Study Shows Eastside Rail Line Can Support Interurban Rail

Cascadia Center Announces Independent Study, Calls Into Question King County-Port of Seattle Deal

SEATTLE, Wash. (November 21, 2007)—The Cascadia Center at Discovery Institute, a regional think tank that focuses on transportation and sustainable development for the Puget Sound region, announced today that an independent study shows that the Eastside Rail Corridor can support interurban rail. Cascadia will unveil the full results of the study on Monday, November 26, 2007, at a community forum about the future of the Eastside Line at the Columbia Winery in Woodinville, Wash. The event is open to the public and media and will be held from 4:00 p.m.-7:30 p.m.

The future of the 42-mile corridor, which runs from Renton in the south to Snohomish in the north, has been caught in a tug-of-war between rail advocates, the Port, King County, and Burlington Northern Santa Fe. The Cascadia Center said its independently funded study, completed by a recently retired chief of operations of BNSF, shows that contrary to a Memorandum of Understanding recently penned between Seattle’s Port Commission and King County, the corridor can sustain “rails and trails.” The think tank said interurban rail is feasible, cost-effective and should be considered.

“We have always believed that the Eastside Line had immediate suitability for interurban rail service,” said Bruce Agnew, Director of Cascadia Center, “and the study that we commissioned shows that it is possible to upgrade the entire 42-mile corridor for class III rail that would support DMU units.”

DMUs, or Diesel Multiple Units, are self-propelled rail cars manufactured by companies such as Colorado Rail Car and Siemens. The rail cars, which are fuel-efficient and run on bio-diesel, require shorter platforms, and can carry bike racks. They are in service around the country.

“Among our goals in commissioning the study was to assess the current condition of the track from a respected, veteran rail leader familiar with the line, and to get a solid understanding of whether it would be cost-effective to actually run interurban rail alongside a trail in the corridor,” said Agnew. “We’re obviously pleased to learn that the track could be upgraded at a reasonable cost. And at the very least, hope that King County, BNSF, the Port of Seattle and Sound Transit will carefully review our assessment and reconsider the MOU that would have BNSF eliminate tracks between Renton and Woodinville.”

Cascadia Center favors a pilot project using a DMU unit running from Snohomish to Bellevue, with an option to extend that project to other parts of the corridor in the future. The think tank said that their study of the track, which included a walking inspection of the entire corridor and a reassessment of an earlier study conducted by HDR Engineering Inc., should be used as a benchmark for the county, the port, BNSF and Sound Transit to reassess the condition of the track. Cascadia Center will share its study with Sound Transit next week.

STUDY LINK: “Eastside BNSF Rail Line Inspection Report,” Read Fay, 11/21/07.


Bruce Agnew, Director, Cascadia Center at Discovery Institute
(206) 228-4011 mobile

Mike Wussow, Director of Public Affairs
(206) 292-0401 x158 direct

Cascadia Center

Founded in 1993, as the Cascadia Project, Discovery Institute’s Cascadia Center for Regional Development is an important force in regional transportation and sustainable development issues. Cascadia is known for its involvement in transportation and development issues in the Cascadia Corridor, Puget Sound and in the U.S.-Canadian cross-border realm. We’ve recently added to that mix through a major program to promote U.S. efforts to reduce reliance on foreign oil, including the earliest possible development and integration of flex-fuel, plug-in, hybrid-electric vehicles.