The Tri-Cities could be a future stop of a high-speed train barreling between Seattle and Spokane.
But don’t start planning your trip just yet.
A recently finished Washington Department of Transportation study estimates the Cascadia megaregion, connecting the northwestern seaboard of the Northwestern U.S., will add 3 million people in the next 30 years.
That expected growth has state officials looking at more ways to move people between Spokane, Seattle, Portland and Vancouver, British Columbia.
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Much of the focus of the $300,000 feasibility study was on a train line that would reach speeds of 125 to 250 mph on the west side of the state.
But it also outlines a commuter line between Spokane and Seattle.
The train would travel at just 90 to 125 mph as it makes its way southeast through Stampede Pass, with stops in Ellensburg, Yakima and Pasco.
That would be faster than the current passenger train that travels 76 mph and takes about eight hours to go from Spokane to Seattle.
125-250 mph between Portland and Vancouver, B.C.
90-125 mph between Seattle and Spokane
76 mph currently
A car trip takes about five hours, with a nonstop bus trip taking about six hours.
Flying from Spokane to Sea-Tac takes about an hour.
However, it’s still too early to say whether the new rail line would replace Amtrak’s Empire Builder or run side-by-side.
The service could be an upgrade for people who currently use the rail line, since Amtrak needs to sync the east-west service with its Chicago hub and make the boarding times more inconvenient.
WSDOT spokeswoman Barbara LaBoe pointed out that people going to Spokane to Seattle now need to be on a train by 2 a.m.
Under the proposal, there also would be more than one trip a day between the two cities.
The initial plan would be follow the route through Stampede Pass, running on upgraded freight tracks.
It would run along part of the Empire Builder’s route.
“That’s what’s assumed would be the most logical route,” she said.
Gov. Jay Inslee is asking for another $3.6 million for another study, which would provide more details about the policy and financial needs to build the north-south line.
Any project to bring faster trains to the state is still years away.
LaBoe described the study as the 10,000-foot view of ultra high-speed rail in Washington.
Gov. Jay Inslee is asking for another $3.6 million for the next study to provide more details about the policy and financial needs of building the north-south line.
His proposal does not mention the east-west line.
Even if it clears the next hurdle, the Vancouver-Portland line is estimated to carry a $24 billion to $48 billion price tag.
By comparison, the recently passed state capital budget was $4.2 billion.
It’s also unclear who would be running the trains.
LaBoe said the project, much like the Amtrak Cascades line, would likely be a partnership with a private company.
The agency also is aware of California’s high-speed rail project, which has run into problems crossing the Central Valley, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The growth has state officials looking at more ways to move people between Spokane, Seattle, Portland, and Vancouver, British Columbia.
They’re also looking at other studies.
The proposal has met mixed reactions in the Tri-Cities, with critics looking at failures California, and the December crash of a speeding Amtrak train south of Tacoma.
Supporters say they want to have another convenient way of getting to the west side that doesn’t involve driving or flying.