Washington moves closer to the dream of a high-speed rail system

Washington Democrats unveiled a $16 billion transportation package this week, which included $150 million for a high-speed train project which took years to prepare.

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In December 2020, a study commissioned by a collection of Pacific Northwest entities recommended that Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia join together to create a single, formalized “coordinating entity” to advance the dream of the high-speed train. This committee was officially formed a year later. The project is estimated to cost between $25 billion and $40 billion to fully build the system.

Exact details on how the $150 million set aside for the project in Washington’s transportation package remain scarce, though lawmakers have pointed to greater priority for it to act as a show of commitment to federal partners.

“The federal government has put new resources on the table,” says Senator Marko Liias explained. “We worked very hard to secure Washington’s place in line to secure some of this funding. [for high speed rail].”

“This is designed to reduce federal resources that the Biden administration has set aside to ensure Washington has a vision for high-speed rail,” he added.

Given the scale and costs such a project would entail, federal money would be a crucial puzzle piece to realizing the dream of high-speed rail in the Northwest. Washington already appears to have the backing of its congressional representatives, who are pushing to dole out money for the proposal from the $12 billion set aside in recently passed infrastructure legislation for passenger rail projects. Across the country.

Is a high-speed rail line through Washington really realistic?

“There is an opportunity to apply for federal funds to truly kick-start this project and move beyond a concept to community engagement and development,” MP Marilyn Strickland said in an op-ed published in the Tacoma News Tribune. “If we’re not ready, those dollars will go elsewhere and we’ll miss up to 80% of the federal funding for the project.”

It is estimated that a high-speed rail line could produce a train with a maximum test speed of at least 250 miles per hour, which could theoretically shorten travel time between Seattle and Portland to an hour.

No such train currently operates in the United States. The fastest existing train in service, Amtrak’s Acela Express, reaches a top speed of 150 mph (240 km/h), but averages about half that speed on its route between Washington, DC and Boston.

You can read more about the proposed Cascadia high-speed rail project on the Washington State Department of Transportation website. here.

Jose P. Rogers