Posts Tagged ‘Washington State’

Group Critical of Washington E-W Service Study

July 11, 2020

A study recently completed in Washington State concluded that a proposed east-west passenger service would have low ridership, but a rail passenger advocacy group said the study’s own estimates do not bear that out.

All Aboard Washington said the study’s conclusion was based on misleading comparisons, questionable assumptions on competitiveness with other modes, and an incomplete assessment of how variables such as traveler preferences, additional frequencies, and local funding sources might change the results.

The study projected annual ridership of 205,000 for twice daily service between Seattle and Spokane, Washington.

The low ridership conclusion was based on comparing this projection with annual ridership of Amtrak Cascades Service in the Pacific Northwest and Amtrak service in North Carolina.

However, AAW noted that those corridors before the COVID-19 pandemic offered higher levels of service than twice daily.

AAW said given the low population density in Washington State the east-west service would do well and could do better with a higher level of service than twice daily.

Jury Awards Man $10M in Cascades Crash

February 14, 2020

A Washington State man was awarded more than $10 million this week by a jury for injuries he suffered in a December 2017 derailment of an Amtrak Cascades train.

Donnell Linton, 47 of Renton, was a passenger aboard the train, which derailed and crashed onto an interstate highway below in an accident that left three dead and dozens injured.

The jurors returned the verdict in U.S. District Court in Tacoma. Linton is the second plaintiff to win damages from Amtrak in connection with the derailment.

Linton’s attorneys said he suffered fractures to his face, shoulder and ribs and is still receiving medical treatment.

He was traveling with his now 14-uyear-old son, who suffered some facial fractures.

An attorney said the elder Linton and his son were thrown from the train and landed on the highway.

Lawyers say other personal injury cases in connection with the derailment are pending while some cases have been settled out of court.

Funding OKed for Washington Passenger Study

June 10, 2019

The Washington state legislature has approved funding for a study of a cross-stand passenger train route.

The $250,000 study will look at using the former Northern Pacific line over Stampede Pass for the Seattle-Spokane, Washington train.

The route would pass through Yakima Auburn, Cle Elu, Ellensburg, Toppenish, and the Tri-Cities.

The study is due to be finished in June 2020 and will focus on potential ridership, station locations, equipment needs, and operator options. However, Amtrak is expected to operate the trains.

The route, if developed would be funded by the state in the same manner as those of other Amtrak corridor operations.

Amtrak’s Empire Builder currently operates between Seattle and Spokane via Stevens Pass.

The legislature also agreed to spend $671,000 for “continued analysis of the ultra-high-speed ground transportation corridor in a new study, with participation from Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia.

Some funding for that study is expected to come from other sources, including computer software developer Microsoft.

Washington to Study Cross-State Service

May 9, 2019

The transportation budget for Washington State includes an authorization to conduct a study of cross-state rail passenger service.

The proposed service would link Seattle and Spokane, Washington, via Ellensburg and Yakima.

The report is due by June 2020 and will evaluate route options, potential ridership, equipment needs, and operator options.

The study was pushed by All Aboard Washington, which had sought but failed to win authorization of the study last year. The study is expected to cost $250,000.

Neither Ellensburg or Yakima is currently served by Amtrak although they’ve had service in past year from either the Empire Builder or the discontinued North Coast Hiawatha.

Tailing Off Into Infinity

February 5, 2019

The Railroad Passengers Association has been running a photo competition titled #ViewsOnATrain. It’s purpose is to publicize what passengers would see out the window of an Amtrak train.

I haven’t entered the contest although I’ve thought about it. I’ve made dozens of views from inside of Amtrak trains over the years.

It can be challenge because the windows are tinted and often dirty from having traveled hundreds of miles.

I would also have a tough time picking out which photos I would want to enter in the contest.

This image, though, is one of my favorites. It was made from my sleeping compartment aboard the westbound Empire Builder as it traveled through  eastern Washington state on a Saturday morning.

I have no idea what road this is, where it goes or where I was when I made the image,

But it summarizes my conception of travel as a journey along an endless road to a destination unknown. Who knows what you might find there?

Ballot Measure Threatens Cascades Service

January 17, 2019

A referendum before Washington state voters this November could endanger the future of Amtrak’s Cascades Service.

The ballot issue asks voters whether to cap the vehicle licensing fee at $30.

Writing on website of the Rail Passengers Association, Abe Zumwalt said that if approved the measure would bring the state’s transportation network to a standstill because most transit operations are funded from vehicle licensing fees.

The initiative is being spearheaded by Tim Eyman and is the sixth attempt to end vehicle fees as a source of funding public transportation.

Zumwalt described Eyman as “a hired gun able to gather signatures and get issues on the ballot within the state, usually with a focus on cutting taxes, especially cuts that target transit funding.”

An attempt approved in 1999 was invalidated as unconstitutional by the Washington Supreme Court.

Zumwalt said that if approved the initiative would “kick the legs out of Amtrak Cascades service.”

All Aboard Washington has launched a campaign to counter the proponent of the imitative.

