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Officials try to save second rail to Canada

Money for Amtrak line absent from state budget

A proposed second daily Amtrak train from Seattle to Vancouver, B.C., touted as an important transportation choice up and down the line, may be derailed.
If it is, the consequences are all bad, warned Bruce Agnew, director of the Cascadia Project and a former Snohomish County Council member.

“A second train would really make the corridor work. It wouldn’t be a novelty, it would be a transportation option,” he said Thursday. “If the (second) train goes a lot of things go as well.”

A second train, leaving Vancouver every morning, would allow passengers to make a one-way trip to Portland, Ore. As it is now, the run to Oregon requires an overnight stay in Seattle. Amtrak runs one train a day from Seattle to Vancouver, stopping in Edmonds and Everett on its way north in the morning and in the evening on the return trip.

A second train would also average $30 million from the British Columbia government for track improvements in that province, Agnew said.

But the $6.3 million needed from the state to help inaugurate a second train this summer was not included in the House Transportation budget approved two weeks ago. That $3.9 billion package was praised by local lawmakers for providing new important road improvements to relieve traffic-snarled roads.

It did not include money for a second Amtrak train, however.

A state Transportation Commission resolution passed last week says that without the sate money more than $75 million in partnership dollars with agencies like Sound Transit and Amtrak could be lost in the next two years.

The commission supports the second Amtrak trip.

A memorandum released by Agnew on Thursday alerts mayors and other government leaders from Snohomish, Skagit and Whatcom counties of the potential loss of a second train. It asks them to contact their state legislators and argues that the money needs to be included in the Senate transportation budget.

Preston Schiller, a member of a group of government, business and citizen leaders from north Puget Sound counties, said there is strong support fo ra second Amtrak train.

That group, called the “Farmhouse Gang” because they meet every month at the Farmhouse Inn between Mount Vernon and LaConner, is gathering today to consider ways of saving the second train. Ridership on the Seattle to Vancouver route has steadily increased over the last few years, state DOT officials say. Last year, nearly 25,000 passengers boarded in Everett, a 30 percent increase from a year earlier, according to state numbers. About 17,000 boarded Edmonds last year, a 19 percent increase from the previous year.

State officials have said that to contiue improving ridership, a second train is needed, and eventually a third.

Agnew’s Cascadia Project is an alliance promoting transportation and conservation among Washington, Oregon and British Columbia.

Schiller said that with increased talk of moving people out of cars and of freeways, running just one train a day to Vancouver doesn’t make sense.

“it doesn’t cut it,” he said.

Two trains would give riders, including growing numbers of tourists to Canada, some different options, he said.

“It’s better than widening I-5” he said.