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Date:  Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Contact: Laura Kingman, WSDOT rail communications, 360-705-7904 Alice Fiman, rail communications manager, 360-705-7080 (Olympia)

Mudslides temporarily halt service north of Seattle

EVERETT – This week’s heavy rains triggered mudslides near Everett that affected Amtrak Cascades service, and passengers are reminded of avenues to check train status:

Amtrak service between Seattle and Everett is scheduled to resume Friday, Nov. 23. When train service is disrupted, Amtrak secures buses to ensure passengers reach their destinations. All trains south of Seattle are running normally.

The states of Washington and Oregon, and Amtrak, sponsor Amtrak Cascades service between Eugene, Ore., and Vancouver, B.C. Amtrak operates the service and the trains run on BNSF Railway tracks. 

“Just like planes sometimes are halted because of weather, trains also can be impacted,” said John Sibold, Cascades corridor director. “We know that mudslides can occur, particularly along coastal segments, and we are working with our partners on short- and long-term solutions that will help us continue to improve train service in this important corridor.”

While 96 percent of Amtrak Cascades train trips were unaffected by mudslides in 2011, work is being done to reduce the likelihood of disruptions to passenger rail service. BNSF Railway and the Washington State Department of Transportation implemented low-cost maintenance work in problem areas along the corridor in 2012. This work included improving the run-off drainage next to the tracks, cleaning culverts, trimming trees and brush, and clearing debris that could cover the tracks. 

This additional preventative work appears to be having a positive result. In 2012, prior to this week, only 28 train trips were affected by mudslides. BNSF also has an aggressive maintenance program, investing more than $100 million annually in Washington State to preserve and maintain tracks.

Long term, the Federal Railroad Administration allowed WSDOT to allocate $16 million of its federal high-speed-rail funding to identify, design and construct solutions for mudslide containment, with a goal of starting work in 2014. Geotechnical data and studies commissioned by BNSF will be used to prioritize the work.

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