By David Anderson
You’ve no doubt heard of the engineer texting – but tailgating another train, really?
Conductors deliberately preventing other locomotives from merging – telling ‘the little train that could’ it can’t – or chasing down another train?
Did you hear the one about the brakeman who gave a rude hand signal to the occupant traveling the same direction in a parallel caboose who then responded by exiting his car to have it out right then and there?
Maybe that’s because operators of freight and passenger trains have learned to be kind and to share, or at least wait their turn to move to the front of the line and occupy the limited amount of rail on which to run, akin to which Robert Fulghum wrote 25 years ago when he published “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.”
So why can’t motorists behave instead of flashing their lights or excessively sounding their horn or throwing projectiles and worse such that 1200 incidents annually in the United States result in 300 drivers suffering serious injury and even death in road ragealtercations?
Maybe it’s because the average age of such aggression is 33 and Fulghum’s lessons from kindergarten weren’t yet all the rage?
Or, more likely, is it because traffic congestion is the result of legislation that hasn’t happened?
And why is that?
Down in the boondocks, better known as the tideflats, every morning and every afternoon, “freight train traffic from the Port of Tacoma is prohibited from entering BNSF’s mainline track headed northward toward Seattle,” writes John Gillie this past June 30, in the Tacoma News Tribune.
They’ve learned to wait their turn.
Like an obedient queue at the chocolate milk counter, rail shipments of crude – not rude – oil from North Dakota sit at idle while “Sounder commuter trains and Amtrak Cascades regional trains carry passengers to destinations between Tacoma and Everett, and between Portland and Seattle.”
But they don’t want to wait to take their turn anymore.
The reason that they don’t want to wait to take their turn anymore is because they’re bigger now and getting bigger still.
They want to dominate the playground.
“As the demand on rail capacity in Western Washington booms as railroads find big new customers,” says Gillie, “rail users are taking steps to ensure that the state’s rail infrastructure doesn’t become gridlocked because of competing demands for capacity.”
That’s “gridlocked” as in I-5’s-likewise-competing-
Road rage is more often than not the result of traffic congestion which leads drivers to become frustrated. Traffic congestion sets in when demand approaches the capacity of a road. Road capacity is accompanied by slower speeds, longer trip times, and the resulting interaction among vehicles – and their drivers –can more simulate a demolition derby and a “Let’s Get Ready to Rumble” big time boxing match than what you might hope for in a southbound Friday afternoon commute or camping trip to the beach.
The railroad people want to rise above the fray.
Here’s Gillie again: “Like I-5, which the line parallels for much of its north-south route, this vital rail artery is subject to traffic jams and restrictions that govern just how much and when freight can be delivered to and from the ports and industries of Western Washington.”
To help solve the problem, in deference to the faster passenger trains, the coal-oil-and-freight-folks will dutifully plod along – and enjoy – the scenic Puget Sound waterfront route while freeing up Amtrak to fast track along the freeway and through the heavily life-congested communities of Tillicum and other neighborhoods that border I-5, seven daily round trips at 79 mph.
There, sipping fruit-based smoothies ordered from the Café car and enjoying the wonders of mobile Wi-Fi in air-conditioned bliss – their heads in restful repose on inflatable pillows while blanketed in wide reclining seats – ultra-pampered Amtrak passengers will be offered panoramic views of passing scenery to include grown men duking it out on I-5, cheered on by their ‘are-we-there-yet’ camping preschoolers rooting from steamed up windows where they’re cooking like sardines in a can.
Now that the expressway is becoming a more suitable location for an espresso stand, given its all coming to a standstill.
The late Senator Mike Carrell wrote the following in his “Kitchen Cabinet Update” of December 17, 2010:
“We all are facing the ever-increasing congestion along the Interstate 5 corridor as it runs through our district and past Joint Base Lewis-McChord. I recently attended a hearing in the Senate that addressed some of these concerns and once again heard the continuing mantra from the (Washington) State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) that they have no money to fix the problem. One of the things that I learned from that meeting was that the capacity of I-5 (which was designed in the 1950’s) is about 60,000 cars a day. Currently, I-5 has reached its daily capacity on that stretch of highway, meaning that if we do exceed that capacity, backups are only going to get worse.
“When economic conditions improve, more people will begin to drive more often. Add to that the increased number of overseas troops returning home to the base, and the problem will only compound. DOT won’t be able to fix it with ‘traffic calming devices’ like metered onramps. I-5 is now projected to be at 72,000 cars a day within the next decade, which means the highway will be about 20% over capacity and commuters can expect to be stuck in traffic during half of the day. DOT is reporting that even if they started now, they won’t be able to fix the congestion problem for another decade, but they also say they won’t have any money to even consider starting for at least ten years. It’s conceivable that the necessary lane addition may not happen for another twenty years, at which point the freeway could be as much as 50% over capacity! That would, in essence, bring traffic to a complete standstill, which is simply unacceptable.
“One of the only positives that may come out of this is that all the legislators from the northern Puget Sound area (including King County, where the bulk of the transportation dollars are currently being spent) will have to go through this bottleneck themselves during session to experience what we’ve been living with on a daily basis.”
Maybe then legislation will address the congestion that has resulted in what has been described as a medical condition, “intermittent explosive disorder” – road rage – and treat the problem.
Until then WSDOT’s version can be heard at their Point Defiance Rail Bypass workshop for those Lakewood properties adjacent to the railroad tracks from the City’s northerly City limits to 108th Street SW.
The workshop is scheduled for August 21, 2013, beginning at 6:30 PM, at Lakewood City Hall City Council Chambers, 6000 Main Street SW. Additional workshops will be conducted along other segments of the railroad line.