US Rep Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon) is on board with Obama’s high speed rail programs, according to the Portland Tribune. Blumenauer says that securing federal funds for rail in our area is going to require state matches from Oregon and Washington, a tall order given the Washington state’s current $10 billion budget shortfall. The backlist of Washington Amtrak Cascades projects is pretty long, and we’re not likely to see the entire list knocked off with just the stimulus bill. It’s going to take a significant, sustained investment to get high speed rail on the Cascades corridor.

I don’t expect this in my lifetime (video by Ben):

But something closers to this would be really nice:

10 Replies to “Blumenauer on High Speed Rail in the Northwest”

  1. Cascades HSR Corridor – Incremental Progress Report
    Mar 2009 by Michael Skehan, All Aboard Washington

    Washington, Oregon and British Columbia began to study and deploy High Speed Rail (HSR) passenger trains in the mid 90’s. Talgo tilt trains, capable of 125 mph have been running between Eugene Oregon and Vancouver, BC since 1999.

    Using an ‘incremental approach’ to building the system, using limited state and dwindling Amtrak funding for trains, track and signal, and operations has enabled some pretty impressive achievements, considering the corridor is still limited to just 79 mph due to federally mandated safety improvements needed to qualify for the higher speeds.

    Ridership continues to grow at double-digit rates each year. More than twice as many passengers now choose rail over planes for the trip between Seattle and Portland. Trains get twice the fuel economy over planes and cars, while producing only half the CO2 emissions.

    All Aboard Washington is excited the needed improvements are now achievable through the stimulus funding for HSR. With modest capital improvements, new train sets could double ridership in years, not decades. Travel times could be slashed by up to 50% through higher speeds and reduced conflicts with current freight traffic, while achieving significant reductions to both fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

    For more information, check out our state adopted HSR plan at:

    And visit our web site at:

  2. I’ll never forget the sensation of the shinkansen express blowing through the station at Jomo Kogen, east of Tokyo, when I was there 12 years ago. The sense of speed, power, and purpose was sooo impressive. Made me realize what we were missing in the US. And I’m no rail-fan-boy. It’s enough to convert folks though. Good vids.


  3. My experience on the Shinkansen in 1990 was humbling. They are on time to the second, and pull up to the depot within inches of where they’re supposed to be, i.e., if you line up for the door for Car 9, the door for Car 9 will be right there.

    I was riding first class south into Tokyo along the coast near the town of HItachi, and wondered what this thing was tucked down to the left side of my seat. I figured it might be a tray table, like on an airplane in the front-most seat. But I pulled this thing up and it was a flat-screen TV! So as I watched World Cup soccer from Madrid, I kept thinking, “We’re doomed” and “Amtrak will *never* have this.” I mean I love plug-ins for my laptop rolling down to Portland in business class, but 1) it’s not fast, and 2) there’s no flat-screen TV. And that was 19 years ago…

    1. I read a story where the driver of a Shinkansen passed out, but the train still stopped in the station, albeit farther down the platform than it was supposed to.

  4. You know, I’d argue that we already are matching at least some funds with our investment in the Tacoma-Everett commuter rail corridor. Maybe Sound Transit could be cajoled into putting forward some funds that could act as matching funds for the feds.

    1. Problem is that Sound Transit’s budget is pretty tight as it is, and they are facing the same declining revenues that Pierce Transit and King County Metro are.

  5. I really wouldn’t just say “There’s no way we’ll see this in our lifetimes.” Once we get out of this recession, in however many years that takes, there will be much more money that we can invest in infrastructure. With Obama putting around 10 billion into high speed rail in his first couple months in the middle of a recession, just imagine how much money he might put into HSR when money is more abundant.
    And HSR is happening in the United States; California High Speed Rail will be going upwards of 200 mph, which is in line with the Shinkansen in Japan and TGV in France. So basically, I wouldn’t be so pessimistic.

  6. You’re right: at the rate we’re currently going, by the time we get a Shinkansen or a TGV, those models will be hopelessly outdated, and you and I will be on a golf course in Arizona.

    But I have to believe that at some point in the not-too-distant future, a politician will come along who will refuse to make the same worn-out excuses as to why rail shouldn’t enjoy robust funding over the long-term (and hopefully I can give that politician robust funding over the long term). And then it really will be full speed ahead.

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