Home > Railroad > East-West rail and a tale of two Daves

East-West rail and a tale of two Daves

Dave Hull, standing in for Dave Tyson.

The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors will get a presentation by the City of Eureka on a possible East-West railroad feasibility study, because Eureka is “taking the lead” on the issue.

This according to Dave Hull, former CEO of the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District.  Hull was fired from the job last year but continues to lead a call for big port/rail development.

Supervisor Virginia Bass said she has asked Eureka City Manager to appear before the Supes at Tuesday’s meeting to talk East-West rail, but Tyson sent Hull as his stand-in.

Supervisor Mark Lovelace said there isn’t much need for a feasibility study because engineers could certainly build the line. Instead he said the question is why the line would be built in the first place when the market hasn’t asked for it.

“I’ve asked for specific examples [of who would use the railroad ] but haven’t heard any,” he said. “It’s hard to prove something based on anecdotes.”

Lovelace said a demand aggregation study would be more useful. “I don’t believe ‘if we build it they will come,'” he said.

Nevertheless, the railroad wizards at the City of Eureka (or maybe it will be Hull, who apparently speaks for the City on this issue) will make a presentation on the physical feasibility for Supes at an upcoming, yet-to-be-scheduled board meeting.

  1. Little Buddha
    May 8, 2012 at 4:42 pm

    In my opinion, railroad lines to, and through, the great Northcoast is just not feasible. Why would a county of 140,000 souls spend at least $300 million plus to have their goods shipped in and out? What goods? What damage to the environment would ensue? The controversy over that alone would make the Headwaters fight look like a tea party, (which used to mean a polite gathering with tea.)

    I think we have a generational problem. As an older person, I think a lot of folks my age think winsomely about trains and tracks and have an over-anachronistic outlook on trains. The future is not trains. We don’t know what the future holds; as we’ve found, we’re not very good at telling the future. They said we would have jet-packs by now!

    It also strikes me as funny that the conservative Supervisors want to consider an east-rail line, seemingly abandoning the 30-year struggle to revive the Bay Area train line. I’m scratching my head on that one…And the guess that most of the people who want this train are, absurdly, opposed to California’s high-speed rail project.

    Better we take the millions and build an airport where planes can land? I’m no transportation expert, but I know a few things about it so I’m curious to read what others think; I hope it’s not all hateful.

    ?Heraldo, how long will you let people go on like you do? At some point, do you ask yourself if the comments section isn’t just a blog version of the Jerry Springer Show and end it? I’ve never thought liberals could be so vicious to others…arch-conservatives being nasty, I’m kinda used to it because of my extended family…..but progressives? Can’t you check yourself before you call names and type hateful rhetoric? Maybe take a deep breath before you post? I used to be like that….but that leads nowhere, man…trust me. I”m a doctor. (of love.)

  2. Pipe Dreamer
    May 8, 2012 at 5:17 pm

    Not going to happen.Simple-Humboldt Bay is totally inadequate to support the $500 billion dollar price tag(per Arkley).How many berths are there in the bay? 2 or 3 three?Oakland has 20.

    Eureka was founded in 1851.Don’t you think this would have happened by now?

  3. Anonymous
    May 8, 2012 at 5:32 pm

    I think a lot of folks my age think winsomely about trains and tracks and have an over-anachronistic outlook on trains.

    I doubt I’m your age yet, but I’ve taken trains to travel across states, and light rail within cities, and experienced modern commuter systems in Europe and Japan. I realize the proposed East-West rail is for freight, but every journey begins with a first step.

    It comes down to this: do you want to hamper all attempts at improving the movement goods and people to and from the North Coast (presumably for environmental protection), or do you not? Please, just discard the pretense of environmentalists making economic arguments. The motivation is clear. Be honest about it, unless you think honesty will cause you to lose your case in the public debate.

  4. Little Buddha
    May 8, 2012 at 5:39 pm

    the LIttle Buddha thinks that modern commuter trains are a good idea when they link major population centers. We have no major population centers nor are we the smart route between the Bay Area and Portland. The first step of a journey shouldn’t be backwards.

