Although All Aboard Washington’s public meeting on a potential passenger railway stop in Blaine is being considered a success, officials say it’s now up to the community of Blaine, North Whatcom County, and even residents of South Surrey and White Rock, to make it happen.
All Aboard Washington government affairs director Luis Moscoso and former executive director (1985-2018) Lloyd Flem spoke to Peace Arch News over the phone Tuesday, and both agree the railway connecting passengers from Vancouver to Seattle isn’t living up to its full potential.
Flem said although All Aboard Washington is unable to lead the charge for an Amtrak Cascades stop in Blaine, the non-profit is ready to “coach from the benches” by promoting, providing venues and helping further the discussion.
The real work, Moscoso said, is up to the community.
“We’ll be glad to continue helping out. But we can’t make the next step, that’s up to (the community) to formally determine how they want to go forward,” said Moscoso, who is a former Washington State Representative.
“There seems to be enough interest and energy to bring the matter of the Blaine stop, and also an additional midday train, up for consideration.”
Flem said that in order for the train stop to become reality, there is a “rigorous criteria” from the Washington State Department of Transportation that needs to be met, including “some investments.”
He said people from northern Whatcom County, “and hopefully their neighbours north of the 49th,” would need to be involved in fulfilling the conditions.
Flem said an important part of last Saturday’s meeting was the feedback, questions, support and enthusiasm from the participants, including that of State Representative Luanne Van Werven.
“She was there the whole time, as was the mayor of Blaine, with important questions and comments,” Flem said. “We came away from this thinking, good, despite the glitch with the time start, the meeting was really successful.”
The presentations were scheduled to begin at 1:15 p.m., but attendees started to pour into the venue at 11 a.m., which resulted in the presentation time being changed.
A 400-page study recently released from the Washington State Department of Transportation indicates a proposed high-speed rail linking Vancouver, Seattle and Portland would cut the travel time between each city to under an hour and dramatically boost the economy of the entire region.
A feasibility study in 2017 estimated capital costs ranging from US$25 billion to US$42 billion.
Moscoso said ultra-high-speed rail was brought up during Saturday’s meeting.
“Yeah, ultra-high-speed is great,” Moscoso said. “We should have had it, we will probably get it some day. In the meantime… we’ve got the Cascades. A midday service stop in Blaine would go a long way to addressing the immediate transportation problem through the area. That should also have their attention.”
Moscoso says that ultra-high-speed may take another 20 years to come to fruition.
The campaign for a passenger rail stop in Blaine has been going on for several years, and gained a little steam in 2012, when councillors from Surrey and White Rock crossed the border to back a plan that would have revived the Blaine station as a stop on the Vancouver-to-Seattle Amtrak service.