GPS on the Cascades by Brian Bundridge
GPS on the Cascades by Brian Bundridge

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.

22 Replies to “Amtrak Cascades News-Roundup”

  1. August 17th! Woohoo, can’t wait to try it out. Glad that the talgo trains will be back in service as I’ve only ever ridden on the Superliner equipment to Seattle.

  2. I too am glad the Talgo train is coming back. Now if only they would bring back the pumpkin cream cheese french toast. Yummy.

  3. also, it should be “there are a lot of reasons…”

    but whose keeping track?

  4. This actually turns out great for Seattlites as well as Vancouverites. Instead of having to get up at 5am to get to the train station for a weekend in Vancouver, now you can take the late train up and have a nice dinner (well, nice might be too kind in the bistro car) and a drink on the way up and go directly to your hotel instead of waiting to check in like you do now when your train arrives.

    Selfishly, it also works out well for Thunderbird fans as before this train, you wouldn’t be able to get back into town for a home game that inevitably followed a game in Vancouver.

    1. Get Carryout then. The Bistro Car ROCKS for being what it is compared to other Amtrak Lounges.

  5. I read recently that new Amtrak coach yard will no longer be paid for by ARRA (stimulus) funds. I understand they are simply reprogramming funds.

    Also, for the record, the odor control project just south of King Street Station is a King County project, not City of Seattle.

  6. To add to the news a bit, WSDOT rail office finished their High Speed Rail application July 10th, and raised the ante from just under a Billion to somewhere aroung 1.2 Bil. As other states race to meet the 1st tier submission deadline, it will be interessing to see what the total request for ‘shovel ready’ funding will be (I’m guessing about 30 Bil).
    I’ll try to post a link to the actual request when it’s released next week.

  7. Why are the opening light rail hours so short? 10 – 8pm on saturday and 10 – 6pm on sunday??

  8. On the topic of Amtrak Cascades trains, on Thursday 10th I was headed home on I-5. Just north of Albany, OR, I saw a southbound Cascades train. Anybody have any idea where it was headed, and why? I’m pretty sure it was one of the Talgos…

    Also, throughout all of Oregon, I kept leap-frogging a new Whatcom Transit Authority bus headed toward Bellingham, but that’s a question for a different forum, I’m sure!

  9. All great news. And we can hope that the Canadian federal government changes and stops asking for extortion money at the border before next year. :-P

    Now, how about the Point Defiance Bypass?….

    1. This is a ‘top of the list’ project for WSDOT, for their portion. Funds should flow from ARRA late this year.
      ST is funding other portions of the route, and all should complete in 2-3 years (we can hope).

  10. The battle for HSR funding is hotly contested, why not increase the dollars to around $16 billion dollars to get a majority of this off the ground?

  11. All great Cascades news! I actually moved to Seattle this morning. My Alaska Airlines flight landed from the north, and from the air I was able to track the 2:20 Southbound Cascades train through SODO. Quite elegant. I will be moving again to Vancouver BC in January. So I have two Cascades-related questions…

    (1. Does anyone know why 10-ride tickets aren’t available to Vancouver? Or for that matter, from Seattle-Portland? I tried and was only able to get minor-city combinations…such as Seattle-Bellingham.

    (2. Does anyone have experience with Amtrak Express shipping? I have about 20 boxes still in Denver and would love to give Amtrak the money rather than UPS or Fedex. Are they reliable? Competitive? Would they accept boxes for the Zephyr/Starlight combination that would require?

    This new Seattle-ite would be grateful for you replies!

    1. Yes, welcome to Seattle! Nice time of the year to arrive but then we can usually find something good whatever the year!


      1. Something always good to find is the craft beer! I’m glad that someone gave the CBSA idiots a kick in the backside. They better not get back to their old antics after the Olympics.

        Looking forward to taking the train south on my beer travels, instead of driving. It would be sweet if Amtrak came up with a West Coast Craft Beer rail package and served great brews in the dining car.

  12. Great post on Amtrak as always, Brian. I hope you noted but in the Seattle Times travel section yesterday, it was noted that pressure from train fans and officials on both sides of the border helped to get us the second train to Vancouver. If so, I guess we can give ourselves a pat on the back. Am looking forward to the second train and intend to book for the art exhibition in Vancouver on Rembrandt and celebrate by being able to take the train up and down in one day if I can.

    They seem to be working on the tower windows at King Street Station but the work elsewhere on the exterior seems endless doesn’t it. First completion estimates were for March and then for June and now September! Still if they have to wait for the odor control facility to be completed – in itself months late – they might as well keep on cleaning the brick work. Brian, do you know when the clocks will be turned on? Either way, get down and see the old station as it looks magnificent and when you are wandering around Quest Field this Saturday, waiting for the Sounders game and for Light Rail, spare a look at King Street as it will really fill you with a sense of pride in our city. This important gateway is looking magnificent once again.


  13. I am a huge fan of the Cascades 516; direct from Olympia to Vancouver, B.C. is, in my book, the only way to go. Alas, while attempting to book more trips online, route 516 is no longer available after the first week in April.

    Late last summer the Seattle Times reported this route was a “pilot” from August ’09 until after the Olympics/Paralympics. However WSDOT and Amtrak reports show ridership has greatly exceeded expectations.

    Is it really coming to an end so soon? Any hope of a different outcome?

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