  5. Anonymous
    May 8, 2012 at 5:39 pm

    5:32, I’m 100% for trains. If it were up to me, there would be no airports (speaking of environment, that would be a huge boon). But there’s no sense to it until and unless gasoline and fresh pavement are put in check. There’s no sign that’s going to happen until crisis precipitates change. We are in crisis right now, catastrophic emergency is a more defining word of what it will take for the big money movers to forcibly change how they do business. All we can do is spectate while our pleas for common sense fall on their deaf ears.

  6. Little Buddha
    May 8, 2012 at 5:42 pm

    This brother sounds like Don Quixote…..catastrophic emergency? What was Hitler? Really? Emergency?

  7. Anonymous
    May 8, 2012 at 5:49 pm

    Hitler??? Ground thyself, buddha. Ted Turner didn’t fix his yacht until it started sinking in open seas. He had the money to spend a hundred times as much on fixing a submerged boat rather than a few hundred bucks to prevent it from sinking in the first place. We can’t allow that attitude to govern our future.

  8. May 8, 2012 at 5:56 pm

    People and Politicians: may I remind you that were in a Depression. Any discussion of rail development, construction, reconstruction must be 100% private financing. If that can be arranged, wonderful! If not , fuggedaboutit! Simple as that, there is no more $$$ in the trough…

  9. jr
    May 8, 2012 at 6:41 pm

    I thought the depression (recession) ended in 2009.

  10. May 8, 2012 at 6:53 pm

    The East-West Railroad is based on a single premise… that Humboldt Bay can handle container ships.

    Can the bay handle them now? No, the infrastructure is not here and I doubt the bay is deep enough. It will never be deep enough to handle the large container ships now being used. Thus, we are talking about millions of dollars spent even after the rail road is built and on a project that may attract nothing but seagulls.

    And to do what? There are bigger and better developed ports both north and south of us that are alternatives to the giant container ship processing docks at Oakland.

    I’m all for developing the bay for the sake of our economy (I’ll leave the environmental issues to others) but to spend this kind of money requires an overwhelmingly convincing argument that this makes economic sense.

    Right now, I haven’t heard one. .

  11. Thirdeye
    May 8, 2012 at 7:20 pm

    Lovelace doesn’t understand what a feasibility study is.

  12. Pipe Dreamer
    May 8, 2012 at 7:44 pm

    Correction-the cost is $500 million per Arkley(which means billions).The Confusion Hill Bypass alone cost $70 million.Think about it.

  13. Anonymous
    May 8, 2012 at 8:47 pm

    This is the definition of a circle jerk.

  14. Pipe Dreamer
    May 8, 2012 at 9:58 pm

    We have this clown trying to pave over toxic soil in a rainy area on a bay,on the the ocean in California to top it off.

    We have a harbor district that tried to borrow $36 million for a port with no railroad.

    We have a guy that tried to reopen a floundering pulp mill with a loan from the Dept. of Energy?

    We have a city council that took time out to write a resolution to oppose the option of railbanking.

    We have people that refused to let go of a obsolete rail corridor for 30 years.Now that it is destroyed they are going after a pipe dream of an international port.

    That is a circle jerk.

  15. Matt
    May 8, 2012 at 10:26 pm

    I’m not exactly sure who is proposed to be paying for the building of this rail line – the county? The headwaters fund? The state? The NCRA? Some private company?

    Will it be built by large numbers of very low paid (and poorly treated) Chinese immigrants who will then be run out of town after the job is done, like last time?

  16. William Verick
    May 8, 2012 at 10:28 pm

    I’m into those moving sidewalks like they have at airports. It would really be nice if Eureka and the Stupes would spend some money for a feasibility study of building one of those down to the Bay Area.

  17. Anonymous
    May 8, 2012 at 10:48 pm

    Haven’t you heard Matt? “The Chinese” are going to pay for it.

