Posts Tagged ‘Oregon Department of Transportation’

FRA Taps Existing Cascade Route in Oregon

May 10, 2021

The Federal Railroad Administration selected the existing Amtrak Cascades route in a Final Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision.

The Oregon Department of Transportation said this makes the agency eligible to pursue grants for route improvements between Eugene and Portland on tracks owned by Union Pacific.

ODOT said that work will be conducted within the existing right-of-way and therefore improvements may be “separated into relatively small, lower-cost elements” so the work may be done “incrementally as funding becomes available.”

Cascades Service to Increase May 24

April 28, 2021

Additional Cascades Service roundtrips are set to begin service May 24.

Amtrak will restore three of four Seattle-Portland roundtrips and both Portland-Eugene roundtrips.

For more than a year the corridor has been limited to a single daily Seattle-Eugene roundtrip.

The trains will use a combination of Talgo Series 8 transets owned by the Oregon Department of Transportation and Amtrak owned Horizon equipment.

An additional full-corridor departure will leave Seattle at 7:25 a.m. and return from Eugene at 4:40 p.m., arriving at 11 p.m.

The new schedule has Train 507 departing Seattle at 6:10 p.m. and its equipment leaving Portland the next day at at noon.

The current schedule has a Talgo departing Seattle (No. 505) at 2:20 p.m. and leaving Eugene the next morning (No. 500) at 5:30 a.m. and arriving in Seattle at 11:50 a.m.

State transportation officials had wanted to shift the departure of No. 500 from Eugene to 8 a.m. but host railroads Union Pacific and BNSF would not allow it, Washington Department of Transportation Communications Manager Janet Matkin told Trains magazine.

Because the U.S.-Canadian border remains closed to non-essential travel, Cascades service between Seattle and Vancouver remains suspended.

At present, Amtrak operates a Thruway bus to Bellingham, Washington.

Washington state transportation officials said one Seattle-Vancouver roundtrip could be restored in July.

An official said Amtrak crews are qualified on the route and if the border opens sooner rail service could resume before July.

No date has yet been given as to when Amtrak will resume using the Point Defiance Bypass south of Tacoma.

Officials are eying late summer or early fall but said it is up to host railroad Sound Transit.

The public transit agency conducted testing on the route earlier this year and has been working through a crew qualification process.

Matkin said the Cascades will continue to operate at 50 percent capacity in compliance with Washington and Oregon’s ‘Ride Safe’ Initiatives.

Limited food and beverage service may begin at the same time or soon after the May 24 schedule expansion.

Thin Hope to Save Talgos From Scrapping

March 5, 2021

The California company that purchased two Talgo trainsets from the Washington Department of Transportation has placed them up for sale, but that offer may not stand for long.

 “It’s a sensitive matter for everyone involved, and it wasn’t supposed to turn into a spectacle,” said Noah McCann of NSM Transportation Company in an interview with Trains magazine.

 “If anyone is interested, they are still available, but they are going to be gone in a matter of two or three days.”

WSDOT sold the trains sets to NSM for $21,000, but the buyer was responsible for the expense of moving them.

“We paid a lot more than that,” McCann said of the purchase price. “After the purchase, we aggressively tried to market them, but Amtrak doesn’t want them.”

The trainsets are the Mt. Baker and Mt. Rainier, which moved from Seattle to Southern California as a special Amtrak move.

The special ran on the schedule of the Coast Starlight on a day the Seattle-Los Angeles train was not scheduled to leave Seattle southbound.

McCann told Trains that if no one buys the Talgos soon after they reach Los Angeles that his company will dismantle them.

“We’re reusing the interior fittings on other projects, but it’s a private job to dismantle them for the State of Washington. In reality, nobody is going to come in to pay to move these things, and they’re getting scrapped,” McCann said.

WSDOT had put the Talgos up for sale last year and rejected bids and requests for a donation of one trainset to a museum.

Trains reported that the Southern Rail Commission had inspected the Talgos to determine if they could be used in a proposed corridor service between New Orleans and Mobile, Alabama.

However, SRC’s Knox Ross said his agency’s delegation was unable to meet with a WSDOT representative for the purpose of getting answers to questions about the equipment.

Ross said a third-party representative sent to meet with the SRC delegation “wouldn’t answer any questions, so we didn’t bid.”

The Mt. Hood and Mt. Olympus have been out of service since July 2020. A third Talgo, the Mt. Adams, was destroyed in a Dec. 18, 2017, derailment of the Amtrak Cascades train.

The Mt. Adams had originally been owned by Amtrak, which later sold it to WSDOT.

Two Talgo trainsets are owned by the Oregon Department of Transportation and continue to operate in Cascades service between Seattle and Eugene, Oregon.

Amtrak owns two Talgo trainsets that have been sitting idle at its Beech Grove shops in Indianapolis.

