WASHINGTON ASSOCIATION OF RAIL PASSENGERS
July 12, 2002
Meeting Place: Rodeo City Barbecue, Ellensburg, Washington
OFFICERS AND DIRECTORS PRESENT: Robert Lawrence, Tony Trifiletti, Pat Halstead, Eleanor Stewart, Jim Hamre, Warren Yee, Jim Cusick, Rocky Shay, Noel Hancock, Jim Neal
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: Lloyd Flem
OTHERS: Louis Musso III, Mark Lawrence, Jim Holley, William Neal, Ray Allred, Dale Menchhofer, Robert Boltz, Harry Campbell, Dennie Chelemedos, Zack Willhoite, Bertha Eades, Glenn Eades, Jim McIntosh, Pat McIntosh, Stephanie Weber, Roger Mumm, Rita Neal.
SPECIAL GUESTS: Joe Baucus, Historic Ellensburg; Flo Lentz, Historic Ellensburg; Nick Henderson, Mountainstar Resort; Deborah Seton-Paine, Link Transit; Gary Wievag, Coal Mines Trail Commission.
President Tony Trifiletti called the meeting to order at 1:42PM, following lunch.
Mr. Trifiletti introduced himself, explained WashARP’s purpose, and introduced the special guests.
MOUNTAINSTAR RESORT: Nick Henderson reviewed progress on the resort and showed a map of the project, noting brochures available. He described accommodations, amenities and ownership (Jen-Weld) and partner and former owner (Trendwest). He then described the proposed narrow-gauge railroad from Cle Elum to Roslyn. He said they are working to get Amtrak to restore passenger service to the South line, possibly by moving the Empire Builder. He then showed pictures of some of the resort facilities, saying some will be ready by summer of 2005.
During the question and answer period, Robert Lawrence received clarification on resort property sales and marketing arrangements designed not to hurt downtown Cle Elum. Mr. Allred was told that the resort expects commuters to Seattle, but that some will be telecommuting. Mr. Henderson also reviewed prices and other details, including possible fractional condominiums.
Mr. Willhoite asked about contact with Amtrak and was told the latter needs improvements made on the Stampede Pass line.
Mr. Halstead was told Mountainstar will have 13 hundred employees.
Mr. Yee asked about phases of the Mountainstar project. He expressed concern about moving the Empire Builder, and said at least one member supports the move, but that WashARP has taken no position on the issue yet.
Mr. Henderson then said Mountainstar has worked hard on environmental mitigation.
He also answered a question about air service.
Mr. McIntosh asked about times for the commuter trains and was told that had been studied as part of the high-speed rail proposal for Eastern Washington. But Mr. Henderson had no numbers.
Mr. Trifiletti explained the meaning of "dark" territory, as Stampede Pass is now.
HISTORIC ELLENSBURG: Director Flo Lentz introduced the group’s president, Joe Baucus, and discussed its history and the effort to restore the Ellensburg depot, pointing out a rendering of it. She said Ellensburg’s original depot nearby was razed only recently. She also spoke of the loss of passenger service in Ellensburg nearly 21 years ago and said many are excited about its possible return.
She then reviewed the current deteriorated status of the depot and how Ellensburg failed to get ISTEA money for it. There was a possible TEA 21 grant, but Initiative 695 and changes on the Ellensburg City Council scuttled that. She said that Before Historic Ellensburg got involved, the plan was for an intermodal terminal with a restaurant and offices. The problem has been a lease for the underlying railroad land, but they now have the lease the Department of Transportation required. The next step is for the city to negotiate with the current owner of the depot for a purchase. The city will then turn the lease and depot over to Historic Ellensburg.
Ms. Lentz then offered a tour of the depot after the meeting (many members attended).
During question and answer, Mr. Halstead learned that Historic Ellensburg would like to be in the depot, but much fundraising is still needed. Mr. Hamre asked for and received clarification on the grant. Mr. Mumm said it was lucky the BNSF didn’t want the station moved. Mr. Yee urged care in making a workable deal on a station restaurant.
Mr. Musso then suggested a break.. President Trifiletti agreed and recessed the meeting at 1:20, reconvening it by handclap at 1:33pm.
Mr. Musso then offered a slide presentation on the Coal Mines Trail Commission. He said state representatives invited to the meeting could not attend because of serious campaign challenges.
Mr. Cusick sought clarification on political problems faced by Representatives Mulliken and Holmquist in Grant County, but was told there’s probably no threat to Kittitas County Rail. Mr. Musso said neither would likely support Referendum 51.
Mr. Musso then said most in Kittitas County thought it was impossible to get passenger trains back, until recently. He said groups already mentioned, plus the new Stampede! People for Passenger Rail have joined the cause. He said the goal is not to take the Empire Builder, but to do what’s needed to get passenger service back. He said the Eastside passenger rail study had some helpful numbers, but high-speed rail costs, unlike the Kittitas County Commuter Rail proposal. Buthe said any passenger service would likely have to go all the way to Pasco for operational reasons.
