Perhaps we’ve all gone mad. Railroaded. Tug of war. Only it’s not a game so none of us let go.
Lakewood’s Mayor Don Anderson does not like being run over, nor any of his citizens either for that matter he says – referring to Amtrak’s soon-to-begin (December 18) passenger trains traveling at high speed (79 mph) 14 times/day through “the urban heart of Lakewood and South Tacoma.”
When it comes to the Rental Inspection Program, citizens don’t like being railroaded either. Or pulled in a direction they don’t want to go.
“The mayor of Lakewood believes it is just a matter of time before these highspeed trains kill someone,” Anderson said in a response to a presentation by state transportation workers Monday night at City Council.
The KOMO news headline of December 4 read “Lakewood mayor predicts deadly accidents from high-speed train service,” and in the accompanying article Anderson said “grade separations – such as overpasses – should be included to keep trains away from cars and pedestrians.
“‘Come back when there is that accident, and try to justify not putting in those safety enhancements, or you can go back now and advocate for the money to do it, because this project was never needed and endangers our citizens,’” Anderson said.
So much saber-rattling.
The Point Defiance Bypass project has already laid 14.5 miles of new and upgraded track, reconstructed five at-grade crossings, and spent $181.5 million to do so (including a new Tacoma Dome Station) in rerouting trains away from the scenic Puget Sound to instead parallel I-5.
And cut through the heart (literally) of the city.
But demanding grade separations at this point is not unlike whistling past the graveyard.
Which – graveyards – we’ll need more space for. Yes, people will die.
But that won’t happen here. At least not often. Not to hear the Washington Department of Transportation (WSDOT) tell it.
To save an estimated 10 minutes of Amtrak travel time from Seattle to Portland, WSDOT estimates Lakewood and its neighbors can expect one accident every decade or so.
So that’s cool.
According to WSDOT’s Point Defiance Bypass Environmental Assessment (Appendix F: Traffic and Transportation Discipline Report, p.83), “None of the individual crossings are predicted to experience accidents more frequently than one in every 10 years.”
To Lakewood’s credit, in March of 2013, Lakewood sued WSDOT to stop the Point Defiance Bypass project.
One year later, March of 2014, Pierce County Superior Court Judge Katherine M. Stolz ruled against Lakewood.
Lakewood cited safety among its concerns specifically with regards the Tillicum community.
“The Tillicum community would be directly impacted by the rerouted trains,” wrote reporter Brynn Grimley in the Tacoma News Tribune, January 8, 2014.
Lakewood’s lawsuit described Tillicum, together with its cross-I-5 neighbor Woodbrook, as comprising a total of 4,754 people, with but one way, in the case of Tillicum, in and out of town: across the railroad tracks.
“The Point Defiance Bypass Project threatens to destroy progress made in this neighborhood,” said Lakewood.
In its lawsuit, Lakewood charged WSDOT with “arbitrary and capricious conduct,” and inadequate mitigation. “No meaningful mitigation is proposed,” read the city’s complaint.
But, its protestations notwithstanding, Lakewood lost to the bigger bully’s muscling its might along their right-of-way.
The citizens – and the loss of their fourth amendment rights against wrongful search as many judge the implications of the Rental Inspection Program to be – have likewise lost to the might of Lakewood’s forced entry into heretofore protected private rental spaces.
Though clearly as affective as pushing Jell-O up a hot slide, the pushback against the powers-that-be – whether Lakewood against WSDOT in the case of Amtrak, or the citizens against their city in the case of the Rental Inspection Program – either prove we’re all mad, or maybe there’s an important principle at stake worth hanging on for.