Photo Source: Amtrak Cascades
There has been a setback to the prospects of a permanent second daily Amtrak Cascades service to Vancouver, B.C. The Canadian federal government has made the decision not to waive permanently a border fee for the second train, requiring the Washington State Department of Transportation to pay almost $550,000 annually for border clearance services. Helping convince the Canadian federal government to waive the border fee -- not just temporarily first through the Vancouver Winter Olympics and then until this fall -- has been an important issue for Cascadia Center for several years. As a part of the coalition that has pushed for this expanded service, Cascadia is disappointed with the decision.We echo the sentiment that WSDOT and our region's other leaders expressed in WSDOT's press release on the issue:
"British Columbia and Washington are so disappointed.... The economic benefits for Vancouver and Washington are clear as travelers shop, eat and stay in local hotels. The second train has brought an estimated $11.8 million in economic benefits to British Columbia during the year it has been allowed to operate.... We proved that the ridership demand was there, during the Olympics and after.... We have no money to cover this added cost and we will not ask Washington travelers to pay more for their tickets, when customers traveling into Washington don't have to pay a U.S. customs fee." Washington Secretary of State Paula Hammond
"I am very disappointed to hear about this lack of commitment from the Canadian federal government.... Washington has made investing in passenger rail service a top priority, but we need support from our neighbors to continue this valuable transportation option that connects our two countries...." Washington State Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, chair of the Senate Transportation Committee
Media outlets on both sides of the border are covering this
development, which we hope will help keep focus on what we believe is a
short-sighted decision. Articles in The Province, the Vancouver Sun and
Crosscut offer a good recap of where things stand today.
Cascadia Center and other proponents of the second Amtrak Cascades
service and increased high-speed passenger rail service in the
Northwest are working together to find a way to resolve this setback.