WSDOT Report Outlines Plan for Cascadia High-Speed Rail

A regional high-speed rail network could be coming to the Pacific Northwest, linking cities from Oregon to British Columbia.

December 31, 2020, 9:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Japan High Speed Rail

foolish adler / Flickr

A report from the Washington State Department of Transportation(WSDOT) encourages the development of high-speed rail in the region and suggests a framework for bringing ultra-high-speed ground transportation (UHSGT) to the Pacific Northwest.

Leaders from Oregon and British Columbia praised the report as a positive step toward regional collaboration, citing the potential for job growth and economic development. Although "a plan to design a plan" doesn't exactly inspire confidence, writes Doug Trumm, designing a regional system will require close cooperation across state and national lines and coordination with other transit agencies to ensure useful connections to existing and future transit options. The WSDOT report outlines steps in three broad areas: governance, strategic engagement, and funding and finance, with actionable steps to bring the project closer to reality.

In the short term, the plan requires an enabling agreement and the creation of a funded coordinating entity to move the project forward. Stakeholder engagement with indigenous communities and tribal leaders will be particularly important in a region with a long history of colonization and displacement by transportation networks—most notably the transcontinental railroad. The three participating jurisdictions and HSR supporter Microsoft (which sees benefit from improving transportation in its home state) have pledged to support the project. Once planning efforts are underway, the new agency will be responsible for a funding plan to cover the estimated $24 to $42 billion cost of a Portland-to-Vancouver rail system.

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