There is a lot of reasons to be excited if your an Amtrak Cascades customer. Several key improvements have been completed and announced this past week. The heated debate over the second Amtrak Cascades train to Vancouver BC has been temporarily settled and will start service August 17, 2009, at least that is what is notated in the Amtrak system. This will be an extension (not a new service as the CSBA likes to think it is…) of the existing Amtrak Trains #513/516 which currently terminates in Bellingham. The Northbound train will arrive after 10pm and the Southbound will depart around 6am.
This will be the first Portland to Vancouver BC train for the Cascades system with the full journey taking slightly over 8 hours with a 15 minute layover in Seattle either direction for crew change. If the Federal Stimulus funding is allocated this run will be completed in less than 6 hours.
Starting July 25, 2009, the Talgo will also return to Amtrak Trains #510/517. These trains have been substituted for nearly 3 years as trains are going through their mid-life refurbishment. These included new paint, new leather seating in coach and business class, new A/V systems, improved air brake system, improved restrooms, and minor changes to the Bistro car. The Superliner coaches in use now will be returned to Amtrak and used elsewhere in the system.
The BNSF Commuter Construction crews are nearly finished with the Interbay rail yard project. This project when completed will fully double track the corridor between Pier 70 in Downtown Seattle to North Magnolia, near the Ballard Bridge. This will bridge the gap of single track along the Amtrak and Sounder corridors to just 2.7 miles of remaining single track. Those locations are Edmonds and Mukilteo.
The new Blaine Customs Facility has started construction. This facility will add 2 to 3 new tracks which will end the common 30 to 70 minute waits for passenger trains at the border. This is expected to be completed April 2010.
In Everett, the new PA Jct realignment and new yard tracks have also entered the construction phase. This project when it is completed also in April 2010 will shave almost 6 minutes off the schedule, raising the speed from 10mph to 60mph.
Stanwood Station and the siding extension is moving along swiftly and is on schedule to open in November 2009. BNSF however is short $1 million dollars to extend Mt. Vernon siding which is a prerequisite for stopping at Stanwood Station.
Currently, there is no estimated time for construction for the new Amtrak Coach Yard in Seattle but I have tentatively heard December 2009 start and completion in March 2011.
King Street Station exterior is about 90% complete with brick clean up and more clock work to finish up. The project is slated to be completed in September 2009. Interior work can not start until the City of Seattle completes the sewer treatment facility next door to KSS.