Cascadia Center

High Speed Rail Can Transform Cascadia

High speed rail and improved inter-city freight rail infrastructure can better unite the Cascadia region, from British Columbia to Oregon - while reducing highway congestion and greenhouse gas emissions, and boosting the economy and tourism. We'll highlight the transformational possibilities at the Cascadia Rail Partnership Conference, May 27-29 in Seattle and Portland. Don't miss it.

North American rail is at center stage on the transportation agenda. Eight billion dollars in U.S. stimulus money is kicking off a new series of improvements to the nation's rail systems. Beneficiaries could include the Amtrak Cascades passenger rail line which runs from Portland, Oregon to Seattle, and north to Vancouver, B.C.

Since 1994, Washington, Oregon, the federal government, regional agencies and railroads have made capital and operating investments of about $1 billion in the Amtrak Cascades line. Now - with President Obama prioritizing high speed rail - is the time to build on that investment. The visioning that precedes the hard work of securing full funding for passenger and freight rail improvements has begun anew. Vancouver Sun economic affairs columnist Miro Cernetig writes that the opportunity should be seized to strengthen U.S.-Canada links via improved Northwest rail service.

Additional information:

"Ottawa's Lack Of Vision May Derail Our High-Speed Rail Dreams," Vancouver Sun, 5/18/09

"Tourism Leaders Steaming Over Train Holdup," The Province, 5/15/09

"High Speed Rail: Region Should Climb Aboard," Everett Herald, 5/15/09

"Is Cascadia's Train Coming In?" Crosscut, 5/12/09

Hope For High Speed Rail On the West Coast," McClatchy News/Tacoma News Tribune, 5/10/09

"Planes, Trains, And...Two Vital Projects To Relieve Air Traffic Congestion," Washington Post editorial, 5/6/09

"Megaregions And High Speed Rail," Richard Florida, Creative Class Exchange blog, The Atlantic, 5/4/09

"Mayor Backs Plan For High Speed Rail From Oregon To B.C.," The Province, 4/26/09

"Next Stop: A Faster Train From Seattle To Portland," Tacoma News Tribune, 4/21/09

"Obama's Rail Plan Not So High Speed," The Oregonian, 4/21/09

"Spain's Bullet Train Changes Nation, And Fast," Wall Street Journal, 4/20/09

"Rail Advocates Laud Federal Announcement," Seattle, 4/16/09

"High Speed Rail Gets $8 Billion Boost; Northwest Could Benefit," Associated Press/Seattle Times, 4/16/09

Rail articles archive, Cascadia Prospectus blog, 2007-2009

"Vision For High Speed Rail In America: Strategic Investment Plan," Federal Railway Administration, USDOT, 4/09

Amtrak Cascades Long Range Plan, Washington State Department Of Transportation, 2006

Statewide Rail Capacity and System Needs Study," Washington State Transportation Commission, 2006


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SR 99 Deep Bored Tunnel Costs – Radio Transcript

(Excerpt) Dave Ross:.....Bruce, I think it's fair to say that the whole tunnel idea was dead until you guys resuscitated it. Bruce Agnew: Well, we did bring some international experts who'd had experience in building tunnels in Shanghai, Madrid, and North America and they told us that the tunnel would be around a billion dollars and I agree with the Governor. The DOT added a 27% contingency, and they're currently at $1.9B for the tunnel. So if you look at worldwide experience in tunneling and advances in technology, the Governor's figures are absolutely correct. The other important factor is that the DOT decided to go with a single bore versus a double bore, which means less labor, less materials and one machine versus two....(Additionally) Sound Transit's bids on the Beacon Hill transit tunnel came in about 22% below estimate and just, I think it was last week, San Francisco BART's bids on a tunnel came in at 45% below the engineering bids and there were five bidders. So there's a very hungry environment for contractors and the sooner we get this bored machine going, the better we're going to be. {......} Dave Ross: As you've mentioned, there have been deep-bored tunnels done before, in Beacon Hill, yes. But in Beacon Hill, that's mainly residential. There are no gigantic buildings you're going under for that tunnel. Has it ever been done? Has a tunnel this large ever been bored under a major urban area before? Bruce Agnew: Absolutely. Shanghai, Madrid, Paris. They're looking at a deep-bored tunnel for a Port of Miami and the I-710 freeway in Los Angeles.That's why I think the DOT and the project team came around on this is because they got the information about the 20 projects that are currently underway around the world and those that have been completed on time and on budget. The average costs of those was somewhere around 350 million dollars a mile so even if you take a look at the DOT's budget, which estimates it would be about 1.17 billion per tunnel-mile, there's a lot of fudge factor built into that. {...} Bruce Agnew:....the other point I would make to your listeners is that you've got to take a look at the history of our state DOT in the last five to ten years in terms of bringing projects in on time and on budget. You look at the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, the I-5 widening in Everett which were built under a new design-build procedure which brings in the talent of the private sector early on. Those are good examples, albeit they're highway projects, but they're good examples of the management of this DOT in terms of (completing within budget) these projects and that story isn't told enough, I think. Dave Ross: You are complimenting the DOT on bringing things in on...You're a conservative think tank, right? Bruce Agnew: Well yes, so we applaud government efficiency. And as someone who has a beach cabin up north in Snohomish County, I go through Everett all the time and it's just remarkable what that widening project has done in terms of traffic flow through Everett. It's great to see that. Full transcript Audio of full interview 12/08 - 4/09 Tunnel News & Opinion Read More ›

Seattle Tunnel Would Be The World’s Widest

The state legislature has approved a deep bored tunnel to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct, and Cascadia Center was instrumental in educating decision-makers. This recent article highlights our role.

