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Friday, January 11, 2013

Bullet train to Eugene: "The fix is in"

An alert reader in Lake Oswego left this comment last night about the proposed high-speed train down the Willamette Valley from Portland:

Just attended one of the ODOT-sponsored High-Speed Train meetings. Yup. The fix is in.

By early 2015 the final decisions will be made -- or sooner if the project is "fast tracked" as desired. The route through LO is off the table, but the pricey one along I-5 looks like a good bet to beat out Oregon City. No train tracks on I-5 (yet), but it's only money. The good folks at CH2MHill who are helping ODOT will find a way to make the impossible doable.

ODOT has moved beyond the "need" phase into the alignment phase, and there is just NO ONE around to STOP this thing. Since no one city is being impacted (maybe they are staying away from LO because we WILL fight back), there is no resistance to the rail mafia this time. Is there?

We have no doubt that the reader's got the situation sussed, all right. The train is on the tracks, in more ways than one.

Comments (37)

Haven't spent much time on the site before, so forgive my ignorance, but am I reading this correctly that you are opposed to the train? If so, why?

Tate: Because the country is bankrupt and this project serves no actual purpose outside of making crony developers rich.

To address tate, we live in an earthquake zone, which is one reason to oppose fixed tracks in concrete. Pictures of post-quake concrete are not pretty.

Another reason is the pollution and energy footprint of concrete.

It is possible to run buses on existing roads with more flexibility for changing traffic patterns and free-will directions of ordinary people.

Many of us are not thrilled about no-bid contracts that get negotiated out of the public eye and with minimal public input.

If people's homes or businesses will be taken or affected, it can be hurtful not to tell them until the condemnation and taking process begins.

Jane Jacobs wrote eloquently about this in The Death and Life of American's Great Cities, some time ago.

tate, maybe Bojack isn't necessarily yet opposed to the train, but is concerned about the public process and the fact "the fix is in" as Nolo states.

As I posted below on Jack's "It could have been much worse" @ 9:14 11/10/13, there are so many "fixes" in all these Planner's Cabals. I cited the new Portland Comprehensive Plan reviews for southwest Portland in February in the Southwest Portland Post:

"Some [Planning] Commission members questioned whether the February events will in fact allow the public to weigh in n choices not already made."

One of the replies by City Planner Sandra Wood was, "No, the whole thing is open to discussion." But endlessly, as exhibited by the speed train, these so-called open discussions where they claim no decisions are made are really after the most important decisions have been decided by the few. Bureaucrats and Planners only want you to discuss where you want the stops, the landscaping, color of the signs, etc.

Besides the process being bad, why don't we get to vote on these kinds of $Billion dollar adventures, and not have the few decide for all the rest of us?

Many object to building more rail as there is zero demand that a sensible/cheap bus system cannot already provide. These projects are also ridiculously expensive.

In the end these things end up being windfalls for the big developer types and the tax payer gets fleeced.

Tate, In anticipation of you next question....
There are limited positions available at the public trough. The existing positions and future openings are already spoken for. Which can be shortened to, "the fix is in."

This is already a done deal. They are just having these hearings so they can say the public had input. The DMV uses personal license plate fees to support this program.


If we could get to Seattle in an hour by train, we could close PDX and put the land back into strawberries. A 20 minute ride between Portland and Salem would open up state government service as an option to people who don't eant to live in Salem or commute 2 hours every day.

Unless, I'm mistaken, doesn't Oregon state law now require that the surrounding right-of-way of all new public rail transit projects be automatically rezoned for subsidized high-density housing projects?

Erik H? Any input on that?

Gee, Allan L., that's just what we need: No airport and more govt. piglets suckling at the public teat.

"A 20 minute ride between Portland and Salem would open up state government service as an option to people who don't eant to live in Salem or commute 2 hours every day."

We need to build High Speed Rail so people don't have to live in Salem!

There's a good use of millions of tax dollars.

The question was asked “where will the money come from”. Nobody hosting the meeting had an answer. Obviousely the promotoers have a long way to go in proving cost effectiveness, financial sustainability and can the costly operation really be subsidized and by whom. They haven’t done that yet and may not satisfactorily be able to in public opinion.

