The Obama Administration is offering $8 billion in high-speed rail stimulus money, and Washington state--home to one of 11 eligible high-speed corridors--is gunning for a tenth of it. Of course, Vancouver BC-to-Eugene has been a federally designated high-speed rail corridor since 1992--and a lot of speed that's gotten us.
Applications for the stimulus funds will go out in August--until then, WSDOT is looking for public input. If we get the money, it'll mean twice as many daily Seattle-to-Portland round trips (8 instead of 4), rerouting around congestion and, eventually, "high-speed" trains that hit 110 MPH, a stone-age speed for the rest of the developed world. At a meeting of rail advocates in Portland, reports Oregon Public broadcasting, "Oregon congressman Peter DeFazio said that if just a fraction of the money the nation spends on space travel was spent on high speed trains, the 70 minute Seattle/Portland commute could soon be an everyday occurrence."
Meanwhile, a second Seattle-to-Vancouver round trip continues to be held up because the Canadian Border Service has apparently been given a veto and won't let the additional trips occur unless it gets money from Amtrak to add extra staffers. (Seattle Transit Blog has been covering this for a while.) But, as this Vancouver Sun editorial and this Joel Connelly column point out, Canada would get way more in tourist spending, taxes, etc., than it would spend on border security. Not that we're in much of a position to tell others what to do on rail, but get it together, Canucks!