Amtrak expansion could include new Surrey station
By Jeff Nagel, Black Press, Mar 11 2007
Amtrak passenger trains from Seattle could some day stop in Surrey instead of Vancouver, U.S. studies suggest.
Moving the terminal from downtown’s Pacific Central Station east to a “Greater Vancouver Terminal” beside Surrey’s Scott Road SkyTrain station is one option that has been studied to achieve a potential major increase in cross-border rail service.
The existing single daily Amtrak round trip to Vancouver is now planned to increase to two daily by 2008, thanks to an agreement unveiled last week between the province, Washington State and the BNSF Railway. B.C. will contribute $4.5 million to help build a siding in Delta so trains can pass.
But longer-range hopes to expand further to three or four daily Amtrak trains depend on much costlier rail line upgrades – including an estimated $675 million to replace the century-old rail bridge across the Fraser River between Surrey and New Westminster.
Because the costs are so high to address congestion on the tracks into Vancouver, studies commissioned by the Washington State Department of Transportation conclude it may make sense to pull out of Vancouver and establish a new Amtrak station in Surrey instead.
“At first glance, the potential has various attractive features,” says an analysis of the Scott Road site in the 2003 Cascade Gateway Rail Study.
Foremost would be the lower price tag – about $86 million to build the station and carry out rail upgrades.
The Scott Road site would also offer easy access to SkyTrain, the study says, allowing travellers to transfer and take the transit line to downtown.
A map and aerial photo show the “possible station” just east of Scott Road Station, north of 110 Avenue along 126 A Street.
But the study cautions many U.S. passengers who want to go to downtown Vancouver won’t like having to transfer and take the 26-minute SkyTrain ride, and some business may be lost.
However, Washington State’s draft long range plan for the Amtrak line notes more Canadians may jump on board to visit the U.S. because the Scott Road station would be more convenient for much of Greater Vancouver “as the station would be more centrally located and more accessible for a greater number of people.”
The plan, tabled last year, estimates moving to the Surrey terminal would increase Amtrak’s ridership here by three to seven per cent.
It says the “surge in rail passengers converging on the area” could mesh well with Surrey’s plans to revitalize the neighbourhood.
The long-term U.S. wish list calls for a high-speed rail bypass around White Rock costing $370 million, along with another $110 million for high-speed tracks continuing to the Fraser River. Matched with high-speed tracks planned in Washington, the upgrades would cut Amtrak’s Vancouver to Seattle travel time from nearly four hours now to just over two and a half by 2023.