Chamber CEO Speaks to Congress About High-Speed Rail in the PNW

By: Jillian Henze, APR Posted: 05/10/2021

Testimony focuses on the transformative power of rail

On May 6, Chamber President & CEO Rachel Smith testified in the U.S. House Subcommittee for Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials regarding the opportunity and benefits of the proposed Cascadia Ultra High-Speed Corridor rail line.

The proposed rail line would connect riders from Vancouver, B.C., to Seattle to Portland, and ultimately to other points south.

Traveling at 250 miles per hour, the rail line could:

  • Serve 2 million-3 million riders annually
  • Reduce 6 million metric tons of CO2 emissions over the first 40 years
  • Provide $355 billion in economic growth
  • Create 200,000 new jobs related to construction and ongoing operation

Smith noted that an investment in rail is also an investment in equity. It provides access for historically under-resourced communities to educational and job opportunities. It also allows for the creation of equitable transit-oriented development – using a station as an anchor for mixed use, mixed-income development, where everyone has mobility opportunities, whether they live in affordable or market-rate housing.

Smith also spoke to the support for this idea from key leaders such as the governors of Washington and Oregon and the premier of British Columbia, as well as one of our state’s largest employers, Microsoft. The Washington State Legislature funded an initial study, followed by feasibility work confirming the demand for high-speed rail and the viability of the project. The business case analysis completed by the state estimated the cost of the project to be between $24 billion-$42 billion, less than half the price of adding one highway lane in each direction along the same route, estimated at $108 billion.[1]

You can watch Smith in the hearing here at the 27-minute mark.

You can read her testimony by clicking here.