  18. Giggles
    May 8, 2012 at 10:55 pm

    What if we clean up some rail around the bay and use it for a tourist train until such time as any other train options come to life? We have an active group of railroaders and tourist trains are proven moneymakers elsewhere.

  19. Jack Sherman
    May 8, 2012 at 11:04 pm

    Train proponents keep crying louder an louder for a feasibility study hoping no one will notice that an economic study would be a fraction of the cost and expose the most important aspect of the issue…what will be shipped to justify a billion dollar investment?

    The real disaster is in the loss of public funds for education, job training and placement services.

    If 15 year old Vietnamese kids can be trained in Intel’s new high-tech computer component cleaning facility recently built with U.S. bailout dollars, U.S. citizens can demand their money be spent in U.S. communities for the same purpose.

  20. Pipe Dreamer
    May 9, 2012 at 6:50 am

    Not only is Humboldt Bay too small and inadequate to generate enough money,the rail corridor is also inadequate as well.You are going to need at least two sets of tracks for this type of operation or nobody is going to risk offloading millions of dollars of goods in Eureka.The rail corridor is way too thin to physically fit two sets of tracks.Could you imagine an international shipping operation rumbling trains through Old Town Eureka?! The waterfront would be cut off from emergency vehicles and personel.HA HA Arkely! You think that you are a planning genius.

  21. Anonymous
    May 9, 2012 at 8:26 am

    Haven’t you heard? The new train goes through Blue Lake.

  22. fantasy train
    May 9, 2012 at 10:32 am

    Anonymous at 5:32 is a very confused person. The boondoggle train is a first step to a light rail? You must be kidding. Anonymous, why don’t you argue for the boondoggle train on purely economic terms. No fantasy.

  23. Agh
    May 9, 2012 at 10:44 am

    Typical election-year hype, a Weapon of Mass Destraction. Dare to question it and be called an obstructionist.

  24. Anonymous
    May 9, 2012 at 1:50 pm

    Who is going to build this? I see no reason to oppose it on principal, provided details are communicated openly.

    If somebody is asking the city of Eureka to build it, well of course that won’t happen.

  25. Pipe Dreamer
    May 9, 2012 at 5:46 pm

    This would be a BIG operation anonymous at 8:26 am.Incoming would have to be diverted at times.

  26. Anonymous
    May 9, 2012 at 5:59 pm

    Sounds like the only winners will be the owners of the feasibility study company. What would the train backhaul to Humboldt bay?

  27. back in the saddle
    May 9, 2012 at 6:01 pm

    Backhaul would be cargo going out on ships. That is called marketing. Jeez, learn something about cargo movement and quit making shit up.

  28. Anonymous
    May 9, 2012 at 6:28 pm

    Entertaining and throwing money at fantastical concepts can distract from the already hard enough job of getting practical a needed projects done.

  29. Observer
    May 9, 2012 at 9:32 pm

    Speaking of rhetorical arguments, how’s that Marina Center cleanup coming along?

  30. get real
    May 10, 2012 at 12:00 am

    Backhaul would be cargo going out on ships. That is called marketing.

    What is the cargo? List please.
    What marketing? What is the market? Who is the marketeer? Where is the reality based plan?
    What will be moved and from where to where?

    Explain. Don’t make shit up. For real.

  31. Anonymous
    May 10, 2012 at 12:03 am

    The MC clean up is awaiting the CC, according to the TS

  32. Somewhat friendly
    May 10, 2012 at 9:50 am

    The cargo is whatever someone decides to make some money on by shipping to another port. Wheat, corn, autos, bow ties, bottled water, pork bellies, fruit, whatever. Marketing is done by the selller. Its called the free market theory. The reality is that this is already being done, has been done for centuries. Maybe you outta move your ass over to some shipping and port authority sites and do the research for yourself instead of being a lazy ass and wanting it handed to you.