Good use of the sarcasm font, Allan. I almost missed it.

Geeze Mr. Grumpy-- if you are right, we had better organize a sit-in (or whatever they do these days) at the state Capitol. We need to rout those legislators out who want to tell us how to live. It seems like they go to Salem and succum to the planners' sickness and can't think for themselves. For heaven's sake, don't people know by now that cutting down on personal auto travel will do very little to affect GHG or congestion?

Just Wow! This sounds just like a replay of the WES boondogle I testified against almost a decade ago. You could tell just by the obvious rail shills in the audience (none of whom lived locally); and the completely disinterested expressions on the faces of ODOT and TriMet bobbleheads that this huge money loser would be built despite virtually no community support.

I think the City of Portland sends lobbyists down to the legislature.
How many lobbyists and what is the cost?

Speaking of cost, that is a topic not wanted for discussion at these type of meetings. There are all kinds of maneuvers to keep people on "their track." If one objects to anything or brings up anything not wanted for discussion, there are plenty of Portland Polite ones there to make individuals who don't agree with the plan uncomfortable. After a few of these type of meetings, if one can brace oneself to deal with them, one can/should bring up "unwanted" questions anyway. If there are too many who object, there will be mediators that we pay for who step in. In the final analysis what is wanted is to record that yes there were public hearings.

I'm here to tell ya', your best bet is reading how it's told that railroads were built in Oregon the first time, in order to tell them how to build a railroad this time.

Okay next question. Are most of you who are opposed to the high-speed rail also opposed to MAX expansion?

And, for those willing to divulge such information, what is your political affiliation? Not looking for an argument here, just trying to get a better understanding of your perspectives.

tate, I'm a democrat. But what does that have to do with giving opinions on high-speed rail or MAX expansion? Common sense shouldn't be a party affiliation. Maybe we should start a party called Common Sense.

tate, I'm a conservative republican and stand arm in arm with my liberal democrat neighbors in opposition to the fraud waste and abuse involved with Trimet's light rail expansions and this new boondoggle.
Have you heard of any public clamor for more light rail lines ?
For the wasteful trolley line on the east side ?
For WES ?
For high speed rail down the valley ?
Shoot, if the goal here is to provide an easy way to get sports fans to and from Nike-U then let Phil Knight put up the money and build the damn thing !

Tate you will find this blog is generally left leaning. The comments will run the gamut.

My personal affiliation is independent, but I voted Obama both times. The first time because he was 'new' (and black) and I figured we needed to shake things up. The 2nd time because he was better than Romney on social issues and foreign policy and I didn't buy Romney's claims at being some sort of job creating guru.

No matter your affiliation it is generally agreed that going into debt to throw money at a couple of preferred developers is just bad news. So it's not really a partisan issue, it's a good government issue. Something we can all agree on.

You want to see disagreement? Look at the gun control comments. Oh lordy!

Tate - In case no one has said it yet,


Tate -

Liberal democrat, precinct committee person, train lover (model type, thousands of bucks worth operating in the basemen) grew up in a city (NYC) wih nserious heavy rail rapid transit, college and law school in another city (Boston) with the same plus a healthy dose of light rail ransit.

WES is a fiscal abomination destroying TriMet's ability to provide transit service to all the citizenry in exchange for a bright shiny rain for the elitists in Washington County exurbs. MAX is no better.

The serious questions about any High Speed Rail (HSR) proposal are:

How much a mile to build?

Where does he money come from?

Identify the rider pool?

Identify he number of riders per day and the total number of seat miles ridden per day for each of the next 50 years with real numbers, no WES numbers.

How much a seat mile to operate each year for he next fify yeras ?

Where does the money come from?

Until you can quantify those answers, don't star talking about roues.

Tate, who are you? What is your political affiliation? How are you employed? Not looking for an argument here, just trying to get a better understanding of your perspective.

A Common Sense Party might be needed, as I am disgusted with both the D's and R's.

