Graphic by WSDOT

Amtrak Cascades service between Seattle and Portland has been canceled until Thursday October 6th due to an early season mudslide at Titlow Beach near the Tacoma Narrows.  Buses will transport passengers between Seattle and Portland.

  • Trains 501, 506 and 508 are canceled.
  • Trains 500, 504, 507, and 509 will continue to run between Eugene and Portland.
  • Trains 510, 513, 516, and 517 will continue to run between Seattle and Vancouver BC.
  • Trains 11 and 14, the Coast Starlight, will run Portland-Los Angeles.

WSDOT recently received an additional $31 million for mudslide mitigation and weather-related track improvements, and with another La Niña likely let’s hope the funds are quickly put to use.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, freight service resumed on the other mainline track 30 minutes after the mudslide.  The 48-hour rule – declaring an automatic passenger moratorium in the event of mudslides – is far too rigid.  WSDOT, Amtrak, and BNSF need to institute a case-by-case procedure for track closure flexible enough to handle diverse situations while maximizing passenger train availability.

16 Replies to “Let Mudslide Season Begin!”

  1. I agree. WDSOT, Amtrak, BNSF and need a more flexible rule. Is this a FRA requirement? You cannot tell me that BNSF with millions at stake with a possible derailment would risk running a train past a previous mudslide, unless they believed it was safe.

    1. BNSF runs their first freight trains through the area past at walking speed. Then they gradually speed up the trains over the next 48 hours, increasing the vibrations with each successive train, and observe the slope to see if anything looks to be shaking loose.

      They’re not just immediately ripping through there at full speed. They play it very conservatively.

      1. “Then they gradually speed up the trains over the next 48 hours, increasing the vibrations with each successive train, and observe the slope to see if anything looks to be shaking loose.”

        Amtrak Cascades is only a fraction of the weight of a fright train.

    2. This is not an FRA requirement.

      Other operators run passenger trains through as soon as the first test train has run successfully — but at very slow speeds for a while, just like the freight train running described above. So be aware that if they got Sounder up and running quicker, *it would be running late* for the first 24 hours at least, even if BNSF had a more “passenger-friendly” policy.

      I wonder if Sound Transit may prefer to cancel runs rather than having them run late.

      1. Rrrgh, I was of course thinking of Seattle-Edmonds :-)

        Amtrak Cascades? I can’t possibly believe they’d prefer to cancel than to run late on intercity runs. I hope they manage to negotiate a more sensible deal with BNSF eventually.

  2. @ Dan Carey You cannot tell me that BNSF with millions at stake with a possible derailment would risk running a train past a previous mudslide, unless they believed it was safe

    Freight they run past, at reduced speeds, as soon as the slide is cleared. It’s the liability factor. Put mud down on a train of freight cars, and it’s the cost of clean-up (if no HazMat is involved).

    Same slide happens to a passenger train, and 250 people are potential casualties.

    BNSF’s is a simple, easy rule for them to deal with. There was some talk about WSDOT giving them some geo-technical help, to evaluate the severity of the slides, but I haven’t heard what came of that.

    It probably has to do with all the lawyers that tumble out of the mud.

  3. Apparantly from the photo i saw the slide was pretty much right under the narrows bridge. Applying the same logic, we should shut the narrows bridges down for 48 hours incase they were undermined in the slide.

    1. Logic! Do you have any idea of the bridges engineering? In six decades the bridge has never been affected by a mudslide. Galloping Gertie by wind yes (the replacement bridge uses the same anchors) but mudslides are about as relevant as sun spots.

  4. I hope they are concentrating those mitigation funds on the Seattle-Everett leg, as well as the other non-Port Defiance locations. With that part of the route going away soon, and the BNSF able to handle freight across slide areas so easily, the money should go to the areas where Amtrak and Sounder will be most helped in the long term.

    1. Agreed. There should be no passenger rail funds spent on mitigation at this site. Let BNSF pay for it if it’s important to them.

      And get the Point Defiance bypass built ASAP.

    2. I believe some of the mitigation funds are actually already going to Kelso-Vancouver, WA. I haven’t heard of any of them being spent in the Pt. Defiance area.

    3. I am the communications manager for rail capital projects in WSDOT’s rail office. Recurring mudslides in mostly the northern portion of the corridor prompted the Federal Railroad Administration and WSDOT to dedicate $16.1 million in federal high speed rail funds to identify slope stabilization needs. WSDOT and BNSF will work together surveying problem areas and determining appropriate repair solutions in order to reduce mudslide delays. Work is expected to begin in 2012.

      1. High speed rail funds being gobbled up in studying something that has one last mitigation option , rebuild the line out of the slide zone. Unless they plan building retaining walls along the entire length, this is an annual exercise…

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