  33. get real
    May 10, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    Somewhat, you are very simple minded. Try a little research to inform yourself about shipping trends. Took about 1 minute to find this report, quoted below for your benefit, since you are too lazy to search out information. Maybe you should take your lazy ass down to the Port of Oakland to see that it is underutilized.

    Then maybe you should pull yourself into the 21st century and recognize what any half wit would conclude from this summary. Only a fool would build extremely expensive infrastructure when there is no market and huge competition from the real shipping ports. I repeat, get real!


    The 2008 global economic
    downturn caused by the collapse of major financial markets resulted in declines in U.S. merchandise trade with partners around the world. From mid-2008 to early 2009, as the U.S.
    and global economies struggled, world trade sagged and the movement of international goods by service providers slowed. By the second quarter of 2009, demand for U.S. and global freight
    shipments had plummeted. Financial liquidity problems and fluctuations in energy prices affected all modes of freight transportation and all sectors of the freight industry.

    Before 2008, the global freight industry’s primary challenge was growth in merchandise trade and the freight flows that strained system capacity. In 2009, declines in freight fl ows transformed
    the major challenge into the management of excess capacity. Shippers, carriers, and facility operators in the United States and around the world were forced to contract their freight operations in response to reduced trade volumes. By the end of September 2009, an estimated 548 container vessels with a carrying capacity of 1.3 million 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs) were idled at seaports worldwide as a result of the decline in global demand for containership services (AXS-Alphaliner 2009a).

  34. Somewhat friendly
    May 10, 2012 at 2:03 pm

    Well since you have read that article you are now offically a shipping know-it-all now. Shipping and ports are a competitive business. Humboldt Bay is uniquely set up to be an exporter/importer of bulk cargo as container ports do not want that type of cargo. It can also handle automobiles as those ports do not have the space to dedicate to that type of cargo. Containers would only come into Humboldt as an auxalliary cargo. There are many types of bullk shipments. Not everything goes into a container. Do more research and then lets have another discussion.

  35. get real
    May 10, 2012 at 2:20 pm

    Automobiles? Shipped into Humbolddt County? Then taken by highway back to the Bay Area, where the people are? Sure.

    Your ideas are not based in present day reality. The only bulk cargo Humboldt could provide is gravel and timber, after it grows back in a few decades.

    A sound business plan requires objective analysis of market conditions. I sense that you are not objective, maybe because you have some personal investment that motivates you to ignore reality and push your own agenda. I see no point in continuing a discussion with a blind idealogue.

  36. back in the saddle
    May 10, 2012 at 9:12 pm

    Cargo comes from all over, not just Humboldt County. Los Angeles, New York, Oakland are not the final destination for most of the cargo that pass through their ports. Autos are shipped to San Diego and sent to the midwest. Benecia gets autos, Richmond gets autos. They are not for the California market, but the middle of the country. Autos are loaded onto trains for shipment, not trucks. You still need to learn more about shipping, trains, trucks, longshoreman, freight forwarders, customs brokers, stevedoring companies to name a few things you need to understand for us to have a coherent conversation. Spending one minute Googling whatever is not enough. By the way – Google trains and see what comes up. Burlington Northern comes to mind.

  37. common cents
    May 11, 2012 at 8:27 am

    I think we all would like to see Humboldt County prosper, but in reality we are isolated. It is interesting to read the what if’s, but reality sets in after a while. Hopefully not after throwing money away after a dream rail witch won’t happen

  38. HUUFC
    May 11, 2012 at 12:13 pm

    The Federal Government is spending almost $700 million to deepen the port in Savannah Georgia to accomodate the new large container ships that will be passing through the Panama Canal starting in 2014. Humboldt Bay is not on the radar screen nor a railroad. Forget it.

  39. Somewhat friendly
    May 11, 2012 at 1:28 pm

    That may be a pipe dream for Savannah. If you are a shipper, the dude with the big ship, why are you going to pay to transverse the Panama Canal. plus a couple more days in the Caribbean to get to Savannah? Lost time. The shipper does not care if the cargo is loaded on trains on the West Coast – he doesn’t have to spend more money on wages, fuel, insurance, etc. to make Savannah happy. Savannah also has an issue with silting up and oxygen depletion at the bottom of the river.

