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GNP Rail Talks About Snohomish Train Progress

Harvey Field
Published:04/23/2010 Business
GNP Rail Talks About Snohomish Train Progress    Print Snohomish Times    

The Snohomish historical Society hosted GNP railway at their member meeting Thursday night to give an update on the progress of an excursion train between Woodinville and Snohomish.

City manager Larry Bauman gave a short introduction saying that the city of Snohomish has been interested in a tourist train way back when the discussions started about the Seattle port district purchasing the Eastside rail corridor with Ron Sims and Bob Druel.  He then proceeded to introduce Doug Engel from GNP railway, a partner in ownership with Thomas Payne.

Mr. Engel started his presentation by complementing the size of the crowd and giving a short synopsis of what it takes to be in the railroad business. He explained that railroads are slow by nature and so is the funding process when it comes to acquiring all the financing that they require. This led to the realization that excursion service would not be starting in June 2010 as anticipated. However, they do expect limited excursion service in some form this summer.

Construction of the Eastside railroad completed in 1891 and the last passenger train ran in 1947. The Spirit of Washington dinner train began excursion service in 1992 from Renton to Woodinville. In 2003, Burlington Northern announces its desire to sell the railroad inclusive of its full right-of-way. Then King County executive Ron Sims announced plans to replace the tracks with a bicycle trail and suddenly, mysteriously, WSDOT deviates from its long-standing policy of not cutting rail lines and other utilities for road work announced plans to permanently sever the tracks near Bellevue along about the same time in 2006. In July of 2007 the dinner train was forced to end its 16 year run from Renton to Woodinville.

Eastside freight contracted by GNP ran its first freight train between Woodinville and Snohomish in January. This coming May several more players in the Eastside corridor will be involved in additional purchases. Those expected to be involved are Redmond, Kirkland, King County, Sound Transit, Puget Sound Energy and Cascade Water. Sometime this summer Sound Transit will be issuing a RFP to use the $50 million that Liz Loomis secured for Woodinville south to Renton rail study money.

Late 2011 King County hopes to have their public process completed to understand what it is residents want in rails and trails.

GNPs incremental growth plan as they see it today:

1.       Freight which started in January.

2.       Excursion, Woodinville to Snohomish and Columbia winery has come out and said they would support the first month of running the train.

3.       Passenger, Snohomish to Redmond based on demand, adding Bellevue and West to Everett in the future.

Funding for GNPs Eastside corridor plans revolve around $50 million from Sound Transit and an additional $50 million federal loan to total $100 million in a public private partnership. In summary Mr. Engel said they need to increase the professional image of GNP through public meetings such as this one. GNP is looking to find partners in promotion that would include the excursion train. Pricing is all over the map but is expected to be between $20 and $50.

The Snohomish run would be replicated in a historic manner, that's in contrast to Redmond and Woodinville that want a more contemporary experience. The national launch is expected in the 2011 season marketing will begin this fall. The presentation was entertaining and informational, the Snohomish times has the entire meeting on videotape and will release it in its entirety this weekend.

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