White Rock stop gets OK from Amtrak

Published on Thu, Sep 6, 2001 by Christine Callan

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White Rock stop gets OK from Amtrak

By Christine Callan

Mayor Hardy Staub of White Rock and Amtrak West President Gil Mallery stepped off the northbound Amtrak train in White Rock last week, a symbolic inauguration of a new stop. Under a conditional agreement announced at the White Rock railway station August 30, Amtrak promises the train will stop in White Rock if White Rock meets a list of conditions.

The conditions include, White Rock must provide the minimum essential station infrastructure, provide adequate long-term parking facilities with shuttle service to the station and agreements with U.S. and Canadian customs and immigration services for inspections.

Ken Hertz, executive vice-president of Trillium Corporation, Blaine mayor Dieter Schugt and Gordon Hogg, MLA, Surrey/White Rock were among those who greeted Staub and Mallery as part of celebrating the event.
Trillium and Blaine have supported the White Rock push for a train stop hoping to cash in on influx of visitors to the region. “We are friends on each other’s land in spite of the borders that separate us,” Staub said. “Without that bond and without modes of transportation bringing us closer together, we would not be able to accomplish economic prosperity.”

This stop is part of efforts to expand cross border transportation, Staub said. “We will be an example to the entire border of how two communities can work together.” A larger plan, outlined in the agreement, includes a passenger shuttle ferry serving Blaine, White Rock, and Resort Semiahmoo. “We are doing this for the entire region,” Staub said. “ What is good for White Rock is good for Blaine and so on.”

The U.S. senate transportation budget, now heading into conference with the house of representatives, has earmarked $200,000 to fund a study of the feasibility of the three point ferry system. “This is a very positive thing,” Hertz said. “We (Trillium) are just one player that’s working towards an easier access between two countries and our communities.”

Also stated in the memorandum of agreement, Amtrak and Washington DOT have an interest in expanding current train services to the Greater Vancouver market. “We are very anxious to extend the second train to Vancouver,” Mallery said. “The more connections and transportation links you have, the more aggressively you are doing away with the border.”

Even if White Rock meets all the conditions, funding for rail improvements from B.C. must still be secured. Mallery believes that in order for this vision to become a reality, it comes down to political leadership and grass-root support from both sides of the border.

“B.C. has not come through withtheir side of the bargain to get funding whereas Washington and Oregon have done their part” Staub said, “but there is a huge feeling of hope and a positive business climate.” Schugt agreed the British Columbia government must “step up to the plate,” for this to be a success. “To make the train viable, we’ve got to get the second train up to B.C.,” Schugt said. “White Rock is our closest neighbor and we joined them as a witness to support their efforts. Why not think of tourism? Why not pull in all the positiveness? People aren’t just going to stop in Blaine and anything that happens in White Rock or Lynden or Ferndale is a positive thing for Blaine.”

Passenger rail service to White Rock began in 1907, but was suspended in the late 1970’s due to lack of interest. Recently, there has been a resurgence of interest in passenger rail service as a safe, economical and environmentally friendly way of travel, said Staub. In 1995, services resumed when a daily round trip passenger rail service was introduced between Seattle and Vancouver which now serves approximately 100,000 passengers a year.

This encouraged Amtrak to introduce a second daily round trip service on the same route in 1999, but this service stops at Bellingham because of the lack of funds from B.C.

Currently Staub is working with the B.C. government to get funding and he is developing infrastructure for the White Rock Station. The budget for the ferry survey should be finalized in October, according to Hertz and Canada and U.S. Customs are working towards agreement. Staub said he would like to see the stop in White Rock by summer 2002. “The region as a whole sees the stop in White Rock, coupled with other forms of transportation, as a positive thing,” he said. “My battle cry is ‘border be gone.’”.
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