White Rock abandons Amtrak efforts
Amtrak trains won’t be stopping here any time soon.
That’s the word from the City of White Rock, following renewed discussions with Amtrak, the Washington State Department of Transportation and the B.C. Ministry of Transportation.
According to a news release issued Wednesday morning, neither the Washington DOT nor Amtrak consider a White Rock stop – or any new station stop along the Cascades corridor – to be an option for now.
“After diligently pursuing the matter, White Rock mayor and council have recently been informed that a White Rock Amtrak stop is not a possibility at this time,” the news release states.
Reasons cited include an increased journey time, increased capital costs that would be necessary to reduce it, plus customs and immigration issues, changes in funding sources for rail transportation and Washington DOT’s and Amtrak’s current commitment to high-speed rail.
The news follows the city’s attempt to revive negotiations that resulted in a 2001 memorandum of understanding with Amtrak to pursue passenger rail service for White Rock and the Semiahmoo Peninsula region.
“It’s very disappointing for council and it’s very disappointing for the community,” Mayor Catherine Ferguson said.
“Am I closing the door forever? No – but it’s not going to be in the foreseeable future.”
Ferguson said the impact of security concerns following the events of Sept. 11, 2001, just months after the original memorandum was signed, could not be underestimated in the current mindset of the U.S. authorities.
“That was the first car off the track,” she said, but added that high speed rail, which has received the strong endorsement of U.S. President Barack Obama, is another major factor.
Having stops, such a the one proposed for White Rock would not allow Amtrak to achieve its goal of two hour service between Seattle and Vancouver.
At present, the nearest station stop to White Rock for northbound trains is Bellingham, and Ferguson said the city would explore more active strategies for promoting White Rock tourism from there.
Amtrak has also committed to increasing tourism promotion of White Rock on its trains, she said.