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Gov. Jay Inslee speaks at an event in Seattle. (GeekWire Photo / Monica Nickelsburg)

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is optimistic about creating a high-speed train to connect Vancouver, B.C. and Seattle, based on early indicators from a report commissioned by the state and backed by Microsoft.

“I think what this study is going to show is, very much, that there is a great demand for it which frankly is not too surprising when you look, around the world, at the success of these high-speed rails corridors,” Inslee told the B.C. legislature in a speech Tuesday, as reported by the Vancouver Sun.

The study is a cost-benefit analysis to determine the feasibility of building a high-speed rail line that could transport passengers between the two metros in less than an hour. Inslee said funding the multi-billion dollar project is the biggest hurdle but “there would be a great demand for this,” based on early results from the study. The project is estimated to cost somewhere between $24-$42 billion, according to notes from a Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) meeting on the feasibility study last month.

“We’re going to look at this report in detail but we’ve been advised that this is something that could be self-sustaining,” Inslee said.

Despite his optimism, the WSDOT meeting minutes note that “economic connections between Vancouver, British Columbia and Seattle must be strengthened to make this work” and the current demand is not sufficient to sustain the rail system. But the notes also say the region fits most of the criteria where high-speed rail works best and that advocates for the system have a vision for developing increased connectivity.

The idea for a high-speed rail between the two cities emerged during the 2016 Cascadia Innovation Corridor Conference, an event that convenes leaders from both sides of the border to brainstorm ways to create a more connected region. The project has picked up steam since then and some have proposed expanding the scope to include Portland. Analysts believe “trains between Seattle and Portland are necessary to support the system, since there are already more business connections between these two cities,” according to the WSDOT meeting notes.

“I’m bullish about this corridor between British Columbia and the state of Washington,” Inslee said Tuesday. “I believe we should have nothing but optimism about our growth potential. And growth potential will be accelerated to the extent that we can travel in an hour rather than three hours in safety and comfort. It is hard for me to believe that our tremendous province and state that is so forward-looking, that’s technologically so advanced, would not have growth that would be suited for this type of transportation infrastructure.”

Next steps in the study include additional modeling and a final meeting of the feasibility study advisory group in December. The final report will be submitted to the legislature on Dec. 15.

Watch Inslee’s remarks in this video from The Vancouver Sun.

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