Washington State DOT outlines possibilities for expansion of Amtrak Cascades service – Trains


Comments sought through April 18 on Preliminary Service Development Plan

An Amtrak Cascades train approaches the Chambers Bay bridge in Steilacoom, Wash., on June 26, 2018, prior to the shift to the inland Point Defiance Bypass. A Washington State Department of Transportation report on expansion of Cascades service includes options for up to 16 daily round trips between Seattle and Portland,  Ore. David Lassen

OLYMPIA, Wash. — A public comment period concludes April 18 on Washington State Department of Transportation proposals to increase Amtrak Cascades service over the next 20 years to as many as 16 daily round trips between Seattle and Portland, and six between Seattle and Vancouver, British Columbia.

The 46-page Preliminary Service Development Plan for the Cascades offers five different scenarios to increase service from the baseline of two Seattle-Vancouver and six Seattle-Portland round trips. Variants include the number of daily trains; bus service between Bellingham, Wash., and Vancouver for some trips; some limited-stop or express trains; and infrastructure upgrades that would allow top speeds of 90 mph. The options carry projected annual ridership by 2045 ranging from 1.3 million (the baseline option) to 3.2 million (the maximum service, with 90-mph operation):

Table showing five sets of options for increases in Amtrak Cascades service between Vancouver, B.C., and Portland, Ore.
“Limited trips” refers to trains making intermediate stops only in Tacoma and Vancouver, Wash.; “Express trips” would be nonstop between Seattle and Portland or Seattle and Vancouver, B.C. Washington State Department of Transportation.

The report notes that the 16-trip option between Seattle and Portland would best meet projected demand, but that “a better understanding of the capital investments and operating expenses” is needed. It also explains the Bellingham-Vancouver bus service is a consideration “without support from Canadian partners” for infrastructure improvements. WSDOT will map out a full Service Development Plan to address these and other questions using the $500,000 grant from the Federal Railroad Administration awarded under the FRA’s Corridor Identification and Development Program in December [see “Full list of passenger routes in FRA Corridor program …,” Trains News Wire, Dec. 8, 2023].

The report identifies a total of 18 potential infrastructure improvements, not including those in Canada, that would be required for full expansion of service. Five are north of Seattle and 13 between Seattle and Portland. They include extension of double or triple track at seven locations and addition or extension of sidings at seven others. At least 12 would be necessary for even the most modest expansion plan. The report offers no cost estimates for these projects, noting no engineering analysis for them  has been performed. It also notes the various options would require six to 11 additional trainsets.

Additional information on the development of the plan, and a link to comment forms, are available at this page on the WSDOT website.

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