BC government funds more planning of Vancouver-Seattle high-speed rail

Sep 14 2022, 12:25 am

The vision of linking Metro Vancouver, Seattle, and Portland with a high-speed passenger rail line is receiving a further CA$300,000 (US$228,000) from the provincial government of British Columbia to help conduct the project’s next phase of planning.

This brings the provincial government’s total spending on studying high-speed rail to almost CA$1 million (US$759,000), as it also spent CA$300,000 (US$228,000) each on two studies before the pandemic.

ā€œImproving transportation connectivity throughout the Pacific Northwest is an important part of our work to build a stronger, more sustainable future for people on both sides of our border,ā€ said BC Premier John Horgan in a statement.

“This proposal has the potential to significantly cut transportation time between Seattle and Vancouver ā€“ presenting new opportunities for clean economic growth, job creation, and tourism throughout the region. Thatā€™s why our government is proud to invest in the next phase of the high-speed rail study.ā€

The government of Washington state has already authorized CA$5.3 million (US$4 million) to help study and plan the initiative and set aside CA$197 million (US$150 million) to serve as a match for United States federal funding.

This new funding will go towards addressing the roles, responsibilities, and future funding requirements of the multi-billion dollar project, developing a regional outreach and public consultation strategy, as well as early planning to integrate high-speed rail into regional transportation and land use plans and setting the framework for future environmental review processes, engineering, and design needs.

This work is being led by Washington state’s Department of Transportation, in partnership with the governments of BC and Oregon, and other regional and local agencies.

The vast majority of the proposed high-speed rail line route runs within Washington state, with only slight incursions north into BC and south into Oregon to reach Metro Vancouver and Portland, respectively.

Trains traveling at ultra-high speeds of up to 400 km/hr could potentially allow for travel times of one hour or less between Metro Vancouver and Seattle. There would also be stops along the way in destinations like Bellingham and Everett. Surrey could potentially serve as the northernmost terminus of the line — the station for Metro Vancouver.

ā€œI want to thank our partners in British Columbia and along the West Coast as we continue making progress toward a high-speed rail system that will strengthen our economic and cultural bonds and transform how we travel,ā€ said Washington state governor Jay Inslee. ā€œThis is one more example of our shared belief that innovation drives prosperity and a more sustainable world for everyone.ā€

If the line were to be built by 2035, it would seeĀ 2.1 million annual riders upon opening, with ridership growing to 3.3 million annually by 2055. It would carry aĀ construction cost of between US$24 billion and US$42 billionĀ (CA$36 billion to CA$53.5 billion), withĀ economic spinoffs reaching as much as US$355 billionĀ (CA$452 billion) and generating as many as 200,000 new direct and indirect jobs.

Later this decade, new generation trains will be rolled out onto the existing Amtrak Cascades service between Vancouver, Seattle, and Portland. Amtrak is also planning to increase the frequency of this service, which will help build up ridership demand for high-speed rail.

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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