Amtrak Cascades from Seattle to Vancouver, British Columbia, postponed for another semester
Amtrak will postpone the restoration of its Cascades passenger train service between Seattle and Vancouver, British Columbia, until a target date of December because the national railroad is understaffed.
The service gap occurred despite the Biden administration’s high-profile $66 billion allocated in the Infrastructure Investment and Employment Act to catch up on maintenance and expand Amtrak service to new cities, including Las Vegas, Phoenix, Columbus and Nashville.
Washington state transportation officials hoped to have trains running again by summer or even late spring, said Janet Matkin, railroad spokeswoman for the Washington State Department of Transportation. , who announced the disappointing news on Friday afternoon.
Amtrak does not yet have enough conductors, mechanics and on-board service personnel to operate the trains, although new classes of conductors are being trained, a letter to railroad managers in Washington and D.C. said. of Oregon Ray Lang, Vice President of Amtrak. Lang notes that each region wants full service.
About 159,000 people a year rode between Seattle and Vancouver, B.C., before the pandemic, or 290,000 including train stations between major cities, Matkin said. Passenger fares traditionally cover about two-thirds of operating costs, while states cover the rest.
“Amtrak’s lack of support for the Amtrak Cascades service cannot continue and Amtrak’s plans to delay the restart of Canadian service for seven months or more are not acceptable to WSDOT and ODOT,” says an answer co-signed by WSDOT Secretary Roger Millar and Oregon Transportation Director Kris Strickler, who suggest at least partial service in the interim. “However, states cannot agree to Amtrak’s plan to provide no service.”
State managers argue that Amtrak is not honoring its Cascades service agreement, in an effort to support its longer interstate routes.
Later this month, the Empire Builder will upgrade from five days a week to a full seven-day service, Montana news outlets report.
It’s been nearly a year since Amtrak President Stephen Gardner visited King Street Station, accompanied by U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash., to celebrate the return of long-distance Coast Starlight trains to the California and Empire Builder to Spokane and Chicago. Gardner pointed to a federal injection of $1.7 billion to recall 1,200 furloughed workers. Larsen staff and Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., a leading railroad project advocate, could not immediately be reached for a response.
To reopen the Cascades line to Canada, Amtrak needs three additional drivers, who need six to 12 months to get promoted to assistant driver, Lang wrote. The driver is responsible for the welfare of passengers, train equipment and connections, and warns the engineer of dangers on the ground.
On Friday, the WSDOT’s Amtrak Cascades website said Amtrak had not yet committed to a reopening date and Cantrail-recommended bus service. Meanwhile, The Amtrak timetable page further says, “Rail service in Canada will reopen when the border reopens.”
Currently, three Cascades trains each way run daily between Seattle and Oregon, as well as one Coast Starlight train each way.
Amtrak is currently advertising 18 jobs in Seattlesuch as coach cleaners, chefs and electricians, among nearly 450 open positions nationwide.
Washington state lawmakers approved $150 million this year study and plan a high-speed train between British Columbia, Washington and Oregon, possibly replacing Amtrak one day. But such a vision is estimated to take at least $42 billion and decades to build.