SANDPOINT — The city has officially endorsed an agreement that could put the historic Sandpoint train depot back in business.
At Wednesday’s council meeting, members approved a letter of agreement between Amtrak and Burlington Northern-Sante Fe Railway Company over the restoration of the depot. While the agreement is still in draft form according to city attorney Scot Campbell, its approval by City Council members is a step in the right direction toward a re-opened and functioning train depot.
Idaho Transportation Department originally supplied $921,664 to Burlington Northern to replace the depot as part of an obligation to keep a regional stop open for Amtrak’s use, according to city engineer Kody Van Dyk. Given the Sandpoint Depot’s dilapidated and inoperable condition and complications from the presence of the Byway, Amtrak officials had resolved to abandon the structure and set up shop elsewhere. Thanks to some persistence from some Sandpoint officials — including an especially diligent effort from Councilwoman Carrie Logan — Amtrak officials were convinced to change their plans and retain the depot’s use.
“Councilwoman Logan deserves applause for all her hard work,” Mayor Marsha Ogilvie said. Meeting attendees were happy to act upon the suggestion.
According to the agreement between the involved organizations, Burlington Northern will transfer the ITD funds to Amtrak. At that point, the two entities will amend their lease agreements to affect the building, existing platform and a space allotted for a new platform.
With all the legalities accounted for, Amtrak can then begin work, which may include renovations to the existing building and construction of a new platform, parking facilities and other passenger rail improvements. In respect to the new platform, money for its reconstruction will come from federal ADA funds, Van Dyk said.
Councilman Aaron Qualls also suggested that the time was right to improve pedestrian way-finding, given the train fatality that occurred in late December. Amtrak director of government affairs Robert Eaton replied that way-finding signs are available to the city free of charge.
“I think that part of the problem that led to that tragedy was the poor way-finding and pedestrian route that led up to the depot,” Qualls said.