If Washington State wants a statewide train network, the cost will be high and the ridership could be low if officials want to revive an east-west link.
A new study was completed on restoring a passenger train system that traversed central Washington through Stampede Pass from Puget Sound and arriving at destinations across the eastern portion of the state. The Washington State Joint Transportation Committee received the study, which indicates bringing back the rail service could cost between $300 to $400 million with ridership estimates starting at 192,000 annual trips from Seattle to Spokane. Factoring into the cost was the size of trains, whether the line would run all the way to Spokane or stop in central Washington, and how many daily trips would be executed. Operating costs could add as much as $30 million annually to the price tag.
The passenger line would have to use tracks now owned by BNSF, and the study also suggests ridership could increase another 10,000 annually if the rail is straightened and improved. The riding public has indicated they would at least try the service. At stakeholder meetings, more than 70 percent of the participants said they are interested in riding the route.
A feasibility study also was done on an ultra-high-speed train between British Columbia and Portland, Ore., and found an Auburn-Spokane connection through central Washington could increase ridership on the north-south line by up to 25 percent.