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Commentary: Cascadia’s future in the spotlight

September 25, 2000

By JIM TORREY
and SUSAN CASTILLO
THIS WEEK, leaders from the Pacific Northwest will gather in Eugene to share economic and environmental strategies.

How can we help our economy and our communities thrive in an increasing global world? How can we link high speed rail, revitalized downtowns, trade and tourism corridors, and environmental efforts to improve our quality of life and economy?

On Tuesday, we will be welcoming delegates for this year’s Cascadia Conference, organized by the Cascadia Project, a nonprofit alliance of communities in Oregon, Washington and British Columbia.

Delegates from Eugene, Seattle, Portland, Vancouver, B.C., and other cities will spend two days in workshops with their counterparts from rural communities. In partnership with the University of Oregon, we are looking forward to showcasing our city and county as a national model for “green communities.” Panels and workshops will include:

High speed rail: A high-speed passenger rail system linking Eugene/Springfield to Vancouver, B.C., and relieving pressure on Interstate 5 is a pivotal project to achieving the Cascadia vision. Delegates will hear from Amtrak West CEO Gil Mallery about the $10 billion High Speed Rail Investment Act.

This landmark legislation could pass Congress next year, thanks to the strong leadership of our Pacific Northwest congressional delegation.

The federal bill could result in more than $500 million in new track improvements, improving the travel times of both passenger and freight rail, and enhanced rail crossings for safer and improved pedestrian access.

UO President Dave Frohnmayer and Washington State Transportation Committee Chairwoman Mary Margaret Haugen will share a Pacific Northwest perspective on federal and state funding strategies.

The local success of the Amtrak Cascades service, which links Eugene, Portland and Seattle, continues, and we’ve seen continued ridership increases and positive customer satisfaction. Thanks to the hard work of our community and our Willamette Valley legislators, the Oregon Legislature has funded an additional round-trip between Eugene and Portland, starting in early October.

Creating “green trade” corridors: The Cascadia Project has sought to balance increased international trade and commerce along the I-5 and Northwest rail corridor with the need to preserve community values and livability. The Willamette Valley Livability Forum will share experiences here with similar forums along the corridor.

Former British Columbia Premier Mike Harcourt, Metro Executive Officer Mike Burton and regional economist Glenn Pascell will lead a panel discussion on “green trade” corridors. Can policies developed at the neighborhood level promote compact urban spaces, preserve agricultural lands, and channel economic development? How might these policies be implemented on a bi-state or bi-national basis? Do we need more regional coordination, different government structures or working relationships? How can we move freight smarter and with less energy using new technologies?

Technology: Blurring boundaries in the 21st century: Our transportation world has become increasingly technology-driven, now allowing goods and people to move more quickly across boundaries.

Freight and goods are travelling across international borders and along I-5, using global positioning.

Increasingly, we are seeing trucks “piggy-backed” on rail cars to avoid congested highways and to deliver goods directly to ports. Speakers from the private and public sectors will share the latest technology updates.

Additional workshops include an update on the Eugene train station project and downtown-oriented pedestrian and transit projects.

Local Eugene and Lane County salmon restoration and other environmental programs will also be featured. Participants can see these strategies at work during a Eugene bike tour or enjoy a tour of Eugene/Springfield and Lane County projects and scenic attractions.

As you can see, our community is facing a number of important conservation and commerce questions that will significantly impact our quality of life here in the south end of Cascadia.

We invite members of the public to join us on Tuesday and Wednesday at the Eugene Hilton to participate in developing community solutions to trade, transportation, tourism and environmental issues.

Jim Torrey is mayor of Eugene. Susan Castillo represents District 20 in the Oregon Senate. The Cascadia Conference will meet at the Eugene Hilton on Tuesday and Wednesday. For more information or to register, please see the Cascadia Project Web site at www.cascadiaproject.org.

Copyright © 2000 The Register-Guard