The effort to build a high-speed rail connecting Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver, B.C. just got a fresh cash infusion. Microsoft, the Province of British Columbia, and the Oregon Department of Transportation are putting $750,000 in new funding toward a deeper study of the business opportunity the project presents. The rail line under consideration would connect Seattle to Vancouver in under an hour.
The new funding is on top of $750,000 contributed by Washington state earlier this year, bringing the total funding for the new study to $1.5 million. Over the next year, the Washington Department of Transportation will evaluate the business case for building a 250 mph railway connecting the three cities. A team of advisors from the public and private sectors will convene for its first meeting next month and provide input over the year-long study.
Microsoft already contributed $300,000 to a 2017 study of the project’s feasibility. The Redmond, Wash. software giant is a leading advocate for creating a “Cascadia Innovation Corridor” analogous to Silicon Valley.
The idea dates back to the 2017 Cascadia Innovation Corridor conference, which convened businesses and government leaders in Oregon, Washington, and B.C. to discuss ways to better connect the region. At that time, Microsoft kicked in $50,000 to supplement the state of Washington’s $300,000 budget to study the possibility of a high-speed rail line.
In April, a new route of seaplanes connecting Seattle and Vancouver launched to better connect the two cities. Microsoft President Smith watched from a press event at South Lake Union in Seattle as the inaugural “nerd birds” landed.
“We are excited to see regional leaders invest in the continued pursuit of a high-speed rail that will help grow economic opportunities in the Cascadia Innovation Corridor,” said Smith said in a statement tied to Thursday’s announcement. “Shrinking the distance between Seattle, Vancouver, BC and Portland will encourage greater collaboration, deeper economic ties and balanced growth for years to come.”