The following is the text of the testimony that was presented by Eastside Rail Now! regarding the BNSF Corridor Report at the Puget Sound Regional Council Transportation Policy Board meeting on September 13, 2007:
I am here to talk about the BNSF Corridor Report.
This is a huge document, so I can understand if not all of you have read it in its entirety. Apparently, very few people have. However, we have. In fact, we have gone over it very carefully.
We have found that the report is severely flawed.
For one thing, it does not use least cost planning, which has been the law of Washington State since July 1, 1994. In fact, it does not use any recognized infrastructure decision making methodology.
Also, the report virtually completely ignores the most important potential use for the railroad -- which is serving as the core for a regional rail transit system with trains running over existing tracks from Everett in the north through the heart of the Eastside to Tacoma in the south.
Instead, it merely makes vague reference to several earlier studies which are said to show there is no demand for rail in the corridor. However, those reports also lack solid methodology and are out of date.
At the very least, the PSRC report should have explained how earlier studies reached their conclusions, and it should have looked at how the data and conclusions could have changed in the past seven years or so.
Actually, the Eastside railroad is very well suited for transit service. This is because it is well located, still operating, and available at a low cost. For example, it parallels the most congested freeway in the entire Northwest, and it passes through or near most major destinations on the Eastside.
Most of the objections raised in the PSRC report are just nit picking, and any problems could be easily corrected since the track is in fair to good condition.
The entire railroad could be substantially upgraded to increase speeds and capacity for about what Sound Transit spends for a single mile of its light rail construction and at a fraction of what it costs to add an equivalent capacity to I-405.
Another major problem with the report is that it ignores the most important environmental issue. That is, it merely looks at the effects of constructing a trail. But that is minor. The real issue is that utilizing the railroad for transit could help slow down the widening of I-405 with its consequent increase in toxic emissions.
What the report mainly does is provide a lot of nice aerial photos and drawings of how the right of way would look with a bicycle trail on it.
It is definitely not suitable for use in making serious decisions about the railroad. Doing so would be a major disservice to both the Eastside and the entire region.
We strongly recommend that before any final decision be made regarding the future of the railroad, that a serious economic analysis be made, one that complies with both best practices and state law. We believe that such a study could be done at a relatively modest cost, and that the benefits to the region would be enormous.
For links to other testimony by Eastside Rail Now!, see Index of Public Testimony.
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This page created September 14, 2007.
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