Three other Talgo trainsets that originally were built for use in Wisconsin corridor service but never operated there remain idle.

Changes Made in Oregon Thruway Bus Schedules

February 23, 2021

The Oregon Department of Transportation’s POINT Amtrak Thruway bus service has changed some of its schedules.

Bus 5504 is now operating 1 hour and 10 minutes earlier, departing Eugene station at 7 a.m.

Bus 5506 is now running 1 hour and 5 minutes earlier, departing Eugene at 1:10 p.m. while Bus 5518 will operate five minutes earlier, departing Eugene at 11:45 am.

Bus 5503 will operate 25 minutes earlier, departing Portland station at noon while Bus 5547will operate 30 minutes earlier, departing Portland at 5 p.m.

Other POINT bus schedules from Portland are unaffected by the changes.

Multi-ride tickets are available for use on both Amtrak Cascades and POINT services between Portland and Eugene.

Oregon POINT Bus Service Resumes Normal Schedule

October 30, 2019

The completion of a construction project involving Interstate 5 has meant that POINT Bus Service is back to normal in Oregon.

The service connects Amtrak trains in the state and had been disrupted by the I-5 work.

In a service advisory, Amtrak said normal schedules resumed on Oct. 28.

For updates or more information on the highway construction on I-5 and impact for travel, visit https://www.oregon.gov/odot/projects/pages/projectdetails.aspx?project=19831

Corvallis Amtrak Shuttle to be Discontinued

August 7, 2019

A shuttle connecting Corvallis, Oregon, with the Amtrak station in Albany, Oregon, is being discontinued, but a bus line linking the two cities will be increased.

The shuttle will operate for the last time on Aug. 19.

It began in August 2017 as a two-year pilot program with funding provided by the Oregon Department of Transportation.

Benton County continued to pay for the shuttle after state funding ended last fall.

County officials have said the fund they were using to pay for the shuttle has run out of money.

Passengers who bought tickets to ride the shuttle beyond Aug. 19 can obtain a refund by emailing help@corvallistoamtrak.com.

The Coast to Valley bus service between Corvallis and Albany will expand to eight trips using money that will become available in October that was part of a $5.3 billion program budget approved by the legislature.

Additional bus service between Corvallis and Albany is provided by the Linn-Benton Loop.

Amtrak Will Match Oregon Grant Bid Effort

August 2, 2019

Amtrak will match a federal grant bid being made by the Oregon Department of Transportation that will be used to improve tracks used by Cascades and Coast Starlight trains.

The passenger carrier will chip in $750,000 toward the project that seeks to reduce delays in the Pacific Northwest Rail Corridor.

Oregon’s share would be $1.6 million of the $7.83 million project.
If the $5 million federal grant is awarded it will be used to rebuild the out of service Oregon City industrial track located between Portland and Salem, Oregon. It will create a 5,000-foot siding.

The first phase of the project would include laying new track and ties, and equipping both ends with power-operated switches and switch heaters.
The second phase will involve laying additional track on an adjacent three-mile section between Oregon City and an existing siding to the south.
This will result in five miles of new double-track section between Portland and Salem.

The track in question is located on a seven-mile stretch of Union Pacific’s Brooklyn Subdivision.

ODOT is seeking a U.S. Department of Transportation’s Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development grants to help fund the work.

Oregon Rail and Public Transit Division Rail Planner Bob Melbo said that under current operations if an Amtrak train is late it must wait at existing passing tracks at Clackamas to the north or Coalca to the south. If a UP freight is already occupying one of those sidings that could further exacerbate the delay.

Melbo says the industrial track was never used as a passing track when Southern Pacific installed centralized traffic control on the line in the 1950s, but converting it to a siding is more cost effective than building a siding elsewhere.

A decision on the grant application is expected later this year.

Some Talgo Equipment to be Removed From Cascades

May 27, 2019

In the wake of a National Transportation Safety Board report on the December 2017 derailment of an Amtrak Cascades train, the Washington State Department of Transportation said it will remove Talgo Series 6 trainsets from service “as soon as possible.”

In a statement, WSDOT said it is working with Amtrak to determine the timing of the equipment removal and equipment replacement.

The NTSB recommended that the Talgo Series 6 equipment be removed from service due to safety issues.

WSDOT said it had planned to remove that equipment from service in the mid 2020s, but the NTSB report has advanced that timetable.

Talgo equipment is used in Cascades service between Eugene, Oregon, and Vancouver, British Columbia. WSDOT and the Oregon Department of Transportation fund that service, which is operated by Amtrak.

In its report about the Dec. 18, 2017, derailment near DuPont, Washington, that left three dead, the NTSB determined that the wheels of the Spanish-built trains became detached during the derailment.

