Washington state's high-speed rail advocates have clearly not learned from California

Oct 2, 2021

A recent Seattle Times column made the false, alarmist argument that our region’s “growing pains will only worsen if we fail to act” to build high-speed rail from Vancouver to Portland. The authors employ the same tactics the Sound Transit 3 campaign did in 2016 – unsurprising, since one of the authors works for Transportation Choices Coalition, a shady political advocacy group that supported ST3 and is funded by construction firms that profit from transit spending.

Their claims about speed and efficiency are contradicted by the feasibility study they cite, written by engineering firm WSP, which stands to profit from the project and has made over $600 million on California high-speed rail, a project that’s failing, with WSP under investigation. Clearly, we have not “learned from the pitfalls of California” as the authors claim.

WSP’s report, like that column, is a promotional document that neglects technical problems, cost overruns, funding shortfalls, and delays that are common in such projects. Look no further than Sound Transit, the Puget Sound's regional transit authority, which is riddled with cost overruns and delays.

Policymakers should instead focus on fixing West Seattle Bridge or any number of pressing transportation projects along the I-5 corridor that would bring a real benefit to the region.

Additional Resource: "Washington State DOT’s Ultra High-Speed Ground Transportation Business Case Analysis (UHSGT) is a promotional brochure riddled with serious errors and misstatements," by Thomas A. Rubin, CPA, CMA, CMC, CIA, CGFM, CFM

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