amtrack train cc stock.jpg

(Michael M Stokes/Flickr)

Leaders in Oregon, Washington and British Columbia are planning to connect the Pacific Northwest megaregion “Cascadia” using an ultra-high-speed railway. The new mode of transportation is currently planned to run from Portland to Seattle to Vancouver, British Columbia with each stretch taking around an hour.

Eugene was originally part of the railway plan and would have acted as the southernmost station for the Cascadia high speed railway. The proposed route for the train would have placed tracks following or crossing over Interstate 5 according to Cascadia High-Speed Rail LLC. 

Oregon, Washington and British Columbia are in close talks and ready to get the project up and going, according to Challenge Seattle, a collection of CEOs from the regions 17 largest employers. Connecting Cascadia is a movement and organization getting leaders from the Pacific Northwest to collaborate on projects like a new high-speed rail as well as sharing important medical research and commerce in what they call the “Cascadia Innovation Corridor.”

“By working together with our partners in Washington state and Oregon, we're mapping the future and strengthening our economic outlook for years to come," John Horgan, the Premier of British Columbia said in a press release previewing a Connecting Cascadia conference hosted by Challenge Seattle on Oct. 3.

According to the press release, Oregon and British Columbia committed funds to researching a possible high-speed rail in February and Washington and Microsoft committed funds in April. A report will be completed at the end of 2020 outlining the financial viability and government structures necessary for such a project. 

Congressman Peter DeFazio attended the Oct. 3 conference where he expressed his dissatisfaction with the high-speed rail project according to the Urbanist, a non-profit magazine focused on urban development. DeFazio said at the conference that he believes a hyperloop project like the one started in California by Elon Musk’s Boring Company would be cheaper to develop than a high-speed rail. As the chairman of the House Transportation Committee, DeFazio is one of the most powerful policy makers for transportation projects. 

According to a business case published in July 2019 by the Washington State Department of Transportation, the project would generate in an increase in gross domestic product 12 times that of the construction costs for the project. The railway initiative would also stimulate job growth with as many as 160,000 jobs being created by connecting the megaregion and another 30,000 directly from the construction of the project.

“The ability to travel each segment between Seattle, Portland, and Vancouver, B.C. in less than an hour will revolutionize the way we live, work, and play in the Pacific Northwest. Moreover, it helps us preserve the natural beauty and health of our region by enabling faster, cleaner, and greener trips between our region’s largest cities,” Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said in the business case.