On Monday, the first Amtrak Cascades run on the new Point Defiance Bypass ended in tragedy. Sadly three passengers lost their lives–including two well-known rail aficionados Zack Willhoite and Jim Hamre–and dozens were injured. Service on Amtrak Cascades continues, albeit with several changes.

A rider alert released yesterday indicates that Amtrak Cascades will operate six daily roundtrips between Portland and Seattle–the new service levels–despite being down a trainset and locomotive. The daily Coast Starlight run will also continue. Amtrak Cascades, fortunately, has enough equipment on hand, but interim service changes along the full Amtrak Cascades corridor are required to make the schedule work:

  • Schedules are generally slightly adjusted upward given that all trains passing between Tacoma and Lacey will operate on the shoreline route instead of inland. This will add at least 10 minutes to trips, though this isn’t necessarily reflected in the updated timetable (see revised schedule). There will likely be occasional reliability challenges for as long as trains operate the shoreline route.
  • Trains 505 and 508 will not operate as through service between Seattle and Eugene. Instead, riders will need to switch to and from trains at Portland. Trains 515 and 510 will operate the segment between Portland and Eugene using supplemental equipment. These supplemental trains for the Eugene trip will not include business class, and food and checked baggage services. Bikes will also not be accommodated. Riders are advised to be aware of platforms that trains will be departing from as they may be different.

Eventually, the Point Defiance Bypass will reopen, but it’s much too soon to know when that might be given the ongoing federal investigation, necessary repairs, and testing that may be required. Positive train control implementation could also end up being a condition for re-opening the bypass. The loss of equipment is likely to impact service for months.

The featured image is courtesy of Washington State Department of Transportation/Amtrak Cascades.

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Stephen is an urban planner with a passion for sustainable, livable, and diverse cities. He is especially interested in how policies, regulations, and programs can promote positive outcomes for communities. Stephen lives in Kenmore and primarily covers land use and transportation issues for The Urbanist.

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FYI, it appears they did not add the 10+ minutes for switching to the old route. I used the new schedule (linked to in the article) to compare with tickets I have for this Saturday and Monday (both southbound, both originating in — or north of — Seattle), and bought weeks ago. Train 505 was originally supposed to get to Centralia at 1:48pm, and now it’s 1:50. Arrival in Olympia for train 517 remains unchanged at 12:45pm. I wonder if they didn’t make notable changes so that they wouldn’t have to contact all passengers and tell them of the new timetable, and instead are just assuming they’ll be late more often.