A new bullet train concept currently under investigation could take passengers from Oregon to British Columbia in just two hours.
There are very few places in North America with access to high-speed rail, and depending on how you define “high-speed rail”, there are no places in North America with it. But that could change if plans for a new ultra-high-speed train get approved in the Pacific Northwest.
Officials from Oregon, Washington State, and British Columbia, Canada are all in the early stages of studying high-speed rail solutions for the Cascadia Corridor. One such possibility is a bullet train that would travel at speeds of over 250 mph. This would allow travel from Portland to Seattle in just under an hour, with the same approximate travel time between Seattle and Vancouver.
A bullet train is just one of three possibilities that are currently being studied by state and provincial officials. The other two possibilities include a maglev train system or a hyperloop of the same kind being discussed in California.
Maglev trains use powerful magnets to levitate the train off the rails and eliminate energy losses due to friction between the train and the track. This allows maglev trains to be generally faster than conventional trains, but also require additional costs during construction to create the complicated magnetic technology.
A hyperloop is even more technologically advanced than maglev trains. In a hyperloop, the track is enclosed in a vacuum tube to completely eliminate air resistance. This allows for stupendous speeds of up to 760 mph--or close to the speed of sound--without disturbing anything that happens on the outside. Although this would allow travel between Seattle and Portland in minutes, it would also easily be the most expensive option.
All three concepts will be discussed at length during the Cascadia Innovation Corridor Conference in October, with a future study to be presented next July.
So far, $1.5 million has been invested from Washington, Oregon, British Columbia, and Microsoft to research the possibility of high-speed rail transit. If all goes according to plan, the region could see its first high-speed transit system become operational by 2035.