Have you seen the long-term debt column on this blog? I am opposed to umpteen projects that we cannot afford and our s l o w light rail and other problems leave some of us thinking twice before using. One other matter is that even if other options exist, such as express buses or ferries on our waterways, those are apparently held off the table for discussion. It is all arranged for us by those who benefit from the rail projects and the housing along the rail, that can be tax abated for years. This has been going on far too long at the detriment of the financial health of our community and with the basics left behind. Now to make up for all the years of pet projects and enormous debt, the city has come up with every idea they possibly can to extract more money from the people, so we pay more and more and get less and less in services.
Are you from another city wondering why there are negative responses to the rail here?

What I notice is that Open Houses for transportation issues (bike paths, light rail, bullet trains) tend to attract the committed smart-growth fans and enthusiastic train/bike buffs. For them there is no if or how much, it's always about where and when. These then are the citizens whose voices echo in meeting after meeting. The meeting rooms with bureaucrats and consultants presiding become echo chambers.

The only opportunity given to the rest of us to comment are the yellow questionnaires and the online open house: www.OregonPassengerRail.org (from Jan. 8-25). Naturally, the questions are rigged. The assumptions are that the rail line is a great idea, only the details need to be ironed out. Some of the goals and objectives are:

* Provide a viable and affordable alternative for travelers (is this anything like affordable or government subsidized housing?)
* Provide equitable investments and service, with consideration to race/ethnicity and income. (I think this is a repeat of the previous goal of ignoring paying customers and the market as a test of need.)
* Provide passenger rail service to meet the existing and future passenger rail demand for an interconnected system in the Pacific Northwest High Speed Rail Corridor. (I didn't know there was a HSR Corridor. Isn't that what the meetings are to decide?)

If you have time to waste, put your 1 cent's worth in on the online form.


I think a quick look at ODOT's "Purpose and Need" statement needs review:

Project Purpose
The purpose of the Oregon Passenger Rail Project is to improve the frequency, convenience, speed and reliability of passenger rail service along the Oregon segment of the federally-designated Pacific Northwest Rail Corridor (PNWRC) in a manner that will:

•Provide riders with an efficient, safe, equitable and affordable alternative to highway, bus, and air travel;
•Be a cost-effective investment;
•Protect freight-rail carrying capability;
•Support the ongoing implementation of regional high speed intercity passenger rail in the PNWRC between the Eugene-Springfield metropolitan area and Vancouver, British Columbia;
•Be compatible with the Washington State portion of the PNWRC;
•Promote economic development;
•Avoid or minimize community and environmental impacts; and
•Integrate with existing and planned multi-modal transportation networks.
Project Need
Multiple transportation, land use, socioeconomic, and environmental considerations drive the need for this project, including:

•Increasing intercity and regional travel demands;
•Limited rail system capacity and competing service needs
•Declining state and local roadway funding;
•Increased economic vitality of the corridor;
•Protect freight-rail carrying capability;
•Promoting transportation system safety and security; and,
•Changing transportation demand resulting from demographic changes.

When I look at this, pretty much the need hasn't really been hammered out. I thought the basic premise behind transportation was...well, to transport people or goods. Here, ODOT is basically saying "we want an alternative to highways, and the two or three buses, and the airplanes that don't even stop in Salem and haven't for decades", and the "needs" are just a mis-mash of bureaucratic gobbledy-gook.

The traffic volumes don't support any additional need for "options" - all of the highways in the Willamette Valley are well below full capacity, except maybe I-5 between Portland and Salem during rush hour. That hardly means we need to spend hundreds of millions - if not into the billions - on HSR. Given that there are few alternatives currently and virtually no bus service, why is that option not being considered?

Freight capacity is also wide open. Many of the constraints except because of poor dispatching by Union Pacific and the mess that is the East Portland junction (where four railroad routes come together at the east end of the Steel Bridge and roughly where I-5/I-84 also converge). Better dispatching/utilization of existing track, and possibly some additional double track, and fixing Portland, would solve much of that problem. HSR won't do anything.

Not to mention...there are two other railroad routes north-south through the valley available for freight traffic, and several railroad right-of-ways that could be restored to active railroad lines if needed. And of those three railroad lines - two host just one or two trains a day. The other, about a dozen at most. When we get to 20-30 trains a day, get back to me.

