April 18, 2024

AAWA Supports Expanding Amtrak Cascades Services, Calls for Expansion Statewide

Rail advocacy group All Aboard Washington (AAWA) has expressed its enthusiastic support for a proposal by the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) for a significant increase in Amtrak Cascades service. 

AAWA supports Preliminary Alternative E from the Draft Amtrak Cascades Preliminary Service Development Plan (SDP) proposed by the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), which expands the current Cascades six round-trips to 16 round-trips per day between Seattle and Portland, six round-trips per day between Seattle, Bellingham and Vancouver BC, and six round-trips per day between Portland and Eugene OR.


“AAWA is pleased that the state is pursuing a forward-looking vision for the Amtrak Cascades, which will allow the service to increase its success, and help the state meet its economic development, environmental and equity goals,” said Charles Hamilton, AAWA’s co-executive director. “We ask WSDOT to apply for the Federal funding needed to implement this vision, and we ask our elected officials to support this important enhancement of our infrastructure.”

AAWA’s Comments to WSDOT on the Preliminary SDP

An outstanding vision - which should be expanded to benefit our entire state

All Aboard Washington (AAWA) congratulates WSDOT for its vision for the Cascades corridor, which is expansive and appropriate to the needs of this decade. Although we understand that the preliminary SDP applies only to the Cascades corridor, WSDOT and our legislature must follow through on our state’s commitment to mitigate the effects of climate change and improve both economic development and statewide mobility by developing and implementing statewide passenger rail and enhanced freight rail services. 

Priority 1: Implement Alternative E, 16 daily frequencies

To successfully implement this option, WSDOT must work with BNSF, Sound Transit, Amtrak, Oregon, British Columbia, and other appropriate stakeholders to ensure that reliability and on-time performance are improved. WSDOT must work with the legislature to ensure sufficient funding is provided so that Alternative E can be implemented as soon as equipment becomes available.

Priority 2: Travel time, speed, and competitiveness with driving

While travel time is important, we believe that reduced travel time is less important than increased frequencies (Priority 1). It is our belief that people will use the train rather than drive because of the comfort, safety, convenience of increased frequencies, and the advantage that train travel provides in terms of  productive time, rather than non-productive time spent driving.

Express or “skip-stop” service is worthy of trials and ridership evaluation. However, we do not anticipate that such service will provide significantly increased ridership. Amtrak has tried non-stop or limited-stop Acela service between New York and Washington D. C. several times without success. Additionally, stations with limited ridership such as Stanwood are seeing significant growth after the pandemic as people work from home and housing prices in the area are some of the most attractive in the Puget Sound region.

Priority 3: Multimodal connections throughout the state

WSDOT should take advantage of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) Corridor Identification Program (CID) grant to the Montana Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority (BSPRA) to evaluate the effect/impact of passenger rail ridership on the Amtrak Cascades as the result of potential restoration of the North Coast Hiawatha/Stampede Pass corridor. The FRA CID award to Montana, in conjunction with the FRA's Long Distance Service Study identification of North Coast Hiawatha (NCH) as a preferred route for restoration utilizing Stampede Pass, demonstrates  federal interest in restoring NCH service. It is imperative that WSDOT consider restoration of NCH service in the scoping and planning of the full SDP for Amtrak Cascades. WSDOT should work with our legislature to provide matching funds for 2025 CID grants for the purpose of  establishing state-sponsored service along the NCH corridor. WSDOT should also prepare for connections to the proposed Pioneer service, which will interconnect the Cascades corridor.

WSDOT should also consider infrastructure improvements such as double-tracking and an infill station at Blaine by taking advantage of federal funding opportunities available now as part of preparations for World Cup 2026.

Speed the planning and implementation process

AAWA is concerned that the proposed timeframe for service development is too lengthy. We must move beyond the “preliminary” SDP into the full SDP process as soon as possible. We must implement the WSDOT stated vision while Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding opportunities are available.. We encourage WSDOT to apply for all  Federal discretionary grant programs available (CRISI, Fed-State, Grade Crossing Elimination, others). Avoid going back to the drawing board on projects that have already been planned.

About AAWA

For over forty years, All Aboard Washington (AAWA) has promoted better passenger and freight rail service in the Pacific Northwest. We champion safe, reliable, frequent, competitive, and convenient passenger rail services that meet the needs of all Washingtonians. We are especially active supporters of intercity passenger rail service and intermodal connections to local transit.

For Immediate Release
April 18, 2024
Contact: Charles Hamilton, (360) 529-5552 x3 or Luis Moscoso, (360) 529-5552 x2


AAWA Comments to WSDOT on Preliminary Service Development Plan (PDF)

All Aboard Washington is only one of many organizations that submitted comments on the Draft Amtrak Cascades Preliminary Service Development Plan (SDP) proposed by the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT). Here are a few of interest.