Whoo, whoo, chug, chug, chug

Published on Thu, Apr 25, 2002 by Pat Grubb

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Whoo, whoo, chug, chug, chug

By Pat Grubb

Motorists forced to endure long waits at the Marine Drive railroad crossing will soon see some respite, at least for those southbound trains which had been tying up the tracks. That’s because U.S. Customs inspections will be moving a few miles south to the Swift station near Custer.

Burlington-Northern Santa Fe representative Roger Jacobson told Blaine city council members at their regular meeting April 22 that the move would take place in about a month’s time and would result in the abandonment of the Blaine train station. Currently, only customs and clerical workers use the facility and they would be moving to Swift as well. City manager Gary Tomsic reiterated the city’s desire to purchase the train station but Jacobson said no decision on the building’s disposition had yet been made.

Northbound freight trains will still present a problem of tying up the crossing when they stop for Canada Customs. Blaine police chief Bill Elfo said northbound trains had sparked numerous complaints with delays running as long as 40 minutes. Jacobson appeared to be unaware of the problem.

Appearing with Jacobson before council was Jeffrey Shultz from the state department of transportation (DOT). The two men were there to solicit input from the city on plans to raise the track’s speed limit. Currently 50 miles per hour, the state would like to raise it to 60 mph over the next few months and eventually get it as high 68 mph. South of Mitchell Street, the train now gets up to 80 mph.

Shultz said the state DOT was mandated to improve speed and safety of passenger rail service and their eventual goal was to have the Amtrak train run from Vancouver to Seattle in under three hours. The run currently is just shy of four hours.

“We need to be competitive with cars and planes so we can take cars off I-5,” said Jacobson.

Asked how much difference the speed increase would make, Shultz replied only 10-15 seconds but that the cumulative effect from towns and cities down the line, coupled with track improvements, would allow the eventual realization of Amtrak’s goal.
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