  40. Jack Sherman
    May 11, 2012 at 11:18 pm

    “Lovelace said ‘I don’t believe ‘if we build it they will come'”.

    It worked for the housing industry.

    Sort of.

  41. Anonymous
    May 12, 2012 at 7:18 am

    I think there were some good points made here.This would be a remote,unreliable,high cost operation completely dependant on getting overflow from other ports.Also,any studies need to be paid by the private sector.

    There is a former port director from Southern California that called this idea “absolute idiocy”.

  42. Amazed at the insanity
    May 14, 2012 at 9:33 pm

    I agree that this is a pipe dream. If there was a large population center near our port – and a huge manufacturing base – it might make sense. But there is neither. this is a waste of time and money. Move on, Eureka.
    However, a tourist train from Samoa – to Arcata – then Eureka – down to Scotia – NOW that’s an idea! Remember in the 1980’s when the train would run over the holidays? Tourists – and locals – would flock to it. Worth fixing up the bay’s tracks, but not the whole Eel River line down to Willits – that’s just plain stupid.

  43. Nobody seems to learn from history
    May 14, 2012 at 10:16 pm

    Right. And who would pay for this fun little choo choo train?

  44. Anonymous
    May 14, 2012 at 11:33 pm

    “Remember in the 1980′s when the train would run” over tracks that were maintained by freight rail operation?

  45. July 10, 2012 at 1:15 am


    “Coos Bay is one of six ports in the northwest pursuing a deal to build a coal export terminal. The coal would come from mines in Montana and Wyoming. If the companies reach a deal with the port, it won’t be the first time coal is big business on Oregon’s south coast.

    Rolling green hills rise up around the port of Coos Bay. Today, quiet neighborhoods and grocery stores spread across the hills. But 100 years ago, men were digging up coal here.

    “There’s mines all over this country”

  46. 713
    July 10, 2012 at 7:24 am

    So the rail is feasible but you don’t like what it would haul?

  47. Somewhat friendly
    July 10, 2012 at 9:12 am

    I am always amazed that some people think that all the goods coming into and out of a port are used just there. Oakland and LA/Long Beach would be overrun with shoes – pun intended. Ports are a collection point for goods to be moved somewhere else on a different form of transportation.

  48. July 10, 2012 at 10:23 am

    I’m just saying the supporters of the east / west train know very well what they would like to hall and that is coal for China.

  49. Joel Mielke
    July 10, 2012 at 10:25 am

    I am always amazed that some people think that we’re so conveniently located, and not in a remote area.

  50. Anonymous
    July 10, 2012 at 11:42 am

    The tourist train to which locals flocked was a local route, not the passenger service envisioned to points south. That railroad NEVER did more than 2% in passenger service. It was for hauling milled lumber and logs, back in the day before we sold all the logs to China. Remember saw mills?

  51. Thirdeye
    July 10, 2012 at 1:03 pm

    Lack of robust transportation infrastructure is one of the things that makes us remote, Joel.

    I doubt that the inland rail promoters care much what they haul as long as there’s a market for it.

  52. Anonymous
    July 10, 2012 at 2:22 pm

    Is the port of Savannah being expanded to receive fracked oil from the northern U.S. via the new pipeline – for shipment (not to American refineries, but) to China?

  53. Somewhat friendly
    July 10, 2012 at 3:35 pm

    Not Savannah – it is being set up as a container port. The oil is going to Louisiana then to China.

    Back to the “we are too remote” issue. Shipping lines do not care if a port is remote. They care how much it costs to get the goods there in the shortest amount of time. There needs to be inland transportation and rail is the cheapest way to move on land.

    As far a “:what, oh what, will be marketed?” We have tap water , but we buy water in a little plastic bottles. Apparently in the real world, just about anything is a commodity.

    Joel, how about a real discussion and not just snide remarks? Hello, is anyone there?

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