Ultra-High-Speed Ground Transportation study - July 2017 advisory group meeting

July 27, 2017 meeting overview

About 25 people attended the first meeting. The agenda included:

  • An overview of the study process
  • Definition of the role and expectations of the Advisory Group
  • Discussion of study corridors

Charles Knutson, policy advisor with the Washington State Governor’s Office, shared the following:

  • This type of connection for Pacific Northwest communities has been discussed for years.
  • The current effort is supported by technology leaders who were part of the 2016 Cascadia Innovation Corridor Conference. There also is support from business, labor, environmental, regional planning and local government interests.
  • Governor Inslee and Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau agree that high-speed travel to link British Columbia and Washington will be good for both economies.
  • The Advisory Group plays an important role by providing input at this early study stage.

The study process

  • Governor Inslee proposed a $1 million budget for the study in early 2017. The Washington State Legislature approved $300,000 for the same work and timing.
  • An additional $50,000 in corporate funding is available to study the economic impacts more.
  • The focus is passenger transportation. Freight may be looked at in the future.
  • The study looks at various routes between Vancouver, British Columbia and Portland, Oregon and also considers how to connect to travel options in Eastern Washington and California.
  • The study will look at different technology options, how many people will ride, and how it could be paid for.
  • The study report is due to the Washington State Legislature on Dec. 15, 2017.
  • The consultant team is led by CH2M and includes EnviroIssues, AECOM and Deutsche Bahn International Engineering Consulting.
  • The study will use the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) modeling database to look at things like riders, revenue, benefits, and costs. It will not look at exact locations for stations or where the tracks would go.

Purpose of the Advisory Group

  • The project team is seeking feedback in a variety of areas.
  • The group does not make decisions and is not required to reach agreement on everything.
  • It will meet a total of four times between July and November.

Key parts of the study

  • Route corridors and stops
    • The study considers a range of corridor options with various numbers of stops.
    • Some of the stations might be right in the middle of large cities and others might be farther away, with good connections to transit and perhaps less cost.
    • Some of the options include stations near airports.
  • Technology options
    • The study is looking at proven technologies that can travel at speeds of 250 mph or more.
    • The study assumes this new system would be on its own route, separated from freight trains, cars and trucks.
  • Ways to fund this new system, including the possibility of money from both government and private businesses.
  • Energy savings, including reducing pollution

Advisory Group discussion

  • A route east of the Cascade Mountains could be less expensive and easier to build.
    • The project team will look at that option, but cannot do a full analysis at this time without additional funding and time.
  • Consider a route that would connect the region’s largest airports.
    • Airport locations have more space and are well connected by local transit.
    • One issue is that flight services already connect airports and this would be a direct competition.
  • Consider and compare options.
    • Is it better to connect city centers that have more people or look at less expensive options outside the cities?  
    • Downtowns may be more convenient, but it might be harder to find and pay for space for stations.
    • For example, it might be cheaper to have a station in Surrey, British Columbia than in downtown Vancouver.
  • More options may be considered in the future meeting if the state Legislature decides to look at this further.

Next steps

The project team will:

  • Build a website to provide information about the study and a way for interested people to sign up to get information.
  • Schedule in-person Advisory Group meeting in September 2017 in Puget Sound region.
  • Plan in-person meeting in October 2017 near Vancouver, British Columbia.