Washington state approves $150 million to plan Vancouver-Seattle high-speed train

The Washington State Legislature approved a US$150 million (C$192 million) spending measure to continue advanced planning work on the proposed Cascadia high-speed rail service linking Vancouver, Seattle and Portland .

The funding is just one part of an approved 16-year, US$17 billion (C$21.7 billion) comprehensive transportation expansion and improvement plan presented by the democrats. In Thursday’s final vote, he saw bipartisan Republican support on the floor.

At the press conference following the decision, Governor Jay Inslee called the plan, called Move Ahead Washington, the “cleanest, greenest transportation package in Washington’s history.”

State government funding for the high-speed rail planning component leverages up to US$700 million (C$894 million) in matching federal funding that could be made available through the plan President Joe Biden’s US$1 trillion (C$1.28 trillion) national infrastructure bill.

Funding from state and federal governments – potentially up to US$850 million (C$1.09 billion) combined – would move the high-speed rail project into a new phase of advanced planning. This would include more detailed technical work, geotechnical studies, environmental impact studies, public consultations, and the development of business case and financing models.

In December 2020, a report summarizing the project’s work to date indicated that the next step to move the project forward in planning development would be to establish a new coordinating organization based on the tri-jurisdictional partnership agreement.

Preliminary estimates made in 2019 put the total cost of detailed planning, final engineering and design, and construction of the project at between US$24 billion (C$30.7 billion) and $42 billion. (C$53.6 billion), based on 2027-2024 construction, with service opening in 2035.

Up to 30 round trips could be made per day every day of the year, depending on the scenario, using 260-seat trains. It would see 2.1 million annual passengers when it opens, with ridership rising to 3.3 million a year by 2055.

Cascadia High Speed ​​Rail Business Case, July 2019. (Washington State Department of Transportation)

Vancouver Seattle Portland High Speed ​​Rail

Cascadia High Speed ​​Rail Business Case, July 2019. (Washington State Department of Transportation)

The line would depart from Metro Vancouver (with stations in downtown Vancouver or Surrey, or possibly both cities) and reach Seattle and Portland. Preliminary concepts consider the possibility of minor urban centers such as Bellingham, Everett, Tacoma, Olympia and Longview also being served by stations. About 90% of the route would pass within Washington State borders.

With speeds of 400 km/h (250 mph), travel time between Metro Vancouver and Seattle is estimated at around one hour, including potential stops along the way at Bellingham and Everett.

Previous preliminary studies of the high-speed rail project have received financial support from the provincial government of British Columbia and the state governments of Washington and Oregon. British Columbia and Oregon have not yet indicated that they will supplement Washington state’s most recent efforts with their own funding.

The proposed high-speed rail service has also previously received financial support from Microsoft for early studies.

Amazon, another major player in Seattle, also voiced support for the state legislature’s decision to approve funding for high-speed rail planning and its overall transportation improvement strategy.

“Washington State legislators have made history this year with strategic investments in our state’s transportation system that will help move the entire state forward. As Washington’s largest private employer and operator of an extensive logistics network, we at Amazon have a particular interest in the transportation system and have long advocated for its maintenance and expansion,” said David Zapolsky, vice president. and Amazon’s general counsel, in a statement following the state legislature’s decision.

“We know that investing in transportation helps everyone because the people of Washington depend on transportation infrastructure to get to work, deliver goods and participate in economic activity.”

Zapolsky also specifically noted that the plan “leverages federal funds wisely through continued investment in the Cascadia ultra-high-speed rail corridor.”

Other major components of Moving Ahead Washington include US$5.4 billion (C$6.9 billion) for carbon reduction and multimodal expansion, US$3 billion (C$3.8 billion) Canadians) for public transit, including the implementation of free fares for those 18 and under, US$1.3 billion. (US$1.7 billion) for active transportation and US$836 million (C$1.07 billion) for the construction of four new hybrid-electric ferries.

Jose P. Rogers