Rail officials with the state Department of Transportation hope to launch a second train this month to Vancouver, B.C., one that would allow Thurston County residents to board the train in Lacey and ride to Canada without having to get off in Seattle and board a different train.
Here’s how it would work:
• As early as this month, a northbound Amtrak Cascades train – No. 516 – would originate in Portland, depart Lacey at 4:38 p.m. daily, stop in Tacoma and Seattle, and arrive in Vancouver, B.C., about 10:45 p.m., said Andrew Wood, deputy state rail and marine director for the DOT.
• The following morning, U.S. citizens or Canadian tourists looking to visit Olympia, would board train No. 513 at 6:40 a.m. and arrive in Lacey about 12:44 p.m., he said. The train then would continue on to Eugene, Ore. Fares for the new train haven’t been set, but a one-way single fare between Lacey and Vancouver, B.C., could fall in the range of $30 to $58, Wood said. Estimated travel times to Vancouver, B.C., from Lacey are about six hours, although those times are expected to be shortened eventually by removing some railway curves.
• Although the second train will also serve the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, B.C., Wood said the additional train is part of a long-term DOT goal to expand train service to Canada by up to four trains by 2025.
• The process of adding a second train started a year ago, Wood said, but it was delayed after the Canadian Border Protection Services Agency planned to charge $1,500 per train for each train that crossed the border. Those expenses typically would be covered by Amtrak fares, but any expense not covered by fares are paid for by the state. Those additional expenses had not been budgeted, Wood said.
• DOT countered with a study that a second train to Vancouver, B.C., would generate U.S. $13 million to $26 million in annual spending for Vancouver. Based on this evidence, the Canadian government agreed to a trial run of the second train, minus the $1,500 per train fee, starting sometime between Aug. 1 and March 2010, he said.
HARDER THAN IT LOOKS
• Although work began on this project a year ago, part of the delay was because of the need to reach agreements with all the agencies that will have a hand in the new train, Wood said. This includes Amtrak, BNSF Railway, which owns the railroad, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, train crews, suppliers and those providing train maintenance, he said. The train that currently serves the Seattle to Vancouver, B.C., route stops overnight in Bellingham to be cleaned. But the new train will stop overnight in Vancouver and so will the crew, Wood said.
IF YOU’RE TRAVELING TO VANCOUVER
• The existing train – Amtrak Cascades train No. 510 – travels between Seattle and Vancouver. Northwest tourists bound for Canada must have a photo I.D., either an enhanced Washington State driver’s license or a U.S. passport. On the return trip to the U.S., the train stops at the U.S./Canada border so that agents can collect customs forms.
Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403