Imagine it’s derby day between the Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers, with the treasured Cascadia Cup on the line between these two MLS franchises and their passionate fanbases. In years past, the Timbers Army has caravanned up I-5 in a crawl, facing traffic as they leave the Rose City and yet more on the outskirts of the Seattle metro area. But today, hundreds of green-and-yellow-clad fans stream out of King Street Station, just blocks from the Sounders stadium.
They’ve zipped up to the Emerald City in 58 minutes on a high-speed train, topping out at 220 mph. They’ll be back home in Portland just as quickly for either a celebratory dinner or a defeated ride home.
That hypothetical game day is just one vision of how a newly proposed Pacific Northwest high-speed rail line will transform the Cascadia mega-region and its three booming main cities—Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver—which are currently in dire need of better transportation connections.
While many high-speed rail projects have failed to come to fruition across the country in recent years, the Cascade High-Speed Rail is different because it has a major financial backer: Microsoft.
The tech giant sees potential in easy access to an international gateway city so close to home. Immigrant-friendly Vancouver is capitalizing on the Trump administration’s hostility toward immigration, especially the H1B visas on which tech companies rely: Microsoft opened a software engineering office in the city with room for up to 750 employees in 2016—and the ability to easily move workers between Vancouver and Seattle could be great for business.
With that said, Microsoft doesn’t want to actually operate the trains. Rather, they just want to see it get built and are willing to put down the money to make it happen. Let’s hope it does.