Mayor appoints five for new Amtrak Committee
Committee formed after $250,000 set aside by state for east-west rail passenger system study
Last updated 7/18/2019 at 7:32am
Mayor Gary Cook announced the creation of an Amtrak Committee at the Ritzville City Council meeting on July 2, which comes after the state set aside funds to study an east-west passenger rail system earlier this year.
Residents named to the committee by Cook includes himself, train enthusiast Charles Jingling, councilmember Debbie Chapman, Lind-Ritzville High School teacher Thomas Pulliam and Adams County Prosecutor Randy Flyckt. Cook said that he hopes to hold the committee's first meeting sometime in the near future.
The renewed attention comes after $250,000 was set aside in the state's $10 billion 2019-21 transportation budget "to conduct a study of the feasibility of an east-west intercity passenger rail system." Proposed stops along the system, which would run from Seattle to Spokane, include Auburn, Cle Elum, Ellensburg, Yakima, Pasco and Ritzville.
Some of the elements the study is tasked with examining include:
-Projections of potential ridership;
-Development of a Stampede Pass corridor alignment to maximize ridership, revenue and rationale, considering service to population centers.
-Assessment of current infrastructure conditions, including station stop locations;
-Identification of equipment needs; and
-Identification of operator options.
According to the transportation budget, a report of the study's findings and recommendations is due to Washington's House and Senate transportation committees by June 30, 2020.
An advisory group has been formed to help guide the study and includes representatives from the legislature's Joint Transportation Committee, staff from the House and Senate transportation committees, the Washington State Department of Transportation, BNSF Rail and All Aboard Washington (AAWA). AAWA is a nonprofit advocacy organization that "promotes development of Washington's passenger rail system to benefit the public."
According to an online survey conducted on behalf of AAWA in 2017 by a Central Washington University professor, more than 90% of the 3,600 respondents said they would ride the train more than once a year. The median number trips that respondents estimated they would take in a single year was seven.
Jingling first alerted Cook about the feasibility study being conducted by the state. Jingling mentioned that there would need to be a number of things done from the city's perspective, including a loading platform that's in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Jingling also mentioned that he escorts people on Amtrak and has been through Ritzville on a train about 125 times. In all, he estimates that he's logged almost one million miles on the Amtrak system throughout his life and said he thinks it would be great for the city and businesses to have a passenger train that makes a stop in Ritzville.