Amtrak Cascades, the Northwest’s intercity passenger rail service, will add two new trips between Seattle and Portland by year’s end, a spokesperson for WSDOT confirmed yesterday. WSDOT officials first unveiled the new timetable (PDF) at a rail advocacy picnic in Lacey on Saturday.
The new trips are being added thanks to $800M in federal stimulus funds, which targeted 20 separate projects along the Vancouver-Seattle-Portland corridor, including congestion improvement, expanded stations, and new Siemens Charger locomotives. Just two projects remain: the Point Defiance Bypass and the Tacoma Trestle, in coordination with Sound Transit. Sound Transit expects the trestle project – which will accommodate another three Sounder trips – to finish “before the end of 2017,” the agency said via email.
WSDOT expects travel times to decrease by 10 minutes per trip, along with much increased reliability. BNSF, which operates the corridor, will be financially incentivized to ensure 88% or better on-time performance. On-time performance has previously been in the 75% range, with some years better than others. Last winter’s performance suffered from a series of mudslides just North of Portland.
The new trains are being scheduled with a running time of 3 hours and 20 minutes, and will depart Seattle at 6:00am and 7:45pm and from Portland at 6:20am and 5:40pm. Factoring in the final 7:25pm departure from PDX, it will be possible to day trip from one city to another and spend 9+ hours in town before heading back. We at STB will continue to light a candle for a 3-hour Seattle-Portland express train.
You can read our full interview with the WSDOT rail team last year to learn more about WSDOT’s plans for the corridor and the efforts to improve the system’s ridership, farebox recovery, and on-time performance.