Microsoft is committing an additional $300,000 to continue studying whether a high-speed train between Seattle and Vancouver, B.C., is possible. The funds are in addition to Washington state’s $750,000 contribution and the B.C. government’s $300,000 investment announced previously.
The announcement is part of Microsoft’s ongoing efforts to make the “Cascadia” region an innovation hub akin to Silicon Valley. The high-speed rail line under consideration would connect Seattle and Vancouver in less than an hour, fostering more collaboration between their respective tech industries.
“Shrinking the distance between Vancouver, Seattle and potentially Portland through more efficient travel connections is the sort of forward-looking investment that could be a game changer for generations to come, and lawmakers are wise to make relatively modest investments today to fully understand the potential,” Microsoft President Brad Smith said in a blog post Thursday.
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. Smith watched from a press event at South Lake Union in Seattle as the inaugural “nerd birds” landed.
“There are now 80 companies headquartered in Silicon Valley that have opened engineering offices in the Seattle area,” Smith said at the event. “That’s great for Seattle, but there are also the first four companies to open engineering offices in Vancouver: Microsoft, Amazon, Zillow and Tableau — all based in Seattle. I think we’re a little ahead of the curve in appreciating just what a wonderful opportunity there is to bring people together in Seattle and Vancouver.”