Point Defiance PTC Testing Begins

September 17, 2018

Testing began last weekend of the positive train control system on the Point Defiance Bypass in Washington State.

The route is used by commuter trains serving Seattle-Tacoma and is expected to be used by Amtrak starting next spring.

Amtrak began using the line last December but on the first day of operation a southbound Cascades train derailed near DuPont, Washington, killing three passengers.

Investigators have said the train was speeding as it entered a curve.

Amtrak officials subsequently said the carrier would use its original route between Tacoma and Nisqually, Washington, until the PTC system had been placed in service.

Washington Eyes Canadian Fund for High-Speed Route

January 8, 2018

A new $35 billion Canadian infrastructure bank might be used to help develop a high-speed ground transportation route between Seattle and Vancouver, British Columbia.

The fund was established to develop economic growth within Canada by using public funds to attract private investment for major infrastructure projects, such as bridges, transit systems and rail lines, as well as cross-border projects.

Washington state governor Jay Inslee wants to study the possibility of using the bank, saying that,“The CIB, once fully operational, could provide a potential key source to finance major infrastructure projects such as the UHSGT project.”

A report issued by Washington state said the HSR project could satisfy the CIB’s financial and commercial requirements, such as generating revenue.

The proposed line could extend southward to Portland, Oregon, and feature trains traveling at speeds of up to 250 mph.

The estimated cost of the line is between $24 billion and $42 billion. The technology used could be high-speed rail, magnetic-levitation rail or a hyperloop.

Investigators Eye Whether Cascades Engineer Was Distracted Just Before Derailment that Killed 3

December 20, 2017

The engineer of an Amtrak Cascades Service train that derailed on Monday near Olympia, Washington, may have been distracted shortly before that accident that left three passengers dead.

Federal investigators have said the train was traveling 80 mph in a 30 mph zone and left the tracks where the route curves to cross Interstate 5.

The distraction may have been caused by the presence of an employee in the lead locomotive who was being trained.

Investigators are focusing on why the engineer lost situational awareness.

National Transportation Safety Board member Bella Dinh-Zarr said that the train’s emergency brakes were activated automatically and not manually set off by the engineer

Dihn-Zarr said that skid marks from the train’s wheels show where it left the tracks.

However, Dinh-Zarr said investigators still have not concluded why the train derailed or why it was going too fast.

Investigators plan to interview the engineer and other crew members as well as review the event data record from the lead locomotive and an engine on the rear of the train. They also will seek to get images from two on-board cameras that were damaged in the crash.

The second person in the cab of the Charger locomotive was described as a conductor trainee making a trip to become familiar with the route.

Cascades Service No. 501 was making Amtrak’s first revenue service trip over the Point Defiance Bypass.

Officials have not identified the engineer, but he was bleeding from the head after the crash and his eyes were swollen shut.

No. 501, which was traveling from Seattle to Portland, Oregon, had 85 passengers and crew members aboard at the time of the crash. More than 70 people were injured in the derailment of which 35 were hospitalized, 21 of them in critical or serious condition.

Dinh-Zarr said Amtrak crew members had been making test runs over the route for two weeks before scheduled service on it began. The route is owned by Sound Transit and had recently been rebuilt.

Two of the victims were identified as passenger rail advocates Jim Hamre, a retired civil engineer with the Washington State Transportation Department; and Zack Willhoite, a transit agency customer service employee. Both were members of All Aboard Washington.

In the meantime, Amtrak has resumed operating between Seattle and Portland over its previous route.

Cascades No. 502, the morning run from Portland to Seattle, was canceled but trains were to run as scheduled.

It is now known how long it will be before Amtrak can resume using the Port Definance Bypass. In the interim, Amtrak will also use is former station in Tacoma at 1001 Puyallup Ave.

Changes Coming to I-5 Rail Corridor

November 10, 2017

Amtrak will begin using a new station in Tacoma, Washington, that is located in a former Milwaukee Road freight house.

It is one of many changes in the Interstate 5 corridor between Seattle and Portland, Oregon, including the $181.2 million dollar Point Defiance Bypass Route south of Tacoma.

The latter includes 14.5 miles of upgraded tracks between Tacoma and Nisqually, Washington, where the bypass will rejoin the mainline to Portland.

A portion of the upgraded route has its original alignment on former Northern Pacific rails south of the Tacoma Amtrak depot where the tracks climb a 2.85-percent grade to South Tacoma.

Passenger trains are being moved away from the more scenic route along Puget Sound due to freight congestion, tight curvature and a single-track tunnel under Point Defiance. The track was also subject to mudslides.

The new route is also expected to be 10 minutes faster or Amtrak.

Once an additional daily Cascades round-trip in the morning and the evening between Seattle and Portland is launched, Amtrak will have 14 trains in the corridor, including the Seattle-Los Angeles Coast Starlight.

There will be 16 Sounder commuter trains north of Lakewood, Washington, is 16 daily trains which will result in 30 daily passenger trains on the new single track line. The new route is slated to reduce Amtrak passenger times by 10 minutes.