New report outlines next steps for Vancouver-Seattle-Portland high-speed rail

Dec 8 2020, 9:41 pm

The Department of Transportation for Washington State has released a new report identifying the next steps the governments of British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon would have to jointly take towards realizing ultra-high-speed rail linking Vancouver, Seattle, and Portland.

This builds on previous studies on the project, with the latest USD$895,000 report funded equally between all three jurisdictions and Microsoft.

The new rail line could reach speeds of up to 400 km/hr (250 mph), and offer travel times of under one hour between Vancouver and Seattle, and Seattle and Portland, while also making a number of stops in communities of significance along the way.

It would carry a construction cost of between USD$24 billion and USD$42 billion, with revenues covering costs by 2055 — about two decades after completion and opening. The economic spinoffs could reach USD$355 billion, and generate 200,000 new direct and indirect jobs.

“We are living in unprecedented times that call on us to envision our future in new ways. Transformative infrastructure projects like this one could help us rebuild our economy in the short term and provide us with a strong competitive advantage in the future,” said Washington Governor Jay Inslee in a statement. “Imagine fast, frequent and reliable travel with the potential for zero emissions and the opportunity to better compete in a global economy. It could transform the Pacific Northwest.”

BC Premier John Horgan added: “This study is another important step toward better, faster ways for people to get where they need to go throughout the Pacific Northwest. Improving connections through ultra-high-speed rail is good news for people on both sides of the border as BC moves forward with Washington and Oregon on a path to building a stronger post-COVID19 regional economy that works for everyone.”

Vancouver Seattle Portland high speed rail

Cascadia high-speed rail business case, July 2019. (Washington State Department of Transportation)

According to the latest report, a new coordinating organization, based on a tri-jurisdictional partnership agreement, would have to be created to move the project into development.

Such an organization would engage relevant units of governments on both sides of the border, develop a project identity to pitch to the public and stakeholders, build broad support from the business community and labour organizations, and perform public consultation.

The work conducted by the new entity over multiple years would be supported by steady, dependable funding from all three jurisdictions.

For the funding for initial project planning, various scenarios explore a combination of funding from the federal governments of the US and Canada, with the three state and provincial jurisdictions covering the balance.

Existing regional property taxes around possible station area locations could be tapped, along with funding appropriation from the state and provincial governments. Within BC, an extension of motor fuel taxes is suggested as a possibility.

Various existing and new funding sources would be required for the development and construction stages, including the possibility of involving the private sector.

“High-speed rail will shrink travel times throughout the Cascadia Corridor, providing a strong transportation core for our region,” said Microsoft President Brad Smith. “This report provides a valuable roadmap for making this international project a reality.”

Vancouver Seattle Portland high speed rail

Cascadia high-speed rail business case, July 2019. (Washington State Department of Transportation)

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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