Morgan's Brain

Sep. 24, 2008 at 12:32pm

More Delay for Sounder and Amtrak?

The Seattle Transit blog is reporting that the WSDOT website is reporting that the M Street to D Street connector (aka the Point Defiance Bypass) for Sounder and Amtrak trains is currently under funded by as much as $14.9 million dollars.

"WSDOT and Sound Transit are reviewing the estimate for potential savings."

Is it still too late to extend our LINK system to Lakewood and beyond?

Read all about it: Rail - Tacoma - Bypass of Point Defiance

comments [16]  |  posted under lakewood, sound transit, streetcars, tacoma, trains


by tacoma1 on 9/24/2008 @ 1:13pm
It looks a little too early to get excited here to me. It isn't unusual to have construction estimates come in high on a project. A little nip and tuck, plus some hardball with BNSF, Amtrak, and a couple of construction companies should fix this.

From what I have heard, Amtrak is really counting on this new route as it will allow them to further reduce the train time from Portland. Long range big picture type planning from Amtrak is to reduce the Seattle to Portland trip as much as possible. Sadly, the new route does eliminate the world class views of Dalco Passage, the Narrows, and Commencement Bay when your on Amtrak rounding Steilacoom and Ruston.

by KevinFreitas on 9/24/2008 @ 1:18pm
I'm still bummed about Amtrak taking that newer route. The time saved it nothing compared to the breath-taking scenery.

Dunno if it's related by there's a bunch of surveying going on near my office which is at the edge of where the Sounder extension would effect this neighborhood.

So which plan actually got approved anyway?

by Nick on 9/24/2008 @ 1:18pm
It sure seems like expanding the LINK that direction would be a more forward-looking move (and possibly more cost-effective in the long term) when compared to expanding the Sounder route.

With the planned light rail routes already overlapping the Sounder route between Seattle and Tacoma, it sure seems like the Sounder has been a temporary solution to a problem that ST's light rail system will permanently solve.

Why not skip the added expense of this interim solution and put the money directly into a more compatible and comprehensive light rail system?

by amocat on 9/24/2008 @ 1:44pm
Because light rail is slow. Light rail is great to get you from neighborhood to neighborhood but between cities its slow. Thus the difference between light rail and commuter rail. The light rail between the airport and Seattle makes numerous stops in neighborhoods along the way, providing them with desperately needed transit. If they linked our light rail to the Seattle one I'd still choose the bus or Sounder over light rail any day when traveling to and from Seattle.

by NSHDscott on 9/24/2008 @ 3:15pm
I agree with amocat, which is why I'm perpetually pro-transit yet anti-Link-to-Seattle. I'd so much rather ST expand Link within Tacoma (or build cheaper streetcars to connect Tacoma neighborhoods to the existing Link line) and leave the intercity transit to buses (with a carpool lane from Fed Way to Lakewood) and heavy rail. I hate how the heavy rail line will bisect downtown Tacoma, but I'd rather have that than pay billions for a slow light rail train to Seattle.

I still wonder why no one ever talks about bullet trains in this country ...

by morgan on 9/24/2008 @ 3:39pm
Light rail is slow?

by Nick on 9/24/2008 @ 3:49pm
Couldn't that problem be resolved with express trains that didn't stop at every-single-stop (much like ST's 590/594 buses)? Wouldn't that be cheaper than buying and building two separate and incompatible rail systems?

I don't know how much actual movement speeds compare, maybe someone could chime in with some stats?

by Nick on 9/24/2008 @ 3:51pm
Also, if ST continued using the same heavy track they currently use for the Tacoma LINK, the tracks could be shared with the faster and higher capacity trains that will be moving through the more "arterial" Seattle-Airport route.

I know the laying that heavier track costs more, but it couldn't be more than paying to lay two sets of tracks (assuming light rail were ever expanded south from Tacoma).

by tacoma1 on 9/24/2008 @ 4:37pm
I definitely agree with you about losing the views, they are amazing. On the other hand, the rail time savings should continue to increase in the future as additional track improvements are made throughout the entire line.

