Stanwood to join Amtrak line

STANWOOD — In the olden days, people in Stanwood rode the “Dinky” — a mile-long railroad line from downtown to the train depot — to connect with trains on the Great Northern Railway.

The days of the Dinky are long gone, but railroad service in Stanwood is on the verge of beginning anew.

Construction is under way on a new Amtrak platform in downtown Stanwood that will provide rail service to stops from Vancouver, B.C., to Eugene, Ore. Currently, people in Stanwood have to drive to Everett or Mount Vernon to board trains.

The $4.2 million state-funded platform is expected to be finished by June 2009.

“If you look down the pike, it’s going to be huge,” said Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island. “Stanwood is going to grow, but this gives Stanwood an additional plus, another reason why you would want to come to this community.”

Amtrak is building the concrete platform on the west side of the railroad tracks just north of 271st Street NW. The city has contracted with Snohomish County PUD to install utilities to the site.

When construction is finished, state-sponsored Amtrak Cascades trains heading north and south will stop at the platform every morning and night. Island Transit is planning bus routes from the platform to Camano Island.

“We’re hoping this will drive a little more economic development into town, maybe some tourism,” Stanwood public works director Andrew Bullington said.

Two pedestrian shelters, designed to resemble barns, are planned to be built on the platform, said Kirk Fredrickson, project manager with the Washington State Department of Transportation.

Outdoor lighting is included in the plans, and the road alongside the platform is expected to be improved with curbs and gutters.

“These train stations often serve as gateways to the community,” Fredrickson said. “We felt it was important that the public wanted a gateway to the community that they were happy with.”

The Legislature has also approved $15 million for extending the siding track through Stanwood. The siding track, which runs parallel to the main railroad line, is what trains use to pass each other. The track must be lengthened to allow freight trains to pass Amtrak trains stopped at the new platform.

The idea for the platform was conceived by Design Stanwood, a citizens group that promotes economic growth in the city, Haugen said. Members of Design Stanwood worked with state lawmakers and transportation officials to move the project forward.

State lawmakers funded the project in 2005, but work was delayed while state and federal officials debated how high off the ground platforms should be built, Fredrickson said. Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway officials also wanted state lawmakers to commit funding to extending the siding track, he said.

Now that those hurdles are clear, the platform project is full speed ahead.

Bullington said: “We truly hope this will be a project that will last many, many years that the citizens of Stanwood can benefit from.”

Reporter Scott Pesznecker: 425-339-3436 or spesznecker@heraldnet.com.

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