Western students to present rail station feasibility study

DSC03197By Ian Ferguson

A group of students from Western Washington University have been studying the feasibility of a rail station in Blaine from a business perspective.

The students, who are studying international business under professor Tom Roehl, studied the potential market for a rail stop in Blaine. Each student rode the Amtrak train from Bellingham to Vancouver and interviewed passengers along the way. They also studied demographics and travel times for the lower mainland, and compared Blaine to similar cities with rail stops in the U.S. The idea was to determine how many Canadians from south of the Fraser River would utilize a station in Blaine.

The students will present the results of the study to the Blaine public works advisory committee at a public meeting on Thursday, December 3. The meeting begins at 10 a.m. at the Blaine municipal building, 435 Martin Street.

Public works director Ravyn Whitewolf helped coordinate the study.

“We wanted to open up some dialogue with Canadians,” Whitewolf said. “There are no stops between Bellingham and Vancouver, B.C., and it might be less of a hassle for Canadians living south of the Fraser River to use the Blaine station instead of driving into downtown Vancouver to go south on the train.”

The results of the study were varied, and the specifics will be detailed during the public presentation.

“There were pluses and minuses,” Roehl said. “The city of Blaine would have to market its station as an option to the lower mainland, but the number of people that the station could serve and the potential travel time savings are intriguing.”

The results of the study could be used to support a feasibility assessment for a rail station in Blaine. Meanwhile, Whitewolf and city mayor Harry Robinson are keeping Blaine at the table as the state determines how the feasibility assessments for new rail station stops should be carried out. The first meeting of the Rail Station Stop Policy Advisory Committee was held in Vancouver, Washington October 30. Robinson attended in person, and Whitewolf attended via teleconference.

“It was mostly an overview of the rail system, what went into the state rail plan and the steps that will go into the station stop assessment policy,” Whitewolf said.

The Amtrak Cascades corridor stretches 467 miles from Eugene OR to Vancouver B.C.

“It’s interesting to see that Bellingham is one of the bigger stops behind Seattle, Vancouver B.C. and Portland, Oregon, and the gap between Bellingham and Vancouver is one of the longest distances without a stop, if not the longest.”

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