But above all is this little tidbit:

•Integrate with existing and planned multi-modal transportation networks.

Never mind that Salem - our state capitol city and second (or third, depending on the census) largest city, doesn't even have evening or weekend public transit. What good is HSR, if you're dumped off at the train station and have no ability to catch a ride anywhere? I'm pretty sure that not everyone that goes to Salem goes to the Tokyo International University, or the Willamette University softball and soccer fields...

doesn't Oregon state law now require that the surrounding right-of-way of all new public rail transit projects be automatically rezoned for subsidized high-density housing projects?

Egh, what's 100 miles of apartment bunkers built on top of prime farmland?

This is the same group of people that want to use HSR to push the city of Woodburn out three miles to the west, rather than use the existing railroad that runs right through the 100+ year old downtown core.

just visited the rail website. then I left it. Now I'm real worried.

Finally I have a reason to ride one of these ridiculous, money wasting trains! In the Fall it will get me to Autzen much faster for the Duck football games and without the I-5 traffic jams. Did they mention if it will have a Bar Car?

Man we really need this train so we can, like, visit the capitol. Also Autzen stadium is nearly empty during the football games. We need the train so we can fill it! It's important.

GO Ducks!

Tate posts from the Portland office of Gas Transmission Northwest, which operates the pipeline into central Oregon from Canada. Probably a rail buff.

Here's my favorite: "Declining state and local roadway funding."
The major de-funding of roads is a political decision, not an economic fact.

Interesting piece I found on the web tonight:

Several cities in WI got together to oppose a commuter rail project in their county. Regardless the outcome, the cities showed spunk. What involvement did the state have in all of this? Here is a Resolution from one of the towns - you will find familiar sentiments.


WHEREAS, the Town of Cottage Grove has learned that Dane County, together with the City of Madison, intends to submit an application for funding to continue to pursue development of a rail transit system serving a corridor between Sun Prarrie and Middleton; and

WHEREAS, even the most optimistic estimates of this transit line indicate that it will serve less than 2% of the commuters in Dane County, and will not even blunt the growth in traffic; and

WHEREAS, in the opinion of the Town, the recommendation to pursue rail transit reflects an arbitrary preference for rail over a more realistic bus-centered expansion model; and

WHEREAS, proponents of the rail system have indicated that they believe it will be necessary to fund the rail system with a new tax source, most likely a one-half percent sales tax; and

WHEREAS, the Town of Cottage Grove has reviewed information concerning the benefits and costs of a sales tax, and has determined that even the remote and indirect benefits of a sales tax would not even approach the cost to the Town of the sales tax that would be collected; and

NOW, THEREFORE, the Town of Cottage Grove does hereby urge the United States Federal Transit Administration to return the application of Dane County and the City of Madison for planning funds to the City and County with the direction that they plan for a system based on bus expansion.

Passed at a duly held meeting of the Electors of the Town of Cottage Grove on the 8th day of April, 2008 by UNANIMOUS VOICE VOTE. (Last 3 words are in bold and underlined.)


Jack - Yeah, it seemed a little wonky. His questions seemed to infer that political bias was at the root our objections.

Or maybe he's surrounded by a bunch of Kool Aid drinkers, and he's just now being exposed to reasonable objectors. That was my hope.

Nolo - Protip: If you want to make sense of Nolo's post simply skip the words WHEREAS, HEREBY and THEREFORE and it makes perfect sense.

Jack Bog - I posted from where?? I don't know how you got that information, but it is very false, maybe my office used to be the home of "Portland office of Gas Transmission Northwest" but I have no idea what that is. I am a gainfully employed 23 year-old, college grad, born and raised in Portland... definitely a liberal. I have absolutely ZERO stake in light rail, high-speed rail, Trimet, etc...I was just wanted to get a sense of the audience of the blog/comment section. Nice conspiracy theories though, and thanks for the responses. I'm looking forward to participating.

Tate, you are posting from Or perhaps I should say, you were.

It is in fact shocking, I did not get a cut of the action..

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