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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Stanwood, Wash., train platform late, over budget

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Construction of the new passenger train platform in Stanwood, Wash., is costing more than anticipated, and the platform might not be open until just before Thanksgiving for people who want to ride the rail, according to the Everett, Wash. Herald. Nevertheless, people in Stanwood are watching eagerly as the Amtrak Cascades stop takes shape along the BNSF tracks in east downtown.

Work crews from Interwest Construction of Burlington occasionally remind people snapping photos to be careful not to step out into the middle of 271st Street NW, said Kirk Fredrickson, project manager with the state Department of Transportation.

Mayor Dianne White also remains enthusiastic about the rail station, though she has worried about delays and resulting costs.

The $5 million project got the OK from the state Legislature in 2006. The completion date has been moved ahead numerous times, with the current finish set for about Nov. 11, Fredrickson said. Amtrak service would begin soon after completion.

The latest delay occurred after crews began work in April, when it was discovered that soil in a small area of the construction site was contaminated with lead. It wasn't a large amount of lead, but it took two months to follow the proper steps required by the Department of Ecology to get it cleaned up, Fredrickson said.

White can't help but wonder why transportation officials didn't anticipate the lead contamination and write possible removal into the project budget. The cleanup cost $100,000, Fredrickson said.

That's an amount that could have gone to help the city build a public restroom near the new train platform, White said.

"I've given up on the transportation department as far the restroom goes. The city has the sewer line in there already, so we'll try to get it built," she said. "Not that the city has the money."

Design problems and negotiations with BNSF over the use of the railroad tracks accounted for much of the delay over the past four years since the project was funded, he said.

When completed, the passenger platform will allow Amtrak Cascades trains to stop in Stanwood several times a day. Passengers will buy their tickets online or over the phone and board the train with their reservation information in hand.

The 600-foot-long train-passenger platform includes covered ramps, railings, shelters and seating, with lighting and landscaping.

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