Ultra-high-speed rail is set to become a reality in the Cascadia area as local leaders push for developments in Skagit and Whatcom counties.
The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) has been exploring super-high-speed ground transportation options for years, but Mount Vernon Mayor Jill Boudreau is excited about its future in Skagit County.
“The connection of a completely separate rail line that is being considered that could connect Portland, Seattle, Vancouver, these major metropolitan areas, as an economic engine, an alternative to transport, a cleaner means of transport, is also a tool for development economic,” she said. told the Cascadia Daily News. “Where else would he go but the three metropolitan areas?”
Boudreau presented on the future of high-speed rail at the Cascadia Innovation Corridor Conference, an annual gathering of leaders in technology, business and government to fight climate change in the Cascadia area.
WSDOT is developing new reports and analyzes concerning the high-speed rail projects, which will be completed around 2023.
Previous reportsincluding a 2020 Cascadia Megaregion Executive Report, confirmed “viability and demand” for very high-speed land transport. He also detailed the potential for more than $355 billion in economic growth, the development of more than 200,000 jobs, and zero-emissions transportation options for more rural areas of Washington, including Skagit and Whatcom counties.
Concrete plans for very high-speed rail, including specific train stops along the route, are non-existent at this point, Boudreau said, but communities need to look at the “50-year” vision.
“I don’t know where the stops should be, but I think the conversation should be, not just five years, but 50 years of growth, where those stops should be,” she said. declared. “Where are the areas that have room to grow responsibly?”
The mayor is hoping for stops in smaller communities, like Mount Vernon, which currently has a population of around 35,000. Bellingham, on the other hand, is growing rapidly and currently has a population of over 90,000.
“People think Bellingham is a logical place to start because it’s a bigger population,” she said. “I would challenge the idea of looking at where the stops might be, and should it look at future capabilities.”
Part of the need, Boudreau said, is related to affordable housing opportunities. With limited housing options in Seattle and Bellingham, people are moving farther and traveling longer distances. High-speed rail, she said, would allow greater access to better-paying jobs on environmentally friendly routes.
During Monday’s conference, several panelists spoke about the benefits of high-speed rail in the region, including Mark Riker, executive secretary of the Washington State Building and Construction Trades Council, and Alex Hudson, executive director of the Transportation Choices Coalition in Seattle.
According to the Cascadia Megaregion report, a super-fast connection between Vancouver, Seattle, Portland and Eugene would provide “fast, secure and reliable connections to nearly nine million people” while “increasing opportunities for more affordable housing choices and reducing greenhouse effects. gas emissions using clean energy.
In 2020, Washington Governor Jay Inslee called for more high-speed rail projects, including an ultra-high-speed rail linking the district.
“Transformative infrastructure projects like this could help us rebuild our economy in the short term and provide us with a strong competitive advantage in the future,” he said. “Imagine fast, frequent and reliable travel with the potential for zero emissions and the ability to better compete in a global economy.”
In the meantime, communities need to focus on short-term rail and infrastructure projects, Boudreau said.
“We need to be able to celebrate these additional projects that we’re doing today, which then inform these megaprojects,” she said. “Before we embark on this new ultra-high-speed ground transportation.”
Projects like the Mount Vernon Library Commons, inaugurated this month, are major infrastructure goals designed to support the community.
“We don’t just wait for these megaprojects,” Boudreau said. “We do things now.”