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Oregon lawmakers introduce bill to require Cascade ultra-high-speed rail to extend to Eugene

Tom Banse
NW News Network
High-speed rail supporters want to see speedy trains like the Shinkansen bullet trains, seen here in Tokyo, zipping between Eugene and Vancouver, B.C.

State lawmakers from the Willamette Valley are worried destinations south of Portland are being left behind in the planning for a future Cascadia bullet train.

 A bill introduced in the Oregon Legislature would require Oregon to insist that the envisioned Portland-to-Seattle-to-Vancouver, B.C. bullet train include service all the way to Eugene.

“This must go to Eugene. It’s the entire corridor that needs to be addressed. This is not just about Portland to Canada. It has to benefit the clogged Willamette Valley and benefit more Oregonians,” Nancy Nathanson, D-Eugene, said.

Washington’s transportation department in partnership with Oregon and B.C. is preparing to apply this spring for more than half a billion dollars in federal funding to make the Vancouver-through-Seattle-to-Portland “ultra-high speed” train “shovel ready.”

Project supporters envision a train with a top speed of at least 250 mph operating on a dedicated track. That could whisk travelers from Vancouver, B.C., to Seattle in one hour and from Seattle to Portland in another hour, in a climate-friendly manner to boot.

The current top speed of Amtrak trains in the Pacific Northwest is 79 mph. Those passenger trains are routinely delayed by congestion on a mainline shared with freight trains.

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.

A 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.

Tom Banse covers business, science, public policy, sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reports from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events are unfolding.