Van­cou­ver to Seat­tle in un­der an hour

High-speed rail line would boost re­gional econ­omy, re­port says

The Prince George Citizen - - Money - Laura KANE

VAN­COU­VER — A pro­posed high-speed rail link con­nect­ing Van­cou­ver, Seat­tle and Port­land would cut the travel time be­tween each city to un­der an hour and dra­mat­i­cally boost the econ­omy of the en­tire re­gion, a new re­port con­cludes.

The Wash­ing­ton State De­part­ment of Trans­porta­tion has re­leased a 400-page busi­ness case for the trans­porta­tion link, which is also sup­ported by the gov­ern­ments of Bri­tish Columbia and Ore­gon, as well as by Mi­crosoft Corp.

“The abil­ity to travel each seg­ment be­tween Seat­tle, Port­land, and Van­cou­ver in less than an hour will rev­o­lu­tion­ize the way we live, work, and play in the Pa­cific North­west,” says Wash­ing­ton Gov. Jay Inslee in the re­port.

“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.”

The re­port pre­pared by engi­neer­ing con­sult­ing firm WSP says it cur­rently takes about two hours and 40 min­utes to drive from Seat­tle to Van­cou­ver, or more than four hours by bus or train.

The driv­ing time from Port­land to Seat­tle is about three hours, or about three and a half hours by bus or train, it says.

The new high-speed sys­tem would fea­ture fre­quent trains run­ning at speeds as high as 400 kilo­me­tres per hour and in­clude stops in be­tween the ma­jor cities with con­nec­tions to other trans­porta­tion, says the re­port.

It sug­gests in­ter­me­di­ary stops in the Metro Van­cou­ver city of Sur­rey as well as in the Wash­ing­ton com­mu­ni­ties of Belling­ham, Everett, Tacoma, Olympia and Kelso, among oth­ers, and says th­ese stops would only re­sult in “mi­nor” time penal­ties.

It says the an­nual rid­er­ship is pro­jected to ex­ceed three mil­lion, with fare rev­enues es­ti­mated at more than US$250 mil­lion, which could re­sult in one of the best per­form­ing rail ser­vices in North Amer­ica.

The rail link is also ex­pected to pro­duce a stronger, more pro­duc­tive re­gion as more busi­nesses and jobs lo­cate in the area due to dra­mat­i­cally im­proved ac­cess to hous­ing, jobs, schools and other des­ti­na­tions.

A pre­vi­ous re­port es­ti­mated that as many as 160,000 per­ma­nent new jobs in the wider econ­omy could be un­locked by the high-speed link, gen­er­at­ing as much as US$355 bil­lion in ad­di­tional eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity.

The sys­tem would re­sult in a more af­ford­able re­gion, as res­i­dents ben­e­fit from eas­ier ac­cess to hous­ing and wider availabili­ty of high­er­pay­ing jobs and op­por­tu­ni­ties, the new re­port says.

The re­port adds that the link would con­trib­ute to a cleaner en­vi­ron­ment by shift­ing trips to more sus­tain­able modes, re­duc­ing carbon emis­sions, pro­tect­ing habi­tats and im­prov­ing the re­silience of the trans­porta­tion net­work.

“The need for con­tin­ued ad­di­tional trans­porta­tion in­fra­struc­ture in­vest­ment in the Cas­ca­dia megare­gion is clear – crowded roads, con­gested air­ports and limited in­ter­city rail ser­vice con­strain the mo­bil­ity of res­i­dents, busi­nesses, and tourists,” the re­port says.

“Van­cou­ver, Seat­tle and Port­land have the fourth, sixth, and tenth-most con­gested roads in North Amer­ica, re­spec­tively. Air­port de­lays are mak­ing air travel in­creas­ingly un­re­li­able, and the travel time and fre­quency of in­ter­city rail ser­vice are not com­pet­i­tive for most trips.”

Mi­crosoft is head­quar­tered in Red­mond, Wash., near Seat­tle, and its CEO Brad Smith is quoted in the re­port as say­ing in 2018 that the trans­porta­tion link would strengthen the re­gion.

“Our abil­ity to com­pete in the world’s econ­omy will be en­hanced dra­mat­i­cally by hav­ing a re­gion that is six mil­lion in­hab­i­tants strong ver­sus two or three re­gions of three mil­lion each,” he says.

Inslee and B.C.’s then-pre­mier Christy Clark signed a me­moran­dum of un­der­stand­ing in 2016 to work to­gether to create a new tech­nol­ogy cor­ri­dor, in­clud­ing a high-speed ground trans­porta­tion sys­tem.

A fea­si­bil­ity study in 2017 es­ti­mated cap­i­tal costs rang­ing from US$24 bil­lion to US$42 bil­lion.

The Wash­ing­ton leg­is­la­ture ap­proved fund­ing in 2018 to con­duct a busi­ness case anal­y­sis, and it was joined by Ore­gon, B.C. and Mi­crosoft as fund­ing partners and over­sight con­trib­u­tors.

B.C. com­mit­ted $300,000 in 2018 to de­velop the busi­ness case and in Fe­bru­ary this year, com­mit­ted an ad­di­tional $300,000 to the next ex­ploratory steps.

The prov­ince’s Jobs Min­is­ter Bruce Ralston said in a state­ment Mon­day that the trans­porta­tion link could have huge eco­nomic ben­e­fits and draw new com­pa­nies to the re­gion.

“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.”

AP FILE PHOTO

A TGV high-speed train ar­rives at the Saint-Charles train sta­tion in Mar­seille, France. A pro­posed high-speed rain line be­tween Van­cou­ver, Seat­tle and Port­land would cut travel times and boost the re­gional econ­omy, a new re­port says.

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