Restoring Cascades Service Levels

All Aboard Washington urges WSDOT, Amtrak, and ODOT to replace the trainset lost in the Cascades 501 accident and to restart service on the Point Defiance Bypass at the December 2017 planned running time and frequency of service, as soon as possible.

As a consumer-oriented passenger rail advocacy group, our goal is to make passenger rail service safer, more comfortable, more reliable, higher-speed, and more frequent. AAWA supports continued investment in Cascades service because it is something that travelers across the Pacific Northwest want.

Almost two years after the Cascades 501 derailment, these service improvements have not yet happened. Our colleagues Jim Hamre and Zack Wilhoite, who we lost in the derailment, would recognize the need to make appropriate safety improvements. But they would also push for improved Amtrak Cascades service without further delay.

The need for fast, frequent, and reliable passenger rail service has never been more urgent. The traveling public wants a convenient, environmentally-friendly service that is safer than driving. With the right service improvements, the Cascades can meet this demand. But additional daily Cascades trains, with shorter running times between Seattle and Portland, cannot be implemented until the Bypass is in use.

Of course, safety comes first. Our understanding is that the National Transportation Safety Board’s recommendations of Positive Train Control, better signage, and better crew training have been implemented. We therefore feel that the Bypass route is ready for use and should be reactivated.

As taxpayers and consumers, we feel that our tax dollars are best spent building fast, reliable and frequent passenger rail service. We believe that further postponing Cascades service on the Point Defiance Bypass - for which we have already paid $181 million - is detrimental to the interests of the Puget Sound region, the Pacific Northwest, and the traveling public as a whole. The taxpayers of Washington state have invested a significant sum of money to improve a useful service along a busy corridor. Let’s make that improved service a reality without delay.

Published December 12, 2019