Finally, the high-speed train. May be…. | Tacoma Daily Index

By Morf Morford

Tacoma Daily Index

You may have heard of it before, but regardless of how it passes through our political and budgetary processes, this proposal could easily change the way we move. Could you imagine a one hour train trip to Portland for example? Why not? Other countries and cities have had high-speed trains for years or even decades.

Brooklynn Hillemann of the WNPA News Service writes that a $16 billion plan, drawn up mostly by Democrats, to fund hybrid-electric ferries, high-speed rail and improved highway maintenance passed the Senate and transferred to the House.

“‘Move Ahead Washington’ is a promise to put Washingtonians first,” said Rep. Jake Fey, D-Tacoma, chairman of the House Transportation Committee. “It looks to the future while taking into account the realities people face today. It reflects what people told us they wanted to see in this package.

Here are some of the fine print; transit programs would receive $3.1 billion, including $150 million earmarked for high-speed rail. Another $3 billion would go to road preservation and maintenance. $1.3 billion would be spent on four new hybrid electric ferries and the electrification of two existing ships. Fey said the package’s priorities include preserving infrastructure, finishing existing projects and tackling climate change.

The package would also provide funding to ensure those aged 18 and under can travel for free on public transport. $1.2 billion would be used to promote walking and cycling to school through infrastructure improvements and safety programs for cyclists and pedestrians.

“Making buses, ferries and trains free for our children will help create a multimodal future for our state,” said Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Sen. Marko Liias, D-Everett.

How do we pay it?

Much of the funding for the plan, $5.5 billion, would come from a carbon pricing program enacted last year under the Climate Commitment Act. This program, which will take effect in 2023, requires the state’s largest greenhouse gas emitters, such as refineries, to buy credits for emissions if they exceed a cap set by regulators.

President Biden’s Federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act would generate $3.4 billion in additional revenue, with another $2 billion coming from the state’s operating budget.

“We make sure to use the resources we already have, along with modest fees and other resources that don’t affect our struggling working families, and invest them to improve the lives of all of us,” Liias said.

About $2 billion would come from a new 6-cent-per-gallon tax on fuel exported to states with lower gas tax rates than Washington, such as Oregon, Alaska and Washington. ‘Idaho. Liias said other states with refineries, including Florida, Texas and Tennessee, have implemented similar taxes.

We pay for what we have

The system we have is costing us more than dollars. Our highway is a hazard and an expense – from pollution generated to time lost to lost lives, our current system is a continuous drain on our economy – and an exponential increase in our stress levels.

What’s wrong with what we have?

If you’ve had the (ill)fortune of a recent experience on I-5, you know the answer to this question.

From Tacoma, going north or south is an adventure few of us would take lightly.

And don’t expect anything to get any better – in fact, with up to 4 million more people expected to inhabit the Northwest (primarily the Puget Sound area) by 2050, our growing pains will only get worse if we don’t act – now.

The typical daily commuter in our area can spend 78 hours stuck in traffic, or more than three days of their time each year, according to the 2019 Urban Mobility Report from the Transportation Institute at Texas A&M University.

The optimal high-speed system would connect Vancouver, British Columbia, Seattle, and Portland (and more) with an integrated transportation network that provides safe, efficient, reliable, and affordable travel.

Right now, depending on traffic delays, a drive from Seattle to Portland can take nearly four hours by car. A flight lasts at least three hours with boarding and security. By high-speed rail or other emerging high-speed technology, the trip would reliably take an hour at speeds of up to 250 miles per hour.

And yes, we’ve seen this play out before

More than fifty years ago, King County Forward Thrust’s proposal to build a 47-mile, 30-station rapid rail system was supported by a majority of voters but fell short of the 60% initiative threshold. .

As a result, our region lost $1 billion in federal transportation funding. You can see what could have been our high-speed rail system in action in Atlanta, Georgia.

In exchange, we got a mid-20th century transportation system for the digital age.

Simply put, it doesn’t work.

From the pollution generated to the time lost to the lives lost, we have no excuse for not having a clean, fast and efficient system.

And yes, to put it mildly, a project of this scale would generate jobs – an estimated 200,000 skilled labor jobs in the Pacific Northwest, according to a 2017 study by the state Department of Transportation. .

In addition to direct construction, operation and maintenance jobs, economic development will bring employment opportunities in other sectors. For every direct job linked to the very high-speed line, four jobs will be supported in other sectors, creating opportunities for more than 840,000 people.

A recent editorial (https://www.thenewstribune.com/opinion/article258073903.html) by U.S. Representative (and former Tacoma Mayor) Marilyn Strickland essentially makes the same point. She, along with congressional colleagues including Senator Maria Cantwell, Reps. Rick Larsen, Derek Kilmer, Suzan DelBene and Speaker Peter DeFazio, helped get the federal government to step up and fund passenger rail travel.

The bipartisan infrastructure act contains $66 billion for passenger rail, including $12 billion for intercity passenger rail projects like the Cascadia ultra-high-speed ground transportation project. The photo with the article was a stock photo of a high-speed rail system. It could have been taken anywhere.

Everywhere except here of course.

We have a rail transport system dating back to the 1970s, while other countries like Italy, Sweden, Spain and China (among many others) have had high-speed trains for years. The first high-speed rail system (AKA bullet train) was built in Japan – in 1964!

China has the most miles of high-speed railroads – well over 15,000 miles.

In a list of countries with the most high-speed trains, the United States is not among the top five. Or ten.

Turkey is number ten. Turkey!

I have been on the Shanghai-Hangzhou high-speed railway. It is 126 miles long and travels at over 200 MPH. It’s so smooth you have to look out the window to see if you’re moving. It’s fast, cheap, clean and safe. And popular.

When I was there, I couldn’t help asking myself a simple question; where is ours?

The WNPA Information Service can be found at: https://www.wastatejournal.org.

Jose P. Rogers