Not everyone has bought into the idea of spending billions on a high-speed rail line in western Washington.
But Roger Millar, secretary of the Washington State Department of Transportation, says it's worth studying further.
It would be a "big dollar amount" to complete, Millar says. The time it would take to build a high-speed rail line between Portland and Vancouver, B.C. would be significant.
"But if you put it in context, if you were to direct us to add a lane in each direction from I-5 from the Oregon border to B.C., that would be $110 billion-ish dollars to build and it would probably take as long as it would to build a high-speed rail system ..." Millar told a the state's House Transportation Committee recently.
He added the new lanes "would be full of traffic by the time [the state] finished building" them, "and it would still take you all day to get from Portland to B.C."
Current estimates show construction costs of a high-speed rail line would cost up to around $40 billion. Once complete, people could get from Seattle to Vancouver in about an hour. Ditto for a trip down to Portland. The state is also looking into whether a new train service from Seattle to Spokane would work, though it may not run as fast as the proposed north-south line.
Millar's comments followed proposed legislation in Olympia that, if approved by the Legislature, would direct about $3.2 million toward a corridor authority that would be tasked with studying high-speed rail. The first public hearing on House Bill 1160 was Jan. 31. If formed, the group would have to present its findings by June 30, 2020.
More than $1 million has already been dedicated to studying the idea. Funding has come from Washington State Department of Transportation, Oregon State Department of Transportation, Province of British Columbia and private entities, including Microsoft.
A feasibility study in 2017 estimated annual ridership would be 1.7 million to 2.1 million. The study found 12 daily round trips would be "optimal."
A survey of about 2,400 people found "significant interest," with 74 percent saying they would at least try a high-speed system.
According to a summary of the response from business leaders who were asked to consider the current congestion on the roads and population growth, they "can't imagine" the region in the coming decades without something like this.
But do others feel the same?
During a House Transportation Committee meeting, Rep. Ed Orcutt (R-Kalama) told Millar he's not so much concerned with the entire I-5 corridor as he is with congestion through the area he represents and what can be done in the more immediate future.
Millar says the state needs to be making investments that are "forward thinking."
Rep. Jim Walsh (R-Aberdeen) asked Millar how he's supposed to explain to constituents that the state is spending money to compete with places in other parts of the world when the state's ports "need more efficient, less obstructed channels to commerce."
Millar said building high-speed rail wouldn't create an either-or scenario.