A bullet train in Tokyo.
A bullet train in Tokyo. JianGang Wang

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Not only did the Washington State Legislature spare Sound Transit a funding cut in this year's legislative session, but it also quietly directed $1.2 million toward a new type of transit.

In their final supplemental transportation budget approved late last week, state lawmakers approved $1.2 million for another analysis of high-speed rail between Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver, B.C.

The idea of a rail corridor between the northwest's biggest cities has long been a fantasy of transit advocates and, increasingly, Governor Jay Inslee. The Washington State Department of Transportation studied the possibility of high-speed rail last year after Inslee signed an agreement with Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau about creating a "technology corridor." That report estimated the project could cost around $40 billion. It also outlined potential sources of American and Canadian funding, including grants, taxes, and public-private partnerships.

Last month, a new advocacy group called Cascadia Rail launched promising to lobby lawmakers for high-speed rail. That group wants to extend the line to Spokane, too.

The "business case analysis" included in the new state budget will build on that earlier report. An advisory group with members from Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia will draft the analysis and report back by next June.