise and pound foolish," as it will likely cost more than it will save. It is unnecessary, and it is definitely not in the best interests of the Eastside or the region as a whole.
We will also continue to work to inform the general public and political leaders about the unparalleled opportunity we have with this railroad and its right of way and the complete folly of squandering it for possible short-term political (and financial?) gains for a very few individuals. In addition, we will continue to develop specific plans for utilizing the railroad and its right of way to benefit the region as a whole.
A big thanks to all of you (both individuals and groups) for all of your hard work for this very worthy and common-sense cause.
We are pleased to announce that Thom McCann, candidate for Port of Seattle Commissioner, has taken a position in favor of saving the Eastside railroad.
Thom has a reform-oriented platform, which calls for increasing the transparency of Port operations and eliminating property taxes for the Port. He points out that ports in other cities operate without a subsidy from property owners (and thus renters as well). Consistent with his (and our) desire to clean up the government and stop squandering taxpayers' hard-earned dollars on ill-conceived and wasteful projects, Thom is also strongly opposed to the controversial and murky three-way plan in which the Port would acquire the railroad from Burlington Northern and then transfer it to King County in order to remove the tracks and construct a bicycle trail.
Thom has provided a statement in favor of retaining the railroad, which can be found on our recently revised Statements of Support page. He will also be our guest at our June 3 meeting.
Thank you, Thom. We wish you the best, and we look forward to working together.
You may have read in the recent Seattle Times article that part of the Alaska Way Viaduct has just sunk by another quarter inch. Apparently, the engineers involved do not fully understand what is going on, although they admit that it could continue to sink. (We hope that these are not the same engineers who will build Sound Transit's proposed light rail line on the I-90 floating bridge.) If it sinks another inch the viaduct may have to be closed, at least for a while. Where will all the cars and trucks go?
This should serve to remind policy makers of the importance of the Eastside railroad for "traffic mitigation." What this means is that some of the long distance traffic on I-5 through Seattle could be diverted to I-405 as a means of allowing some of the traffic from a closed viaduct to be shifted to I-5. In turn, some of the commuter traffic on I-405 could be shifted to commuter trains on the Eastside railroad.
Likewise, the construction of additional lanes on I-405 could result in temporary lane closures. This would be another reason to get a basic commuter service up and running on the railroad as quickly as possible.
Sound far fetched? Actually, it isn't. Existing railroads have been used for road traffic mitigation elsewhere, and the results have been very good. So good, in fact, that the "temporary" commuter rail service became permanent in South Florida. Tri-Rail began operating commuter trains in January 1989 in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties on existing track as part of a major mitigation effort during the construction and expansion of I-95.
Unlike what some of our "leaders" have proposed for the Eastside railroad, planners in South Florida did not decide to spend tens of millions of dollars to rip out the railroad and replace it with a bicycle trail just because it was mostly single track and was not in the very best of condition. Rather, they started commuter service as quickly as possible using the existing infrastructure while gradually upgrading it, including adding a second track. Trains now operate seven days a week serving 18 stations with up to 40 trains daily along the 72-mile corridor.
Message to those politicians who seem so obsessed with replacing the Eastside railroad as quickly as possible with a bicycle trail: Please wait. There is no urgency. If it must be done, do it AFTER the viaduct issue has been settled and the widening on I-405 has been completed.
The glossary has been updated and expanded. This page is intended to facilitate understanding some of the specialized terminology used with regard to the effort to save and utilize the Eastside railroad. It has also been designed to be useful to the growing number of visitors to the site from other parts of the U.S. as well as from abroad.
The newest addition to the blog discusses the fact that the Eastside already has an extensive network of bicycle trails, more than almost anywhere else in the U.S., but lags other urban areas in that it has no rail transit. (Be sure to see the list of all of the urban areas that now have some form of rail transit in operation or under construction.)
Moreover, this trail network already parallels much of the railroad. Yet, some King County officials remain intent on ripping out our only remaining railroad at a cost of many tens of millions of dollars to the taxpayers to replace by yet another bicycle trail. This is despite the fact that the County has been having problems maintaining even its existing trails and parks. Bizarre!
We have been delighted to see the number of hits on our web site jump by more than 50 percent for June as compared with May. This is despite the fact that relatively few new pages and updates have been added recently. Apparently, people who have previously visited the site are returning to further explore it and other people are visiting it for the first time.
There are indications that a small but significant share of visitors are from outside of our region. One way we know this is from the comments and suggestions received by e-mail. (Just received one from a new UK visitor on Saturday.) It's great that saving the railroad is turning into something of a national and international cause.
We look forward to continued growth for many months to come. Thanks again to everyone who is helping to publicize our site and our cause.
Eastside Rail Now's next public meeting will be held on July 3 at 7:00 p.m. at the Bellevue Regional Library.
Featured will be a visit by Thom McCann, candidate for Port of Seattle Commissioner and a supporter of saving the Eastside railroad.
As usual, be prepared for some lively discussion. We have a contingency plan to accommodate an overflow crowd, such as we had a previous meeting, so feel free to invite other members of your groups, neighbors, friends, etc.
The library is located near at 1111 110th Avenue NE, west of the I-405 freeway in downtown Bellevue. It is just a few blocks north of the Bellevue Transit Center, should you prefer to use public transportation.
This newsletter is intended mainly for Eastside Rail Now! members. However, as usual, please feel free to send copies to members of other groups with which you are involved, such as neighborhood associations, as well as to friends, neighbors, colleagues, etc. Such retransmission apparently accounts for most of our readership.
Please do not hesitate to send us corrections as well as suggestions for future issues. And be sure to let us know if you want to be removed from the mailing list, or if you are not a regular recipient but would like to be added to it. We can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This page created July 10, 2007.
Copyright © 2007 Eastside Rail Now! All Rights Reserved.