British Columbia

High speed rail from Vancouver to Seattle, Portland 'worth the investment,' study says

A new study looking into rapid rail transit between cities in British Columbia and Washington state says it's financially viable.

A new report makes a business case for the train

High speed trains are in operation around the world, including this train, made by Swiss company Stadler. (Cascadia High Speed Rail)

A new study looking into high speed rail between cities in British Columbia and Washington state says it's financially viable.

The report by Washington state officials released on Monday looked at the business case for building a high speed rail system that would connect Vancouver, B.C., with Seattle and Portland across the border.  

"There is definitely an interest in it," said Janet Matkin, communications manager for Washington state's Transportation Department. 

The study found that travel times between Vancouver and Seattle would be reduced to one hour and travel from Vancouver to Portland would take less than two hours.

"The estimates are that between 12 and 20 per cent of existing trips would shift from private vehicles and planes to this ultra high speed system," Matkin said. 

In addition to relieving some of the pressure on congested areas and helping cut greenhouse gas emissions, the study makes a case for improving economic productivity in the region. 

"It's really about building on the foundation that the Pacific Northwest already has in place … to create better connections that allow for collaboration across the border," Matkin said. 

"[It would] really develop that economic potential that's really not fully realized right now."

The B.C. government is also on board with exploring the idea and committed $300,000 to develop the study in March 2018. Another $300,000 was added in February 2019 for the next exploratory steps.

"The project could have huge economic benefits, drawing new companies to the region, creating an estimated $355 billion in economic growth and up to 200,000 new jobs," the B.C. Ministry of Jobs, Trade and Technology said in a written statement. 

Self-sustaining by 2055

Numbers from 2017 estimate the rail line would cost between $24 billion and $42 billion in up-front construction expenses. 

But according to the new report, the system would be "worth the investment" and the revenue could cover operating costs by 2055.

"͞This study is part of the necessary good work that͛s being done to give us a clearer picture of the feasibility," the ministry wrote. 

"Improving the connectivity in the Pacific Northwest region presents enormous potential for job creation, economic growth and environmental benefits on both sides of the border."

With files from On The Coast

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