The Mossback (aka Knute Berger) argues in Is Cascadia’s Train Coming In? That a high speed rail connection from Eugene, Oregon to Vancouver, BC would help unify the Cascadian region. He argues that such a train would be advantageous for both the environmentalist Cascadian boosters and the business minded ones. A high speed rail line would serve the business class that currently might hop on a plane to get between Seattle, Portland, and Vancouver. Or, more importantly, it would serve a business class that currently does not travel between states and across the international border. 

Mostly the Mossback focuses on getting more communication happening with Canada. He points out that most Americans couldn’t name the prime minister of Canada (Stephen Harper) and that for Seattleites, BC is known either as being a vacation spot or for its weed. 

That’s fine, but has little to do with Thurston County. I like to think about all those lobbyists (both good and bad) who make their way down I-5 to Olympia from Seattle daily during the legislative session. Obviously a high speed rail connection would be advantageous for them. And then there are those who arrive in fancy little private jets.  They probably can’t be convinced of switching to a train even if it is a very fast one. Fortunately I don’t see too many of those jets flying overhead on their way to the Olympia airport. The train could also be useful for the legislators themselves, and their staff. We could have our own version of a Joe Biden who comes to work each day by train. 

Who else would ride this train? I have had fellow students in in my programs at Evergreen who commute daily from Seattle, but I imagine a high speed train would probably be too expensive for that use unless there were substantial discounts. But then it could be useful for students going to conferences in Eugene, Portland, Seattle, or Vancouver. Although I often forget about them, there could be plenty of business travel to places like Everett or Vancouver, Washington that currently just mucks us I-5. I wonder how much travel there is between state capitals…

A goal in Thurston County is to provide jobs and housing here so that people aren’t commuting here from outside the county or leaving the county to jobs elsewhere. The goal is not to be Seattle or Tacoma’s bedroom community. We’re supposed to be able to stand on our own two feet. And yet, the guilt of failing to stand on our own two feet might be lessened if people were coming and going by electrified high speed rail rather than petroleum powered internal combustion engines. As far as I can tell, electrically powered trains really do make a lot of sense here in Cascadia because of all our hydroelectric dams. Now if the citizens decided to take out those dams, there would be problems, but I think that’s a can of worms for another day.  

There is something that I hope such a massive investment in infrastructure could remedy: the location of Thurston County’s one and only passenger depot. Currently the station is somewhere south of Lacey out in the countryside. If new tracks were to by placed, I would hope they could be placed closer to the developed sections of Olympia or Lacey. If my memory serves me correctly, in the original plans for the Capitol campus there was going to be a train station beneath the Temple of Justice on Capitol Lake. How nice that would be!

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