Stanwood Studies Train Service

Original Article
Stanwood studies train service
An official from the Cascadia Project tells officials about the benefits a different type of passenger rail service could bring to the city.

By Scott Morris

Stanwood officials want to hear more about a regional transportation dream that could revive the long-defunct train depot at the east end of downtown.

On Monday, the city’s planning commission invited Bruce Agnew of the Seattle-based Discovery Institute to tell them about the Cascadia Project, which pushes for better transportation services along the I-5 corridor from Oregon to British Columbia.

The rail service initially envisioned for Snohomish County’s north end would be different than Amtrak, which already runs between Seattle and Vancouver, B.C., and Sound Transit’s commuter train between Everett and Seattle.

“This type of rail service fits the niche of special events like the Tulip Festival” in Mount Vernon, Agnew said, “or Mariners games.”

The trains would be different, too. Instead of an engine pulling several cars, the new service would use self-propelled Colorado Railcars. They have the engine onboard and can carry as many as 492 passengers.

More importantly, they’re much cheaper to operate, roughly one-sixth the cost of a commuter train.

“They’re used extensively in Alaska for the cruise ship industry,” Agnew said by phone before the meeting Monday.

Linda Utgard, a Stanwood native on the city planning commission, can remember her town’s old train depot from trips she took to Bellingham and Seattle as a student in the 1960s.

“I think it’s a wonderful idea,” Utgard said. “I would love to be able to get on a train to Everett or go to Seattle for a ballgame.”

The idea of the new service would be to coordinate the schedules as much as possible with existing trains and buses, Agnew said. The new railcars would have only a third of the freight traffic to compete with as the Everett to Seattle run because the majority of freight cars head east, not north, from Everett, he said.

Dave Eldridge of the planning commission said many people have told him they would ride a train if it stopped in Stanwood.

“They say, ‘You know, if there was a train here, we’d go to Seattle more, we’d go to Everett more.’ I’ve heard that from a number of people in town,” Eldridge said.

Mayor Herb Kuhnly is one of those people. “I would probably use it once in a while,” he said.

The idea of a train and transit station already was mentioned by a group of civic planners and consultants that last year helped the city develop its downtown revitalization project, called Design Stanwood.

But much like Design Stanwood, the idea of a new train service is still in the dream stages.

“We’re talking to Burlington Northern Santa Fe on a very, very preliminary basis,” Agnew said.

He’s presenting the idea to communities throughout north Puget Sound as part of an overall regional transportation strategy. The trains could be especially helpful in easing congestion during 2006 to 2009 when a large section of I-5 near Everett is going to be under construction. The new railcars also could help during the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, B.C.

Agnew plans to gauge interest in other areas, too, such as Marysville, Lakewood, Tulalip and Mount Vernon. Comments will be included in a report to the Legislature next year, he said.

Reporter Scott Morris: 425-339-3292 or