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Microsoft-backed high-speed rail project links major West Coast cities in under an hour: 'This is an investment in the future'

"There is spending, and there is investment."

"There is spending, and there is investment."

Photo Credit: iStock

As one of the largest employers in the Pacific Northwest, Microsoft has a big stake in how the area develops.

With the Cascadia Innovation Corridor — from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Portland, Oregon — set to grow to about 13 million people in the next 26 years, the company and government officials are working to clear the way for a 300-mile high-speed rail line, the Seattle Times reported.

The Cascadia High Speed Rail project would create a network of mostly rail transit that enables quick travel between faraway places, including jaunts of less than an hour from Portland to Seattle, a 174-mile trek that takes about three hours by car, and Seattle to Vancouver, a 143-mile journey that takes about two and a half hours.

There would be up to 30 round trips per day with as many as 32,000 people on the trains each hour.

"But we have a vision and we can realize this vision," Washington Secretary of Transportation Roger Millar said, referencing the time it will take to plan and fund the endeavor and clear environmental hurdles. "There is spending, and there is investment. And this is an investment in the future."

The largest business in the world by market cap, Microsoft has invested in sustainable transportation before, with 23 bus routes in Washington that move 4,300 people per day, helping to eliminate single-occupancy car trips and the carbon pollution that comes with them. The company, which employs more than 50,000 people in the Evergreen State, is represented on Challenge Seattle and a policy group chaired by Millar that is "working to advance the project," the Times reported.

Of course, Microsoft sees it as a way to grow its business as well.

"With AI and cloud and quantum fusion, our area is at the forefront of the global economy," Colleen Kerr, the company's senior director of government affairs, said. "This spine allows our network to flourish."

Cascadia Rail says transportation is the biggest polluter in the Pacific Northwest, with driving and flying accounting for 60% of pollution. Worldwide, high-speed rail absorbs half of plane passengers and cuts cars on the road by 40%.

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That would make a huge impact, as the Times reported that pollution in Washington rose from around 105 million tons to 112.5 million tons from 2017 to 2019.

"The greatest contributor to climate change is the automobile," said former Gov. Christine Gregoire, who leads Challenge Seattle, which is working on solving the region's transportation issues, among other big problems, including homelessness and racial equity.

Gregoire added, "I want my children and grandchildren to have the love of the natural beauty of this great state. And not not have it because we didn't get our act together."

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