Mr. Musso passed out copies of the Cle Elum Blue Ribbon Committee Passenger Rail Report, showing service both feasible and desirable, and outlining the steps needed. He said the City of Cle Elum Plan endorses the concept, but Cle Elum’s mayor is not convinced.
Mr. Musso then showed a picture of himself, Mr. Vivag, and Governor Locke signing the Passenger Rail District Legislation. He noted the proposed location of the station at the Cle Elum Wye and showed J. Craig Thorpe’s rendition of the proposed station development modeled after the old Lester, WA depot. It also shows the narrow gauge railroad called the Northern Kittitas County Mountainstar and Pacific, based on an 1880’s Northern Pacific marketing concept. But Mr. Musso said there’s a money problem with the conservative local tax base.
He then showed a slide of the old Milwaukee Cle Elum Depot awaiting restoration by Friends of the South Cle Elum Depot.
Mr. Musso said they are ready to put the first rail passenger district on the ballot, hopefully on September 17th. He said it will not have the power to tax, but can issue revenue bonds. Limited levies and matches are also possible.
Questions: Robert Lawrence suggested the depot couldn’t generate enough revenue from trains. Mr. Musso responded that there would be other leases, plus the narrow-gauge trains. Mr. Lawrence also sought and received clarification on how the passenger rail district revenue bonds work. Mr. Musso also said they’d rather not push this during bad Amtrak news and with Referendum 51, which is sure to fail in Kittitas County.
Mr. Neal sought and received more information on the proposed commuter rail service. He was told a 50 thousand dollar study, and an operating plan, are still needed.
Rita Neal received details on how the commuter trains will fit into the whole picture.
Mr. Menchhofer learned that the rail district could operate trains in King County with King County’s permission, and the county has indicated it would grant permission.
Mr. Willhoite sought more on the commuter trains terminating in Auburn. Mr. Musso was unsure of details, but said Auburn offers connections both North and Southbound.
Bertha Eades sought and received information about conventional equipment vs. Talgos. Mr. Musso said old RDC’s might be usable. He also mentioned consistency of rail service over driving.
Mr. Mumm recommended a wider, 3-foot narrow gauge railroad, but was told there isn’t room for it.
Mr. Musso then denied rumors that Greyhound has suspended its Cle Elum stops and that Stampede Pass has been closed again, but is not for sale.
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR’S REPORT: Lloyd Flem introduced himself and spoke of WashARP’s role in the passenger district legislation. He said we must have public sector funding for passenger service to Eastern Washington, so WashARP has endorsed Referendum 51. He said it must pass to keep the rail passenger program from shrinking. He suggested writing Central Washington Congressman Doc Hastings.
He said WashARP has been working to save passenger rail and Amtrak, for Amtrak to keep former Amtrak West CEO Gil Mallery, and to keep West Coast trains intact.
Besides working on Referendum 51, he is helping host 31 guests from Virginia who want to model Washington’s corridor project. He mentioned WashARP’s "Praise and Push" motto.
He thin mentioned urging Amtrak Government Affairs Consultant Tim Gillespie to pay attention to the West Coast states, who, after all, own most of their own trains. He also praised a new rail person at the Senate Transportation Committee, and said he will write State Republican Chairman Chris Vance soon, praising him for at least keeping the GOP neutral on Referendum 51, but wondering why the party wants to convert the Department of Transportation back to a Department of Highways. He said he would show Mr. Vance literature from fellow conservatives Paul Weyrich and William Lind on rail.
Mr. Flem then said he had just learned that new Amtrak President David Gunn had decided to keep Gil Mallery as an acting government affairs and planning vice president for all of Amtrak.
He then said Tim Gillespie is cautiously optimistic about the situation in DC and expects a re-working of the system and its funding with a federal commitment to corridors & possibly long-distance trains, since Amtrak has been inflating losses on the latter, and since most of Congress now sees the current funding policy as grossly unfair.
He also said editorial comment has been running 80 yes 2 no on trains, with almost no one saying "kill the trains".
Mr. Flem then reminded people to take blue packets on Referendum 51 with project lists, including rail projects, because only a weaker package can follow if this fails.
He gave a number of driving statistics, which make Referendum 51 seem more reasonable. He said railroads are far worse off than drivers.
Mr. Allred passed out the R-51 packets.
There were no questions.
CLOSING REMARKS: Mr. Trifiletti pointed out WashARP’s fundraising railroad hats. He thanked all for coming and added a reminder about the upcoming annual picnic meeting August 10th in Puyallup.
President Trifiletti adjourned the meeting at 3:02pm
Mr. Chelemedos then suggested we send a condolence letter on the death of member Rick Carlson.
Rocky Shay, Secretary
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