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December 2009 Archives

December 8, 2009

Selling Transportation Reform

A small but influential group of individuals gathered recently at the downtown Washington office of University of Virginia's Miller Center of Public Affairs at the invitation of its Director, former Gov.Gerald Baliles. The bipartisan group included two former U.S. Transportation Secretaries and some 30 key players and opinion leaders who constitute what could be loosely described as Washington's unofficial permanent transportation policy establishment.

The purpose of the meeting was to solicit advice on a set of recommendations stemming from the Miller Center's fall transportation conference. The central challenge was posed succinctly by Gov. Baliles at the outset of the meeting. The transportation sector, he suggested, is being neglected despite the evidence of a mounting crisis - aging infrastructure, growing traffic congestion, strained freight and logistical facilities. Both the Congress and the Administration are extemporizing rather than taking bold steps to avert the looming crisis.

Where is the outrage, Baliles asked. Why is there no popular outcry? And what can we do to overcome this inertia? How can we create a sense of urgency and develop a narrative that will reverberate with the public, capture the media's attention and goad Congress and the Administration into action? The Governor's conclusion: we must involve "the three Ps": the Public, the Press and the Politicians.

Continue reading "Selling Transportation Reform" »

Further Down the Line for the Eastside Corridor?

Photo Source: The Seattle Times

The Seattle Times' Keith Ervin reports this morning about the myriad public and private sector parties that are coming together around different elements (and sections) of the 42-mile Eastside rails and trails corridor. This month -- and perhaps as early as next Tuesday -- the "...Port's purchase of the rail corridor is scheduled to close...."

King County, Redmond and a utility consortium are prepared to pay more than $43 million to buy land or easements along an abandoned Eastside rail line they hope to give new life as a rail and trail route in the future.

The corridor is unique in the opportunity that it potentially offers citizens and businesses on Seattle's Eastside -- a point that Cascadia Center has voiced repeatedly in the last several years. Read the full article here.

December 10, 2009

Deep-bore Tunnels Among Finalists for Engineering Awards


Over at Discovery News, my colleague (and Discovery Institute founder and president Bruce Chapman), has a good post about how deep-bore tunneling projects are making a run for the Outstanding Civil Engineering Award of 2009.

An innovative deep-bore tunneling operation devised for Sound Transit in Seattle is one of five projects in competition for the Outstanding Civil Engineering Award of 2009, a contest conducted by the American Society of Civil Engineers. One of the Seattle project's competitors is another tunnel in California. All in all, tunnel technology is being revolutionized these days, with extensive implications for urban design as well as transportation.

You can read the original post here. It is also re-posted below.

Engineering Contest Sees Tunnels in Urban Future
By Bruce Chapman
Discovery News

An innovative deep-bore tunneling operation devised for Sound Transit in Seattle is one of five projects in competition for the Outstanding Civil Engineering Award of 2009, a contest conducted by the American Society of Civil Engineers. One of the Seattle project's competitors is another tunnel in California. All in all, tunnel technology is being revolutionized these days, with extensive implications for urban design as well as transportation.

All five nominated 2009 civil engineering projects are impressive and tend to renew one's confidence that technology can provide breakthroughs in human life comparable to the great feats of the past century. The successful Sound Transit project is also significant for the next deep-bore program in Seattle, a tunnel under the downtown to replace the Alaska Way Viaduct, a 60 year old elevated freeway alongside the harbor. Eventually, the waterfront tunnel project may offer a national model for cities that wish to recover surface land in high density urban areas for multiple uses--land now used for the single purpose of motor traffic. Tunnel technologies like those in Seattle also could help remove the reputation for waste acquired by the "Big Dig" project in Boston.

Here is what Erik Sofge of Popular Mechanics says about the already completed Sound Transit tunnel:

"Whether or not you're a believer in the universal benefits of public transit, this project deserves respect. To build a passenger rail station in the Beacon Hill area, south of downtown Seattle, contractors had to create the largest and deepest soft-ground sequential excavation method (SEM) tunnels in North America. SEM refers to the practice of digging a tunnel in sections, supporting each segment as you go. The pair of mile-long tunnels--part of a 14-mile light-rail project--were nearly twice the depth and diameter of previous such projects, running under a 352-feet-high hill. When initial test shafts found a surprisingly large amount of fine sand, engineers quickly rearranged the design and path of the tunnels, pioneering new construction techniques that should benefit future SEM projects in soft soils. The final result is inherently unassuming--the Beacon Hill station is 160 feet underground, accessible in 20 seconds by elevator--so the 642-ton, 330-feet-long earth-pressure-balancing tunnel-boring machine that dug the tunnels will have to stand testament to this nimble and literally ground-breaking project."

