This bill authorizes Department of Transportation to enter into agreements with other jurisdictions to develop ultra-high-speed ground transportation, provided that the agreements include providing service to Eugene within the Cascadia Rail Corridor, provided that the agreement include providing service to the City of Eugene. Limits Department to spending the less of 50 percent of moneys available, or $1 million, per biennium, on ultra-high-speed ground transportation.
The Pacific Northwest is served by passenger rail service by the daily Amtrak Cascades, which provides regional service between Vancouver, British Columbia, and Eugene, as well as the Coast Starlight, which provides daily service between Seattle and Los Angeles. Both services are operated under Amtrak. This north-south service is augmented by bus service.
During the past several years, the State of Washington conducted a series of feasibility studies for “ultra-high-speed ground transportation” that could potentially operate in excess of 200 miles per hour, linking Vancouver, B.C., Seattle and Portland. One recent study estimated the cost of such a system at between $24 billion and $42 billion.
The argument against extending the bullet train to Salem, Albany and Eugene is that the ridership south of Portland would be insufficient to justify the extra cost. Amtrak has not recovered ridership from pre-pandemic levels. Feasibility study completed in 2017 pegged the cost of building a Vancouver-Seattle-Portland bullet train at between $24 billion to $42 billion dollars depending on how much tunneling is involved.