map of Cascadia high speed rail route

What is the Next Step for High-Speed Rail on the West Coast?

Support for High-Speed Rail Increases

­­High-speed rail connecting Portland, Vancouver, BC and Seattle aka Cascadia High Speed Rail gains support as the new wave of transportation.  High-speed rail advocates from around the Northwest, the United States, and the world testified before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous on Thursday, May 6. Testimony focused on how high-speed rail could translate to reduced congestion, new job opportunities, and economic revitalization for communities. While detractors pointed to a lack of any room in the current budget, as well as the specter of the troubled California High-Speed Rail Project, most advocates remained hopeful. Many of their hopes hinged on the Biden Administration’s $2 trillion infrastructure proposal, dubbed the American Jobs Plan, that has earmarked some $80 billion to revive the dilapidated rail system in the US and ‘Amtrak Joe’s’ love of America’s rails.

Developments for High-Speed Rail

These developments have a huge bearing on ambitious regional projects connecting the rural and urban communities across the great Northwest, from Portland to Vancouver, BC and beyond. 

One proponent of such a regional project is Rachel Smith, President of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. She called for a “Cascadia Ultra High Speed Corridor” to connect the cities in the Northwest, referring to “the transformative power of rail,” and said: “fast, frequent and reliable rail is an economic competitiveness tool for any region. Providing people with alternatives to sitting in traffic, mobility to move seamlessly from work to home to recreational activities and building community around modern transit technology helps attract talent and adds to the vibrancy of a community. It also frees up the precious highway and road space for the efficient movement of goods from our farms and manufacturing centers to the hearts of our cities and towns.”

Some Roadblocks to High-Speed Rail

Many roadblocks remain. For one we need to get grassroots support and champion the environmental and economic benefits of high-speed rail. Then we need to convince the politicians.

US House Transportation Committee Chair Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., said investing in rail would mean a change in thinking for state transportation departments, many of which he said are still “stuck in the Eisenhower era” and focused only on widening roads.

We also need to catch up to industrialized nations across the globe. “It’s embarrassing, really, when you think about it. We’re supposed to be the richest country in the world and a superpower, and we’ve got a 1930s falling-apart rail system,” said Andy Kunz, president and CEO of the nonprofit advocacy group U.S. High Speed Rail Association. America lags far behind Europe and Asia in high-speed rail development – only 33.9 miles (54.6km) of the current US passenger rail network is capable of supporting train speeds over 150mph.

Optimism for High-Speed Rail

Phil Washington, CEO of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LA Metro), struck a particularly optimistic note to end the day’s testimony: “The final point I would like to make is this—if high-speed rail is done right, I believe this Congress can smartly use Hamiltonian means to achieve Jeffersonian ends. That is, we can use the power of the federal government to adequately finance these great public works projects, while allowing local, county, and statewide officials to ensure these projects and the manner in which they are built serve the greatest public good.”

The Future is High-Speed Rail

“In the Northwest, the future is NOW for Cascadia High Speed Rail,” Says Brad Perkins, President/CEO of Cascadia High Speed Rail, LLC (CHSR). “Building a new multi-modal bridge across the Columbia River for vehicles, bullet and freight trains with a new 250 mph electrified high-speed rail corridor between Vancouver, BC and Eugene, OR is the climate justice answer for communities, long-distance travelers, and parcel freight movement. The CHSR corridor design guarantees 58 minute travel times between Portland and Seattle, 47 minutes between Seattle and Vancouver, BC and 45 minutes between Portland and Eugene.  

Connect with CHSR

Our next webinars for the CHSR EIS study are May 27 and June 10, 2021 at 10:30 am Pacific Time. Click here to sign up or use our contact form to learn more.

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