Monday, July 06, 2009

Canada yields on second Cascades cross-border train

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Waiving border fees previously demanded by Canada’s Border Service Agency, Ottawa has agreed to allow a second Amtrak train to link Seattle with Vancouver, doubling international rail access to the city in time for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

The federal government said the fee would be waived from August of this year through March 2010, as a pilot program. The Border Services Agency had sought C$1,500 (roughly US$1,300) per day to cover costs in processing rail travelers. The waiver period “will allow an assessment of traffic well outside the actual Olympic Games themselves," Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan said.

Provincial officials in British Columbia and their counterparts in Washington state have argued for the fee of roughly C$500,000 per year to be eliminated altogether, noting Amtrak's current single Cascades train crossing the border incurs no such penalty. "People from both sides of the border have wanted this train for a long time," said Vickie Sheehan, a spokeswoman for Washington’s Department of Transportation.