Since the rail is shared by ST, with Amtrak and BNSF, who owns the line, I believe that the issues are bigger than just our beloved T-Town. As far as cost effectiveness goes, it sure makes sense to use the heavy rail for the long trips. Plus most of the rail is already in place (except for the D to M stretch). I understand that by adding this portion of the line, it separates a lot of freight traffic from the passenger traffic. So this stretch not only quickens the trips between us and Portland, but also adds safety and allows for more trips, both for passengers and freight.

A big advantage of connecting link light rail from SeaTac Airport to the T-Dome would be that we could be connecting our fair city to a potentially huge tourist market. Also, we would be adding to the marketability of downtown Tacoma is a regional employment center. But to travel to Seattle, the Sounder is definitely the way to go.

As for expanding link within Tacoma itself, since ST is a regional authority, we can’t expect them to do it. Ok, yeah we can always expect it, but they certainly don’t have the legal authority to use regional funds on a local project. I personally would be in favor of having Pierce Transit oversee the conversion of their busiest most congested routes over to a light rail or street car system. I’m not sure exactly which routes that would be, but I’m pretty sure the # 1 would be a good candidate. Might have to do some creative engineering though. That hill up and out of downtown on Pacific is pretty steep. It would certainly add to the happy hour business at Stanley Seafort’s.

by Nick on 9/24/2008 @ 4:50pm
Actually, ST could expand the LINK in Tacoma if voters supported it. Thanks to subarea equity, ST has to spend the same proportion of funds on Pierce County that it raises within the county. Yes Tacoma is not all of Pierce county, but it is the most dense part of it which would add justification to why funds would be spent here rather than say Puyallup.

tacoma1, you definitely have a point though - since most of the tracks are already laid and because BNSF and Amtrak would have skin in the game, there might be greater benefits.

On the other hand, voters have/will be voting for these funds to support regional transit and not necessarily interstate transit/commerce (not that there's anything wrong with that, it's just not the intent of the transit packages we have and will be voting on). So in this case it might be more appropriate to evaluate which would get the most bang for the buck as far as regional transit goes.

Just some food for thought . . .

by tacoma1 on 9/24/2008 @ 4:57pm
Nick, Good point, you are correct, all we need is more revenue. I vow to do my part. I vow to only drink martini's in Tacoma...........wait I already do that.

Ok, I will never ever buy anything again at the Bellevue Sq Mall Nordstrom, starting next month.

Also, the Sounder goes both ways. It can bring people here too! Currently there are two reverse trips in the AM, and two int the PM.

by tacoma1 on 9/24/2008 @ 5:22pm
On the subject of the benefits of light rail. Here is an article about a light rail application that I never thought of before. Apparently in Amsterdam, they have added cargo cars to their light rail passenger trains. No more diesel delivery trucks inside the city.

by morgan on 9/24/2008 @ 7:15pm
It's great that we have Sounder- but ST is at the mercy of BNSF who it rents track usage from. Until BNSF goes out of business (HA!) future expansion, number of runs - and speed - will remain limited. Which is why I like the idea even more of expanding our LINK system in all directions.

by drizell on 9/24/2008 @ 11:56pm
In other countries, light rail systems tie into heavy rail systems. It's not uncommon at all to see a short light rail train sharing the same tracks as a bullet or freight train.

I disagree that light rail is slow. Have you ever ridden the MAX in Portland along the Sunset Highway? The train cruises along at 55 or 60 miles per hour, keeping up with or passing all the cars on the road.

by Twisty on 9/25/2008 @ 4:41am
Newsflash, folks: subarea equity is going away if ST2 is passed.

by tacoma1 on 9/25/2008 @ 7:16am
Sorry, but that is absolutely not true. First, you have the name wrong, there is no ST2 on the ballot. It is Prop 1, and titled Mass Transit Now. Second, funding for all of the projects in Prop 1 - MTN are based on sub area equity. All of the money collected from Pierce County is allocated to the Pierce County transit projects.