December 22, 2009

Cascadia's Agnew Weighs in on the Most Under-Reported Regional Stories of 2009


Last week, KUOW's Ross Reynolds show focused on the "Most Overlooked News of 2009." Cascadia Center's Bruce Agnew was asked to weigh in:

I'm not sure there was a bigger news story this year than the (Alaskan Way) Viaduct (replacement) deep-bore tunnel. Certainly, it was the biggest issue in the mayor's race. Yet there seemed to be precious little media attention to the difference between the deep-bore tunnel and the infamous Boston Big Dig, which was a much, much bigger, more complicated, multiple tunnel and bridge project. And later, there was no real media comparison to the tunnels completed here in Seattle, like the recently-completed Sound Transit Beacon Hill light rail tunnel, which came in on time and on budget. Certainly now, the media would do us all a favor comparing the difference between the Brightwater King County project (and the Viaduct replacement tunnel) in terms of (cost overrun) risk."

You can link to and listen to the full "Most Overlooked News of 2009" show here. Bruce Agnew's interview is near the end of the show.

U.S. Transportation Secretary LaHood on the "Daily Show"

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood was recently on the "Daily Show" with Jon Stewart. His appearance focused on the future of high-speed passenger rail in the United States and what areas are possibly on deck for the first set of investments from the Obama administration.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Ray LaHood
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealth Care Crisis

Secretary LaHood didn't mention the Cascadia Corridor in his "Daily Show" interview. But Cascadia Center of Discovery Institute, like many in the region from British Columbia down through Oregon, believes strongly that the Cascadia Corridor should be among the first to receive high-speed rail investments. The arguments in favor of this corridor are plentiful. The Washington State Department of Transportation's grant request outlines how some investments could be allocated.

The Cascadia Corridor, of course, is bi-national, requiring investment and cooperation on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border. Earlier this month, as part of Cascadia's effort to help push the issue of securing Canadian investment in the corridor for additional passenger rail service, our organization sponsored a trip to Vancouver, British Columbia. Washington State Senator Mary Margaret Haugen led a delegation of 60 people -- private sector and government leaders -- to engage in discussion about some of the ways to assure future success of passenger rail in the corridor.

For the Cascadia Corridor, the 2010 Winter Olympics and the need to transport tourists along the corridor is the most immediate impetus for increased service. But long-term, long after the last athlete has left the Olympic village, a robust and healthy passenger rail system in the Northwest could very well play an important role in the region's vitality.

As Year Ends, Viaduct Replacement Work Begins

Photo Source:

We're not sure what outgoing Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels has on his holiday wish list, but continuing the progress being made to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct with a deep-bored tunnel is likely on there. Mayor Nickels, along with former King County Executive Ron Sims and Washington Governor Christine Gregoire, came together earlier this year in a decision that commits the State of Washington to tearing down the viaduct and replacing it with a deep-bored tunnel.

The West Seattle Herald has an informative report about progress being made to prepare for the actual viaduct replacement work.

Within the next few weeks, crews will finish relocating electrical lines from the viaduct to underground locations east of the structure between S. Massachusetts Street and Railroad Way S. This project, which began in September 2008, prepares us for replacing the viaduct south of S. King Street and also helps protect downtown's power supply in the event of an earthquake.
Members of the program team met with the north portal and south portal working groups this month to discuss new design options for the proposed bored tunnel alternative. The working groups, which include neighborhood, freight, pedestrian and bicycle organizations, and business representatives, help inform the design and environmental review process for the viaduct's central replacement.

And in other news that things appear to be moving along, last week The Seattle Times reported that the Washington State Department of Transportation has named several design-build teams that have the qualifications to "submit proposals for the Alaskan Way Viaduct bored-tunnel project."

Washington State's transportation secretary, Paula Hammond, is quoted in the article saying, "'We are very pleased with the quality of the contractor teams vying for this project.... Their world-class expertise will be invaluable as we identify innovative ways to deliver the tunnel on time, within budget and with the highest level of quality.'" All four teams will be eligible to submit their proposals in Fall 2010. The proposals will detail how each team would go about "completing the tunnel design, constructing a tunnel boring machine and building the tunnel, including the interior roadway, tunnel systems, ventilation buildings and portal connections." Cascadia Center of Discovery Institute's Bruce Agnew, when interviewed last week on KUOW's Ross Reynolds show about the region's "Most Overlooked News of 2009," talked about the deep-bored tunnel and how such a big story was "under-reported" vis-a-vis cost comparisons and related issues.

The debate about how to best replace the aging, earthquake prone Alaskan Way Viaduct has been going on for years, and for good reason, reaching a solution hasn't been easy. Another thing that couldn't have been easy was -- after considerable study and examination -- making the decision to take a stance on a tough regional issue. Although it is Cascadia Center of Discovery Institute's view that the deep-bored tunnel is the wise choice for the region's future, reasonable people can (and do) certainly disagree on the best course of action for replacing the viaduct. It's a complex issue for sure, and it's best for the region that it has been examined from all angles. For his part, however, as he prepares to leave the city's leadership scene, Mayor Nickles might take pride in the fact that it looks like the viaduct replacement work is continuing on schedule. That might be the only gift he needs this year.

About December 2009

This page contains all entries posted to Cascadia Prospectus in December 2009. They are listed from oldest to newest.

November 2009 is the previous archive.

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Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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