Microsoft Hosting a Conference in Seattle Next Month on a Possible High-Speed Rail in the Pacific Northwest

It’s unclear still what the funding mechanism would be for the project.

High speed rail in Taiwan. (travelwayoflife / Flickr)

Transportation leaders from Portland, Vancouver, B.C. and Seattle plan to meet next week at Microsoft's headquarters in Seattle about a possible high-speed rail train connecting the three cities.

The idea for the high-speed train was re-invigorated in February 2018, with the formation of an advocacy group called Cascadia Rail. The group envisions a train that is able to carry passengers across the region at speeds of 350 km/hr, reducing the travel time between Vancouver and Seattle to an hour.

Microsoft, the Daily Hive reports, has been a prominent proponent of the project, contributing $300,000 to a WSDOT feasibility study in 2018.

"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," Microsoft president Brad Smith told the Daily Hive at the time. "By combining the sub-regions, it is the only way for this megaregion to reach scale. None of the sub-regions can get to six million by itself."

The company's "Cascadia Rail Summit" will explore how a high-speed rail could impact housing affordability, create jobs and reduce transportation emissions. Attendees—which include Washington Gov. Jay Insee and Oregon Department of Transportation's rail and public transit administrator Hal Gard—will also discuss the concrete next steps necessary for initiating high-speed rail construction.

The most recent analysis by the Washington State Department of Transportation shows that construction for the project could cost over $40 billion. It's still unclear  what the funding mechanism would be for the project.

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