Could High Speed Rail Come to Washington?

July 30, 2018

Futurewise is serving on the Advisory Committee for the Ultra High-Speed Ground Transportation Study - a WSDOT effort to investigate  intercity passenger transportation system traveling at speeds of 250 mph or more between Vancouver, BC and Portland, OR (with several possible stops in between).  The committee includes a mix of local, state and international leadership, including legislators and representatives from the Governor's office, and the office of the BC Premier, and will be meeting over the course of the next year to provide guidance and feedback.  While this concept has been around for at least a decade or more, the most recent effort was given new life by interest from the private sector, including Microsoft, who are participating in the study phase of the project funding.

Broad strokes on many of the study's focus areas were presented at the first meeting in July - primarily by the WSP consulting team - including the corridor planning, ridership analysis, governance models, economic analysis and financing.  However, there was one important point that was not mentioned in the presentation - although it was highlighted by Seattle Chamber of Commerce CEO Marilyn Strickland and myself - which was the project's equity and social justice considerations, particularly the impacts on jobs, housing and displacement.  There was a lot of discussion of project benefits, but almost no discussion of who benefits from the project.  The consultant team was careful to point out that the study being undertaken did not include a "local" analysis of housing or growth impacts - but that doesn't mean that it couldn't.  We are going to continue to push the team on both of these fronts.

For those interested in more information, the project website, and the previous Feasibility Study can be found here.

Interesting that on the same day as this meeting, the New York Times published this piece on the California high speed rail boondoggle.