A coal train passes by the boarded-up Blaine train station Tuesday. (Bill Becht photo)

U.S. passenger-train-stop enthusiasts turn north

‘I would ask your premier, really politely,’ says Blaine rail-stop advocate

A passenger rail stop just south of the U.S. border in Blaine is once again a hot topic – but supporters say B.C. is dragging its heels on a key component of moving the idea forward.

“Enough talk,” Blaine businessman Bill Becht, a longtime supporter of a Blaine rail stop, said in an interview with Peace Arch News.

“We’ve done our feasibility study, we’re waiting on the B.C. government to get their feasibility study done. Why is it taking so long for the B.C. government to do that?

“I’m getting a little frustrated as a merchant and as a citizen. And it’s such an obvious winner, for everybody in the whole region.”

The campaign for a passenger rail stop in Blaine has been ongoing for several years, and gained a little steam in 2012, when councillors from Surrey and White Rock crossed the border to back a plan that would revive the station as a stop on the Vancouver-to-Seattle Amtrak service.

READ MORE: Blaine train station campaign gathers steam

READ MORE: New study revives interest in Blaine train stop

Four years later, economics students at Western Washington University compiled an online survey to help determine potential ridership that would be attracted by such a stop.

According to officials with All Aboard Washington, the survey – which Canadians South of the Fraser were encouraged to participate in – “was pretty affirmative.”

It showed “that the overwhelming bulk of ridership… would come from north of the 49th and south of the Fraser River,” AWA executive director Lloyd Flem told PAN last month.

“It wouldn’t be just for the little town of Blaine.”

Right now, there is no stop between Vancouver and Bellingham. Flem said AWA members believe it would be “very worthwhile” to add stops in both Auburn and Blaine.

However, last December’s fatal Amtrak crash near Olympia – in which three people died on the inaugural run of a new passenger rail route – pushed the discussion to the backburner.

Until now.

Flem confirmed the interest in a Blaine station stop on the Amtrak Cascades was brought back into focus during a meeting Oct. 10 at WWU.

A key sticking point, he said, is the lack of investments from the provincial and federal governments north of the border.

“I would ask your premier, really politely,” Flem said, noting there has been “very, very, very little” investment by Canada in the past two decades.

Last March, the provincial government contributed $300,000 towards a business case study of a high-speed rail link between Vancouver, Seattle and Portland.

READ MORE: B.C. pitches in for Vancouver-Seattle high-speed rail study

But Flem said a passenger rail stop makes far more sense financially.

High-speed rail is “a grand idea but extraordinarily expensive and not likely to occur in the lifetime… of anyone over the age of 65.”

“In the meantime, we should be working on something… more doable and practical and much lest costly.”

AWA is “certainly going to be observing” the high-speed-rail study and “we’re going to say, ‘golly, that’s interesting,’” he said.

But, “we’d like to see more service, service on time, a stop in Blaine, a stop in Auburn.”

He described involvement by Canadian business owners and citizens “clear down to the border” who want the stop as an important piece of the puzzle.

South of the Fraser MLAs also need to speak up, he said.

Flem said round-trips between Seattle and Portland are expected to be added to the Amtrak Cascades by next April. After that, “we are definitely pushing for more service north as well.”

Becht, owner of Horseshoe Coins & Antiques in Blaine, said he has been “pushing for this for years.”

“It would be such a grand project and benefit so many folks on both sides of the border, also Amtrak’s bottom line,” Becht told PAN.

He and other supporters of the project have theorized there could be more than a million riders in Canada’s Fraser Valley alone, seeing the ability for this market to easily access the Amtrak system as a huge potential boost for the Blaine economy.

“This would be one of, if not the, most used passenger rail stops in our state,” Becht said.

Currently, southbound trains are “mostly empty,” he said.

READ MORE: Blaine train station campaign gathers steam

READ MORE: New study revives interest in Blaine train stop

Becht noted a pre-customs clearance act has been passed in Washington, D.C. that will eventually allow U.S. customs agents to do their inspections alongside their Vancouver counterparts.

 

Grant Meyer, train station supporter Bill Becht and Cascadia director Bruce Agnew talk outside Blaine city hall following a March 2012 meeting about a proposal to save the shuttered train station by reviving it as a stop that would cater to train travellers in White Rock, Surrey, Delta and both Langleys. (File photo)

A 2012 photo of the Blaine train station. (File photo)

Just Posted

VIDEO: Surrey hair salon joins sustainability initiative

Hair can be used to create boom to clean up oil spills: Green Circle Salons

White Rock breaks temperature record

B.C. city was the hottest in all of Canada

After nearly 100 years in the field, Cloverdale farm recognized for agricultural leadership

Surrey Board of Trade awards Heppell’s Potato Corp with leadership award

First look at Cloverdale Athletic Park’s future field house

Field house part of $5.8-million revitalization project

‘Sophisticated’ mail theft, fraud operation uncovered in Cloverdale, say RCMP

Three have been arrested, charges have yet to be laid

Trudeau offers to help Pacific islands face climate change impact

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with the leaders from the Pacific island nations on Saturday during the APEC Summit in Papua New Guinea

Everett pulls ahead in Western Conference standings over Vancouver Giants

Western Hockey League’s G-Men, who lost 6-5 to Everett Saturday, now prepares to take on Victoria.

Price makes 36 saves as Habs edge Canucks 3-2

Late goal lifts Montreal past Vancouver

BC Minister of Agriculture loses stepson to accidental overdose

Lana Popham announces death of her 23-year-old stepson, Dan Sealey

Canadian military’s template for perfect recruits outdated: Vance

Gen. Jonathan Vance, the chief of defence staff says that the military has to change because the very nature of warfare is changing, particularly when it comes to cyber-warfare

‘Toxic’ chosen as the Word of the Year by Oxford Dictionaries

Other top contenders for 2018 include ‘gaslighting’ and ‘techlash’

RCMP bust illegal B.C. cannabis lab

Marijuana may be legal but altering it using chemicals violates the Cannabis Act

1 woman dead, man in hospital after ‘suspicious’ crash: police

Homicide investigators and Burnaby RCMP are investigating the fatal collision

Canada defeats Germany 29-10 in repechage, moves step closer to Rugby World Cup

Hong Kong needs a bonus-point win over Canada — scoring four or more tries — while denying the Canadians a bonus point

Most Read