One-hour trips from Vancouver to Seattle and Portland could be on the way

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      After this year’s adoption of a new seaplane route between Vancouver and Seattle, the Washington Department of Transportation has announced that it will now consider the business case for connecting Vancouver, Seattle, and Portland with a high-speed railway.

      The idea of joining the three major cities with 250 km/h trains has been revived over the past few years following discussions at 2016’s Cascadia Innovation Corridor conference in Vancouver—a forum designed to build collaboration across the region. Tech giants such as Microsoft and Amazon are headquartered in the area and boast major offices across all three cities, while Vancouver, Seattle, and Portland are each burgeoning tech hubs in their own right.

      Connecting the cities, it’s hoped, will make it easier to share resources and talent.

      “High-speed rail would cut travel times between Vancouver and Seattle and bring huge benefits to British Columbia,” said B.C. Premier John Horgan. “We’re excited about this next step and look forward to the findings of Washington’s in-depth study.”

      “We are excited to see regional leaders invest in the continued pursuit of a high-speed rail that will help grow economic opportunities in the Cascadia Innovation Corridor,” said Microsoft president Brad Smith. “Shrinking the distance between Seattle, Vancouver, and Portland will encourage greater collaboration, deeper economic ties and balanced growth for years to come.”

      The study will identify potential routes for ultra-high-speed ground transportation. Estimates for potential ridership—both commercial and business—will be accrued, and those figures will be weighed against the cost of the development. For its template, the Washington Department of Transportation will consider other high-speed rail infrastructure expansions in the States, and identify where the project might run into difficulties.

      In addition to the Province of British Columbia, the study will be funded by the Oregon Department of Transportation, the Washington Department of Transportation, and Microsoft. Each partner will contribute a combined $750,000 towards the research, matching Washington’s additional pledge of $750,000.

      A new advisory committee—representing both public and private sectors from B.C., Washington, and Oregon—will provide input during the year-long technical analysis. The committee’s first meeting is scheduled for later this month.

      The study is expected to be completed by July 2019.

      Follow Kate Wilson on Twitter @KateWilsonSays