Officials to discuss train delays
Over the last two months, there have been several documented train incidents that have disrupted traffic. Just last week, there was a 45-minute train delay at Marine Drive and malfunctioning crossing gates at the intersection of Bell Road and Peace Portal Drive � both on Friday afternoon, shortly before 5 p.m.
City of Blaine officials are working to address these incidents, and city manager Gary Tomsic said federal, state and railroad representatives will be present during a public meeting on Monday, October 20, to discuss the issue.
Late last month, council member Bruce Wolf initiated conversation about the increased delays and asked the city to address the issue as it has become a public safety concern.
Tomsic said the public safety issue will be addressed, as well as other questions including what exactly is causing the delays.
Jay Brandt, assistant port director of trade & operations said that freight trains crossing the border into Blaine are being x-rayed for security reasons through a rail Vehicle and Cargo Inspection System (VACIS) procedure. The rail VACIS was recently installed and started the first of September.
�This is our first installation,� he said about the Bell Road vicinity. �There was a great deal of work done and discussion of alternative sites.�
A site survey was done jointly with customs people and railroad representatives, he said, and inspection of the site and technology needs were evaluated prior to moving to that site. Five locations along the railroad were evaluated for potential VACIS use. The site was permitted through Whatcom County.
According to Brandt, the trains should typically cross the tracks in no more than 20 minutes. �They are going between five and seven miles per hour,� he said.
Brandt also said that when the trains are rolling backwards and forwards, that is not a result of the VACIS procedure. �I don�t know about that,� he said. �That�s something with the railroad.�
Rail VACIS procedures are being set up across the country at major rail crossings as part of increased security procedures. �We�re trying to screen all kinds of contraband,� Brandt said.
When asked if federal employees have been finding people on board, Brandt said yes, but most of them are hobos and they are headed north.
The train delays have caused delays within the Blaine school district over the last couple of weeks, according to transportation director Carl Wagelie. Students are often arriving late to school in the morning or late to their homes in the afternoon, and drivers are completing their shifts late.
Officials from the Burlington northern railroad could not be reached for comment.
The meeting will be held at city hall on October 20. For more information, call the city of Blaine at 332-8311.