High Speed Rail
Credit: Courtesy of US High Speed Rail Association

An idea for a new train line may get you from Portland to Vancouver in less than half the time it would take to drive.

The Cascadia Rail has a proposed project that would connect Portland, Seattle and Vancouver via a high-speed rail network — in just two hours. It’s been in talks for the past year, but last month the Cascadia Rail Summit met outside Seattle to discuss an American pipedream: a true high-speed rail project.

Earlier this year, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced a massive scale-back to the state’s high-speed rail project, which would have connected San Francisco to Los Angeles in less than three hours. (Instead, the project will now focus on 100 miles of track in Central California.)

Conditions are prime to invest in high-speed rail elsewhere on the West Coast.

Millions of dollars of research have poured into the Cascadia Rail project and, according to some, the project is moving faster than any other American high-speed rail effort.

“The biggest thing that it takes to get these moving is good leadership, and they have that like I haven’t seen anywhere else in the country,” U.S. High Speed Rail Association president and CEO Andy Kunz told CityLab.

The train is still very much in the theoretical stages and faces several obstacles, like the mountainous geography of Washington state and potential resistance from Canadian leaders in Vancouver. But it could be America’s most viable option for a high-speed rail network.

“High-speed rail works in Europe, it works in Asia, and it could work here,” Roger Millar, Washington State’s secretary of transportation, said at the conference last month. “There have been awful attempts at it around the country. We in the Northwest have the capacity to do it right, if the vision is there and we go about it the right away.”

In Japan, the East Japan Railway Company is testing a train that could become the fastest in the world capable of traveling 249 miles per hour.