High-speed rail study on track with $10B appropriations bill
Washington – The 2019 Legislative Session came to an end over the weekend with lawmakers in Washington State supporting House Bill 1160, an appropriations bill that will provide $9.98 billion towards transportation projects over the 2019-2021 biennium. Funding from HB1160 will support a preliminary plan for the Cascadia Rail service that was unveiled in 2018.
The proposed coastal line will connect Portland, Oregon, with Vancouver, Canada and include an eastern spur connecting the city of Spokane with Seattle. The first part of the plan, led by the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), is to create a new interstate high-speed rail authority for the region. Up to $895,000 is approved for this task along with an additional $224,000 in direct state appropriations from the Multimodal Transportation Account. Another $671,000 will need to come from business interests and government officials in Oregon and the Province of British Columbia. The state appropriation will not be shared until funding from other partners is released.
The authority would be responsible for ensuring that the trains and routes selected for the project could deliver service at 250 miles per hour. The authority would also provide a singular contact point for communities along the proposed routes and would handle the preparation of environmental impact reports at the federal and local levels. In addition to forming a high-speed rail authority, WSDOT has been tasked to review regulations, laws and agreements throughout Washington, British Columbia and Oregon. Recommendations by WSDOT will be due to the Washington State Legislature, Governor’s Office, and governments of Oregon and British Columbia by Dec. 1, 2020. WSDOT has estimated that the rail line could cost anywhere from $25 billion to $40 billion.
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