Aug 16, 2023 - Politics

Lawmakers seek $200M for high-speed rail connecting Seattle, Portland and Vancouver

A red and white bullet train pulls up on a set of tracks.

An example of a high-speed train in Moscow in 2018. Photo: Federico Gambarini/picture alliance via Getty Images

Democrats who represent Washington in Congress are asking the federal government to invest about $200 million to help plan a high-speed rail line between Seattle, Portland and Vancouver, B.C.

Why it matters: A bullet train that travels up to 250 miles per hour would "allow people to live in less densely populated areas and work anywhere in the megaregion," helping manage the region's anticipated growth, according to a letter 10 members of Congress sent Tuesday to U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

State of play: About 3-4 million additional people are expected to reside in the region by 2050, on top of the 9 million who live there already, the lawmakers wrote.

  • The letter was signed by Democratic U.S. Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, as well as the eight Democrats who represent Washington state in the U.S. House.

Details: Washington's Legislature approved $150 million last year to try to get the bullet train project off the ground, with the goal of attracting federal matching dollars.

  • The additional $198 million from the federal government would help pay for the planning phase of the project, which is expected to take two to five years, per the Washington State Department of Transportation.

The other side: Republicans have argued that a bullet train isn't needed and that public money would be better spent on improving Amtrak service along the north-south corridor.

What's next: Much more funding would be needed to actually complete the high-speed rail project, which a 2017 feasibility study estimated would likely cost between $24 billion and $42 billion.

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