NTSB Investigators described them as “projectiles” that crushed passenger car compartments and highway vehicles.

“Had the rolling assembly not detached we may not have had fatal injuries,” NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt said.

The derailment occurred on a 30-mph curve. Train 501 was en route to Portland, Oregon, from Seattle and entered the curve traveling 78 mph.

It was the first day of operation for Amtrak on the Point Defiance Bypass, which is owned in part by commuter agency Sound Transit.

The NTSB said the lightweight design of the Talgo trains was a factor in the severity of the crash.

Manufacturer Talgo has contended that its equipment is safe and performed as expected.

In announcing the conclusions of its accident investigation report, one NTSB member noted that the Talgo Series 6 equipment was “grandfathered” into safety standards of the Federal Railroad Administration because the equipment couldn’t meet updated crashworthiness standards.

The state of Washington owns two Series 6 trainsets and Amtrak owns two others. Oregon owns two Series 8 Talgo sets.

WSDOT spokeswoman Janet Matkin said the agency will be challenged to find funding to buy new equipment.

However, WSDOT is part of a multi-state compact that is acquiring new single-level cars for use on corridor routes operated by Amtrak.

Matkin noted that her agency is seeking federal funds to purchase new equipment and is awaiting a decision by the FRA on those grant applications.

WSDOT has thus far not taken Talgo up on an offer of 31 cars that would make up two or three trainsets depending on capacity, said Talgo spokeswoman Nora Friend.

Friend said the Series 8 cars were offered to WSDOT at less than that list price. The cars are new, but had originally been built for service in Wisconsin before Gov. Scott Walker canceled a planned rail expansion project.

Friend said Talgo 6 cars have a usable life of 30 years. The Series 6 cars owned by WSDOT and Amtrak are 21 years old and some Series 6 equipment is older and still in operation all over the world.

Sound Transit, which came in for criticism in the NTSB report, said it will hire an outside consultant to review the agency’s safety procedures.

“I completely agree with the NTSB that we have a confusing and troubling regulatory regime here where four different agencies plus BNSF have a very convoluted distribution of roles and responsibilities,” said Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff.

The NTSB had recommended that Sounder Transit undertake a review of its safety certification process “top to bottom, when it comes to our role as a track owner.”

Although Sound owns the track where the Cascades 501 derailment occurred, it doesn’t plan to operate rail service there.

“It was our responsibility to not only determine safety protocols but to oversee that Amtrak implemented all of them,” Rogoff said. “That clearly didn’t happen when it comes to whether Amtrak included curve safety protocols in the general orders to its crews, or verifying the level of training Amtrak provided to its train crews.

Amtrak has yet to resume using the Point Defiance Bypass, which it sought as an alternative to the BNSF route it now uses between Tacoma, Washington, and Portland.

Neither Amtrak, WSDOT, nor Sound Transit have said when Amtrak’s Cascades and Coast Starlight might begin using the Point Defiance route.

WSDOT spokeswoman Matkin said her agency needs time to review the NTSB report in detail.

The agency has said previously it would not permit passenger service to resume on the Point Defiance Bypass until the NTSB report is released and installation of a positive train control system is completed.

The NTSB report said the engineer on Amtrak Cascades 501 said he missed the first trackside sign that a curve was ahead. The report said the engineer’s lack of familiarity with the route played a role in the derailment.

Oregon DOT Seeks Public Comment on Proposal

November 30, 2018

Public comment is being solicited by the Oregon Department of Transportation on a draft environmental impact statement concerning a proposed passenger-rail service expansion between Portland and the Eugene-Springfield area.

Public hearings will be held in December in Oregon City, Albany, Salem and Eugene. Comments can also be posted on the agency’s website through Dec. 18.

The proposal outlines two routes for the 125-mile service.

One alternative is to use the existing Amtrak Cascades route while another route would be established along Interstate 5 between Springfield and Oregon City.

Oregon transportation officials and the Federal Railroad Administration have expressed a preference for the existing Cascades route.

ODOT has been studying ways to improve the frequency, convenience, speed and reliability of intercity passenger-rail service between Portland and Eugene.

Aside from Cascades Service trains, the route also is served by the Seattle-Los Angeles Coast Starlight.

Study Looks at Upgraded Oregon Service

October 28, 2018

A draft environmental impact statement has been released for a proposed expansion of intercity rail passenger service in Oregon between Portland and Eugene.

The study by the Oregon Department of Transportation described two alternatives for the 125-mile service.

One proposal is to follow the existing Amtrak Cascades route while the other envision ns a a new route between Springfield and Oregon City along Interstate 5.

ODOT and the Federal Railroad Administration favor the first option.

Five public hearings are being held this month and in early December on the environmental document.

Following the conclusion of those hearings, ODOT and the FRA will choose a final preferred alternative.