NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Friday, February 8th, 2019

Governor Inslee + Premier Horgan push back against Tim Eyman, call for high speed rail

This week, Wash­ing­ton Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee is host­ing British Colum­bia Pre­mier John Hor­gan, the leader of the Ever­green State’s north­ern neigh­bor, as part of an effort to strength­en cross-bor­der ties in this great green region we call Cas­ca­dia.

Hor­gan and Inslee par­tic­i­pat­ed in sev­er­al events yes­ter­day in Seat­tle and sev­er­al more events are planned for today at the Capi­tol in Olympia, includ­ing a spe­cial address by Hor­gan to a joint ses­sion of the Wash­ing­ton State Leg­is­la­ture.

This is not the first meet­ing between the two men. They have become good friends since Hor­gan’s ascen­sion to the pre­mier­ship in British Colum­bia.

Jay Inslee and John Horgan

Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee and Pre­mier John Hor­gan take ques­tions from reporters in Seat­tle (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

One of the cross-bor­der ini­tia­tives the two lead­ers are very pas­sion­ate about is cre­at­ing a high speed rail link between Van­cou­ver, British Colum­bia and Seat­tle, Wash­ing­ton, with mul­ti­ple dai­ly roundtrips. A new high speed train would offer faster and more fre­quent ser­vice than Amtrak Cas­cades does today.

While our team at the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute strong­ly sup­ports Hor­gan and Inslee’s vision of a high speed rail net­work for Cas­ca­dia, we want every­one to know we are in dan­ger of los­ing our exist­ing Amtrak Cas­cades ser­vice next year if we don’t stop Tim Eyman’s lat­est incred­i­bly destruc­tive ini­tia­tive, I‑976.

Many peo­ple don’t know that Amtrak Cas­cades is actu­al­ly a ser­vice of the States of Wash­ing­ton and Ore­gon. The line is oper­at­ed by Amtrak, but most of the fund­ing for it comes from the state lev­el. WSDOT’s rail pro­grams, which include Amtrak Cas­cades, get their fund­ing from what is known as the Mul­ti­modal Account.

I‑976 would elim­i­nate the prin­ci­pal rev­enue sources for the Mul­ti­modal Account.

With I‑976 des­tined to appear before Wash­ing­ton vot­ers this autumn, I asked Inslee and Hor­gan to com­ment on the prospect of Amtrak Cas­cades ser­vice between Seat­tle and Van­cou­ver being elim­i­nat­ed at their media avail­abil­i­ty today in Seat­tle. Below is a tran­script of my ques­tion and their answers.

NPI’s ANDREW VILLENEUVE: A ques­tion for both of you. Anti-tax activist Tim Eyman has pro­posed a statewide ini­tia­tive that would elim­i­nate most of the fund­ing Wash­ing­ton tax­pay­ers pro­vide to oper­ate Amtrak Cas­cades. Vot­ers will vote on it this fall. Gov­er­nor Inslee, what is your posi­tion on this ini­tia­tive? And Pre­mier Hor­gan, what is the impact to our cross bor­der rela­tion­ship if the Amtrak Cas­cades rail link between Seat­tle and Van­cou­ver goes away?

Thank you.

GOVERNOR INSLEE: Well, you had me when you said Tim Eyman, so you don’t have to go a lot fur­ther. We need rail trans­port, and we’re going to con­tin­ue our sup­port in that regard.

PREMIER HORGAN: And from our per­spec­tive… Gov­er­nor Inslee invit­ed me to join with the High Speed Cor­ri­dor ini­tia­tive that he has under­tak­en. We con­tributed, last year, $300,000 to the first phase of the study. We’re here today to announce an addi­tion­al $300,000 towards the study to make con­nec­tiv­i­ty between our two juris­dic­tions a tan­gi­ble, real thing. We envi­sion high speed rail com­ing from Seat­tle into the Low­er Main­land with a ter­mi­nus in Sur­rey, the fastest grow­ing com­mu­ni­ty in the Low­er Main­land, which would con­nect to our Sky­Train and oth­er pub­lic infra­struc­ture to get to our air­port, to get to Down­town Van­cou­ver, and out to the [Fras­er Riv­er] Val­ley.

Quite the con­trary to say­ing no to more con­nec­tions through rail… we want to see bet­ter and faster con­nec­tions through rail!

GOVERNOR INSLEE: So, our pre­lim­i­nary review has shown this could gen­er­ate 1.8 mil­lion rid­ers in the first few years. So we are mov­ing to the next step, which today is to look at a gov­er­nance struc­ture for a poten­tial rail line. And in my bud­get, I’ve put in over three mil­lion dol­lars to estab­lish a poten­tial gov­er­nance struc­ture.

We’re con­fi­dent that this is… we’re opti­mistic enough that [we’re] jus­ti­fied [in] tak­ing this next step. And that’s based on opti­mism.

It’s based on an opti­mistic vision of the growth we’re going to have in British Colum­bia and Wash­ing­ton because we are a world-class com­mu­ni­ty across that bor­der. We have world-class growth. We have a hun­dred thou­sand-plus mov­ing here every year or two.

And we have to have more dense and suc­cess­ful trans­porta­tion cor­ri­dors. And if you’ve trav­eled the world, and looked at what high speed rail can do in these [kind of] cor­ri­dors, you will say, our peo­ple deserve this. Our peo­ple who are world class inno­va­tors, world-class inven­tors, world class inven­tors, world class cos­mopoli­tans, [liv­ing in places] that the world is com­ing to… we deserve high-speed rail in my view, and I’m glad we’re pur­su­ing this option.

This is what real lead­er­ship looks and sounds like.

Rather than sim­ply play­ing defense against road war­riors like Tim Eyman, Gov­er­nor Inslee is going on offense in part­ner­ship with Pre­mier Hor­gan, propos­ing bet­ter and faster rail ser­vice across the Unit­ed States-Cana­da bor­der at the Peace Arch.

As Gov­er­nor Inslee said, we need rail trans­port. Today, Amtrak Cas­cades pro­vides our only inter­na­tion­al rail link to Van­cou­ver, British Colum­bia. It’s a valu­able ser­vice and one we don’t want to lose as we pur­sue devel­op­ment of a high speed rail line.

It is essen­tial that we pro­tect Amtrak Cas­cades, Sound Tran­sit’s ST3 sys­tem expan­sion, King Coun­ty Metro ser­vice hours, fer­ry ser­vice, and trans­porta­tion invest­ments across our state from Tim Eyman’s self-serv­ing demo­li­tion der­by.

Please join NPI in tak­ing a posi­tion against I‑976, either as an indi­vid­ual or on behalf an orga­ni­za­tion that you rep­re­sent. Togeth­er, we can unite Wash­ing­ton in oppo­si­tion to this harm­ful ini­tia­tive and keep our state and region mov­ing for­ward.

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