Monthly Archives: May 2011

State gets another $15 million for trains

Washington state is raking in the train money. WSDOT announced this morning that it’s getting $15 million that Florida gave up. That brings the state total to $781 million in American Reinvestment and Recovery Act high-speed-rail funding, or stimulus funds.

The press release claims that a nationwide high-speed-train network will connect 80 percent of Americans in 25 years.

The way traffic is, even heading south on I-5 where you used to feel like you were out in the sticks, and if gas prices keep climbing, a lot more people might start riding trains. I’ve always thought of them as more of a touristy thing, something that added to the experience of going down to Portland to play. But if they add more trips, and cut some time off of them, it could become a smart way to go based purely on transportation.

There are some trains in China and Europe that rocket to speeds of hundreds of miles per hour. The Seattle-Portland train tops out at 79 mph, said WSDOT spokeswoman Melanie Coon. That’s not the problem, though. The problem is clearing the way for them to run at 79 mph for more extended periods.

Washington will add two daily round trips between Seattle and Portland, for a total of six. The most recent $15 million will go toward eliminating a chokepoint near Vancouver where passenger and freight trains have to share the track.

All of the projects funded by the stimulus money must be completed by September 2017.

Transportation Commission back to full strength

The state Transportation Commission, responsible for setting tolls and fares and naming ferries and bridges, filled the second of two recent openings. Gov. Chris Gregoire has appointed Anne Haley to the group, effective immediately.

Haley is a Tacoma native, former Yakima resident and  lives in Walla Walla. She is a graduate of the University of Puget Sound and University of Washington. She worked as a librarian for many years, including 20 years as library director in Walla Walla and five years as the director of the Yakima Valley Regional Library. Haley has served as chair of the Washington State Library Commission, president of the Washington Library Association and president of the Northwest Library Association. She chairs the board of directors for Brown & Haley in Tacoma.
“Through my professional work in library management across the northwest, my experience overseeing a Tacoma-based family business that ships its product worldwide, and the very different challenges and needs my husband and I have in shipping wheat to market from the family ranch, I know first-hand the importance and diversity of Washington’s transportation system,” she said. “Transportation is fundamental to our state’s economic competitiveness, to the safe and timely movement of goods and people, and to the responsible utilization of resources, such as time, air quality and fuel.”

Haley replaces Elmira Forner of Chelan on the seven-person commission. She represents eastern Washington. Earlier this year, Tom Cowan replaced Bob Distler. Both are from the San Juan Islands.

The Transportation Commission is an independent body made up of seven members appointed by the Governor, representing various regions of the state. The commission provides a public forum for transportation policy development, assesses how the entire transportation system works across the state, and provides policy and fiscal guidance to the Governor and State Legislature. The commission also develops the state’s 20-year Transportation Plan and serves as the state tolling authority, setting tolls for state highways and bridges and fares for Washington State Ferries.