Some stuff from the TRB meeting

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Last week attended the Transportation Research Board annual meeting in Washington. This is a group organized by the National Academies or Science, Engineering and Medicine to provide coordinate research on transportation matters and runs advisory committees to provide expert input to policymakers. The meeting is a mixture of various research presentations and advisory committee meetings. Given that I was involved in advisory committees during my career, both as a member and managing them, I always find them interesting. There are a whole bunch of rail committee meetings, and I ended up attending a whole bunch of them. These included the passenger rail committee, freight rail committee, a rolling stock subcommittee and commuter rail subcommittee. The members of the committees seemed to be mostly people who worked for the railroads or commuter agencies, Amtrak, and various consultants and planners, plus a few academics. The meetings are open to the public and the audience also consisted mostly of planners and railroad people. The discussions covered topics that should be familiar to everyone in this group, and I guess we should be reassured that the professionals working in the field seemed to be concerned about the same stuff that concerns us.

My first tidbit from these meetings was a little unplanned discussion at the Passenger Rail Committee meeting. One of the members of the audience was a woman who apparently was representing some tribal interests, and she wanted to let the committee know that apparently some of the Native American tribes are thinking about taking one or more of the Class 1 railroads to court for not running passenger trains across tribal territories. Apparently some of the treaties that allowed railroads to build lines across tribal territories stipulated that the railroads need to run passenger service to serve the tribes. She wasn't specific about which tribes and which lines were involved, but she did mention the state of Washington and BNSF. I tried looking up any information on this, but all I could find was a recent court ruling in which the judge ruled that BNSF violated an easement agreement they made with the Swinomish Tribe to limited the length and frequency of freight trains they were running aroung Point Elliiot.

https://swinomish-nsn.gov/resources/tribal-attorney/bnsf-railway-ruling.aspxhttps://www.kuow.org/stories/oil-tr...-plunging-into-puget-sound-tribal-leader-says
Naturally, these unwanted trains are 100-car unit trains full of Bakken crude oil, and naturally, one of the derailed and spilled some of its cargo of tribal land. None of this applies to passenger tains, though, so I'd like to find out more about that. I know the Empire Builder and Cascades provides passenger service in Washington State, and the Empire Builder actually serves a town in an Indian reservation (but it's in Montana). I always thought that they just stole the land from the Indians back in the 1800s when they built the railroads, but apparently they made treaties and such, even if the treaty rights weren't always enforced. I guess that's changing now.
 
Another speaker at the Passenger Rail committee gave a presentation about the proposed Front Range rail in Colorado that will apparently link Fort Collins and Pueblo through Denver. They've actually formed a local government district with the ability to raise taxes and such to fund the project. The Board of Directors includes reps of State and local governments, RTD, Amtrak, and at least Union Pacific, though I think BNSF is also involved. Their plan is to use BNSF and Union Pacific tracks or rights of way. At this time, they're still doing planning to decide the exact nature of the service, but they should be starting some preliminary engineering work later this year. I think the final plan will be released sometime next fall. There was some discussion at the meeting about how to handle Denver, which is a stub end station, whether to run reversible through trains, or just use Denver as a terminus.

https://www.ridethefrontrange.com/
 
One of the members of the audience was a woman who apparently was representing some tribal interests, and she wanted to let the committee know that apparently some of the Native American tribes are thinking about taking one or more of the Class 1 railroads to court for not running passenger trains across tribal territories. Apparently some of the treaties that allowed railroads to build lines across tribal territories stipulated that the railroads need to run passenger service to serve the tribes. She wasn't specific about which tribes and which lines were involved, but she did mention the state of Washington and BNSF.
The person you heard was likely HollyAnna Littlebull from the Yakama Nation. She had a photo of a map related to their treaty that contains a statement to the effect that as long as the railroad tracks cross the Yakama reservation (which they do), the Tribes are entitled to have passenger rail service. We at All Aboard Washington and All Aboard Northwest have been working with her for some time. Tribal Interests are strengthening the case for reinstatement of the North Coast Hiawatha route between Seattle, Yakima and Spokane via Stampede Pass.

We would appreciate your help in our work to make this happen. Please donate if you can.
https://www.aawa.us/support/https://allaboardnw.org/support/Thanks!
 
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