.....As recently as last December, the bored tunnel was dismissed as too expensive by the viaduct project team. But then the Washington State Department of Transportation realized it could build a tunnel with a single bore instead of a double bore, and the cost estimate fell by almost $900 million. “It's less labor, less materials, one machine versus two,” said John White, viaduct program director for WSDOT.

...Last year two 51-foot diameter tunnels were built in Shanghai, China, according to a report by Arup that was commissioned by the Cascadia Center, which is part of the Discovery Institute. A forceful advocate for the bored tunnel, Cascadia paid Arup $35,000 for that report, according to Cascadia's policy director, Bruce Agnew. In early December, while the viaduct project team was eliminating the bored tunnel from its list of possibilities to replace the viaduct, Cascadia brought together a group of tunneling experts who wrote a letter to WSDOT saying its cost estimates for the bored tunnel were too high. The group wrote to WSDOT Deputy Secretary David Dye and said a bored tunnel could be “completed in the 60 months period with a price of $2 billion or less.” That letter was authored by Richard Prust of Arup, Vladimir Khazak of HNTB, Dick Robbins of the Robbins Co., independent consultant Kern Jacobson and Gerhard Sauer of the Sauer Corp.

(Full article)

More info.:

Cascadia's Bruce Agnew Discusses Tunnel Approval, & Cost Issues, KIRO-FM 97.3, Dave Ross Show, 4/28/09

Cascadia's Bruce Agnew Interviewed On Tunnel Decision, KOMO 1000 AM, Seattle, 4/23/09

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Partnerships A Solution For Transportation Funding?

This article, published by Seattle PI, mentions Matt Rosenberg of Discovery Institute: The state’s budget crunch might be a new opening for trying public-private partnerships to fund transportation projects, according to Matt Rosenberg, a senior fellow at Seattle’s Cascadia Center For Regional Development. The rest of the article can be found here.

Ready To Try Public-Private Partnerships Yet?

When California recently resolved its mammoth budget deficit, it also moved to ease restrictions on transportation public-private partnerships, a politically controversial idea that over the long run could help control costs to taxpayers of improving overloaded roads, rails, and freight facilities. P3s, as the arrangements are called, draw from among construction, engineering, highway management, and infrastructure investment firms (often funded partly Read More ›

House Bill Supports New Passenger Ferries, Sets One Aside for Northwest Washington

(Feb. 6, 2009--Bellingham, Wash.) A new bill in Olympia would direct the state Department of Transportation to buy five passenger-only ferries, and it would set aside one of them for service in Northwest Washington. The bill, proposed by Rep. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, would set up the framework for spending $25 million in federal stimulus money for transit to buy high-speed passenger boats. Advocates say that brings their effort to establish a route between Friday Harbor and Bellingham closer to reality. "If the feds come in with the boat, then all of a sudden the economics of the thing start looking pretty positive," said Bruce Agnew, program director at the Seattle-based Cascadia Center, which has studied passenger ferry routes here. He's also a member of the Farmhouse Gang, an informal group of leaders that helped kick-start the bus route between Bellingham and Mount Vernon and now wants the ferry service. More here. Read More ›

Deep-bore Tunnel Promises A Vibrant Future For Seattle’s Waterfront

This article, published by the Puget Sound Business Journal, mentions the Cascadia Center of Discovery Institute: The idea of a deep-bore tunnel has been part of the discussion for months. The Cascadia Center held an international conference on tunneling here in 2007. The rest of the article can be found here.

Cascadia Center Applauds Decision To Replace Viaduct With Tunnel

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 2 p.m. PT Contact: Bruce Agnew (206-228-4011); Mike Wussow (206-292-0401 x158); or Matt Rosenberg (206-938-2082) CASCADIA CENTER APPLAUDS DECISION TO REPLACE VIADUCT WITH TUNNEL Transportation Center Says Governor, Mayor, County Executive Show Leadership, Vision SEATTLE (Jan. 13, 2009) – The Cascadia Center of Discovery Institute applauded the decision announced today to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct. The Read More ›

Stakeholders Took Initiative With Viaduct Tunnel Option

This article, published by The Seattle Times, mentions the Cascadia Center of Discovery Institute: At the same time, the Discovery Institute’s Cascadia Center, a think tank that studies transportation issues, also was pushing a deep-bore tunnel and brought in experts to talk to stakeholders The rest of the article can be found here.