City council passes VACIS resolution urging solution

Published on Thu, Nov 6, 2003
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City council passes VACIS resolution urging solution

Blaine city council unanimously approved a resolution encouraging a solution be found for the increasing traffic delays and potential public safety problems imposed by the recent installation of the rail Vehicle and Cargo Inspection System (VACIS).

The rail VACIS � which takes x-ray images of all rail cargo � was implemented just south of the junction of Bell Road and Peace Portal Drive on September 1 by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as an added security measure following September 11.

Officials from the city of Blaine, railroad, DHS, state and other agencies met during an October 20 meeting to discuss the traffic delays and public safety issue.

Blaine area port director Peg Fearon explained at the meeting that the government is utilizing new technology to secure the country, including the rail VACIS, due to the events of September 11, 2001.

The terror threat via the rail is real, Fearon said, and �implements of terror� can be found there. �It�s impossible to inspect every train, so the rail VACIS enables us to look at the entire train through x-ray images,� she said at the meeting.

Local officials say the community understands the issue of security; however, when it affects the area�s way of life, it needs to be addressed.

�These people (officials) need to understand that we have two parts of this town that are separated by a body of water and trains, � when they stop the traffic � hurt the area,� council member Bruce Wolf said.

Wolf brought the issue up almost two months ago at a regular council meeting. �It�s important we work forward to a solution,� he said. �Our community is really being affected.�

The resolution passed states, �...the city council of the city of Blaine, Washington urging Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad (BNSF) and the U.S. Customs Service to immediately develop plans to relocate the vehicle and cargo inspection system facilities further south along Portal Way to a location that will not block and interfere with traffic at Bell Road.�

The resolution further resolves that the city council urges Senator Patty Murray, Senator Maria Cantwell and Representative Rick Larsen to assist the railroad and the government in developing and finding the relocation of the inspection facilities.

�It�s going to be on us (the council) to keep pressing this,� council member Bonnie Onyon said. BNSF railroad officials notify federal officials when trains are arriving and inspectors in a nearby control booth then view images of the train while being x-rayed. Should the inspectors wish to examine any railroad cars, railroad officials stop the train.