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Byway jeopardizes Amtrak’s depot use

New stop location possible for Empire Builder

SANDPOINT – Construction of the Sand Creek Byway here could cause Amtrak to stop using the historic Sandpoint depot as a stop on the Empire Builder passenger route, a company spokesman said.

“No decisions have been made and we’re still looking at our options,” Marc Magliari said.

He said the company is concerned about parking and access with the rerouting of U.S. Highway 95. “Certainly, the access to the station and its parking are issues that we’re working through,” Magliari said. “That’s why there’s been some discussion of relocation, but there is no decision about relocating from this station at this time.”

One alternative, Magliari said, would be moving the train stop elsewhere in the Sandpoint area and restoring a train route called the North Coast Hiawatha.

“We’re going to study and produce a report that looks at the possibilities, and the costs and opportunities of restoring the North Coast Hiawatha service,” he said.

Idaho Transportation Department spokeswoman Barbara Babic said the agency is building a paved road to the depot and has paid to shore up the 93-year-old structure. “What we’re putting in is far better than what’s there now,” Babic said.

Aric Spence, who has started a Web site to support the historic landmark, serves as chairman of the Sandpoint Historic Preservation Commission’s depot subcommittee. “I’m still hoping to convince them not to abandon it,” he said.

The depot was built in 1916 for the Northern Pacific Railroad and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. It is now owned by BNSF Railway and used as a stop for the Empire Builder, which runs between Chicago and Seattle.

Sandpoint Mayor Gretchen Hellar said if the city were to somehow end up with the historic depot, it’s unclear how it would pay for renovations and upkeep. “To make a decision now would almost be irresponsible, but it would not be irresponsible to try and find out as much information as we can,” she said.

 

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