City council officially supports Amtrak stop

Published on Wed, Jun 27, 2012 by Jeremy Schwartz

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Blaine City Council members highlighted the importance of an Amtrak stop in the city by passing a formal resolution of support at Monday’s council meeting.

Council members voted 6-0, with mayor Harry Robinson absent, to offer the city’s support for a passenger rail stop in Blaine. Their action follows three cities in the lower mainland that passed similar city council resolutions over the past few months.
“The lower mainland people want to see this happen,” Blaine City Council member Bonnie Onyon said.

Last week, Onyon, city council member Ken Oplinger and Blaine city manager Gary Tomsic met with the Bruce Agnew, director of the Seattle-based transportation advocacy group Cascadia Center for Regional Development, and discussed the city’s near-term strategy for promoting a commuter train stop in Blaine. Onyon said the next step is to encourage Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) officials to include the city in the update of WSDOT’s master rail plan.

“That’s the first thing that has to happen,” she said.

Onyon suggested the city should write to governor Christine Gregoire and B.C. premier Christy Clark seeking their support for a train stop for Blaine. Adding a train stop would most likely require funding from both the state and B.C. governments, Onyon explained.

Asked by fellow council member Dennis Olason if the city would have to pay for the stop, Onyon replied probably, although funding sources are far from hammered out at this point. Oplinger suggested that since the rail stop will benefit both Washington and B.C., both governments should help fund it.

“But at this point, there is no funding lined up for it,” Oplinger said. “I’d rather have the problem of figuring out how to pay for the station than not have that problem because we never tried for it.”

Though the city has received strong support from residents for renovating the old Blaine train depot building into a new rail stop, Oplinger said securing an operating rail station is separate from refurbishing the old depot, which Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway (BNSF) owns. He said he wouldn’t want efforts to renovate the station to impede Blaine getting an operating rail stop.

Since BNSF approached the city about demolishing the depot building in October, numerous Blaine residents have renewed the call for renovating the building into an operating rail stop. In May, the nonprofit Washington Trust for Historic Preservation included the old depot as one of the trust’s most endangered historical properties for 2012.