City council backs rail service study 6-0

Published on Wed, Jan 19, 2011 by By Tara Nelson

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In their regular meeting Monday, January 11, Blaine City Council voted 6-0 to approve a resolution that would back a rail study to be conducted by the Whatcom Council of Governments and the non-profit transportation group Cascadia Center.

The resolution would encourage the inclusion of the city of Blaine as a potential passenger stop for both commuter and Amtrak trains and is funded by federal money from the Recovery Act.

The study will analyze freight issues including the cross border potential for expanded rail service and diesel multiple units (DMU), a rail system which could augment the current Amtrak service between Seattle and Vancouver, B.C., and also serve as commuter rail service between Blaine and the Seattle area.

Council member Scott Dodd supported the measure but said he had concerns about public transportation posing a “creeping subsidy.” Council member Paul Greenough, disagreed, adding that freeway and other road maintenance are also subsidized.  

Washington State recently received $782 million in federal Recovery Act funds for high-speed rail, and officials with the Washington state Department of Transportation said they will invest the money in Amtrak Cascades, in order to provide commuters a convenient travel option that eases traffic congestion and reduces emissions.

A recent study by WSDOT found that fourth quarter of 2010 set a new ridership record with an increase of more than 1,700 riders from 2009.

The study also found that service to Vancouver, B.C., remained in high demand and contributed to Amtrak Cascades ridership growth. More than 138,000 riders traveled to and from Vancouver, B.C., in 2010.