B.C. pledges $300K to study high-speed rail linking Vancouver, Seattle, Portland
Published Friday, March 16, 2018 10:32AM PDT
Last Updated Friday, March 16, 2018 6:55PM PDT
The dream of a high-speed rail service linking Vancouver, Seattle and Portland has taken another small step toward becoming a reality.
On Friday, B.C. Premier John Horgan announced his government is contributing $300,000 to a joint business case study with Washington State that will explore financing, ridership and other aspects of the massively expensive megaproject. Washington is contributing a further $1.2 million.
“We’ll be able to reduce traffic on our highways, it’ll have a positive impact on climate action, and it’ll move people in a safe and effective manner,” Horgan told reporters in downtown Vancouver.
With currently available technology, high-speed rail can transport passengers at up to 400 km/h, meaning a trip to Seattle would potentially take less than an hour.
However, as quick as the proposed train could be, the process of getting it built is anything but. B.C. has not said when the business case will be finished, and there is no timeline for when the potential project might move forward.
Still, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who appeared alongside Horgan at Friday's announcement, said his state is optimistic the project will come to fruition.
Inslee pointed to a previous $1-million study commissioned by his government last year, which explored five potential routes and considered both high-speed rail and maglev technology as a means of zipping passengers back and forth.
"It said that we can have perhaps 1.8 million riders in the first year," Inslee said. "When you look at this beautiful city, you see the future that can only be magnified by a connection to Seattle and Portland. When you build a high-speed rail line, you are building a monument to optimism."
Hyperloop technology, which uses magnetic propulsion to carry pods through evacuated tubes, was also considered even though it remains in development.
Inslee said all options remain on the table.
"We are having a smorgasbord approach because we want to be optimistic about technology," he said.
Washington's study pegged the cost of the project at anywhere from US$24 billion to US$42 billion, but found it would also create up to 200,000 jobs and generate billions in economic benefits for the province and states involved.
But it is an ambitious project, and a similar high-speed rail line just south in California is shaping up to be a cautionary tale.
Earlier this week, it was reported cost of the project has ballooned from $35 billion to $98 billion. Asked how B.C., Washington and Portland would avoid a similar outcome, Horgan suggested the business case is a first step toward determining the project's feasibility.
He also pointed to Japan's longtime use of high-speed rail as a counter-example.
"There's a high-speed rail museum in japan because it's been in place for so long there, so there are opportunities for us to learn from best practices around the world," Horgan said.
"It's our view that this is an opportunity that we shouldn't let pass by."