NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Saturday, January 14th, 2023

Amtrak will restore a second daily round trip between Seattle and Vancouver, B.C.

Amtrak will restore a sec­ond dai­ly round-trip train ser­vice between Seat­tle and Van­cou­ver, B.C., as of March 7th, and promis­es to boost dai­ly trips between Seat­tle and Port­land from four to six come fall, accord­ing to a let­ter sent to the trans­porta­tion depart­ments of Wash­ing­ton and Oregon.

Rail ser­vice across the U.S.-Canada bor­der was sus­pend­ed in the spring of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic, with one round trip restored last Sep­tem­ber. Before the arrival of the once-nov­el coro­n­avirus, 750,000 peo­ple a year took trains between the Northwest’s three largest cities.

The most enthu­si­as­tic advo­cate for restored rail ser­vice has been Sen­a­tor Maria Cantwell, D‑Washington, who just hap­pens to chair the Sen­ate Com­merce, Sci­ence and Trans­porta­tion Com­mit­tee, and cham­pi­oned the bipar­ti­san infra­struc­ture leg­is­la­tion passed by Con­gress last year. The leg­is­la­tion pro­vid­ed for $66 bil­lion in rail grants, with $22 bil­lion going to Amtrak.

“I’m thank­ful that Amtrak is final­ly on the path to ful­ly restore ser­vice in the Pacif­ic North­west,” said Cantwell. “The Inter­state 5 cor­ri­dor in the state of Wash­ing­ton is one of the most con­gest­ed cor­ri­dors in the nation and the Cas­cades ser­vice pro­vides a con­ve­nient alter­na­tive to travelers.”

That’s espe­cial­ly true for those who don’t own a car and would oth­er­wise have to be whol­ly reliant on inter­ci­ty bus ser­vice from com­pa­nies like Greyhound.

Siemens locomotives at King Street Station

Two Siemens loco­mo­tives in Cas­cades liv­ery at King Street Sta­tion, in Seat­tle, the week that Amtrak resumed nor­mal sched­ules after a year of reduced ser­vice due to the pan­dem­ic (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Rick Larsen, D‑Washington, is well posi­tioned in Con­gress’ oth­er cham­ber as rank­ing Demo­c­rat on the House Trans­porta­tion and Infra­struc­ture Com­mit­tee, and rode part of the north­bound route last year as a nudge direct­ed at Amtrak.

“Thanks to bold long term invest­ments in the bipar­ti­san infra­struc­ture law, Amtrak is able to renew and sup­port routes lie Cas­cades, Empire Builder and Coast Starlight that con­nect com­mu­ni­ties like Edmonds, Everett, Mount Ver­non, Stan­wood and Belling­ham in my dis­trict to Van­cou­ver, B.C., Seat­tle, Port­land and Eugene,” said Larsen.

The sec­ond dai­ly train between Seat­tle and Van­cou­ver was orig­i­nal­ly added in antic­i­pa­tion of the 2010 Win­ter Olympics in the Cana­di­an city, with arm twist­ing by Gov­er­nor Chris Gre­goire and British Colum­bia Pre­mier Gor­don Campbell.

Their suc­ces­sors, Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee and B.C. Pre­mier John Hor­gan, pro­mot­ed the even­tu­al cre­ation of high-speed rail ser­vice in the cor­ri­dor between Van­cou­ver and Eugene, Ore­gon. NPI’s research last year con­firmed sup­port for both con­struct­ing high-speed rail and Amtrak Cas­cades expan­sion.

At times on the verge of extinc­tion – Repub­li­can admin­is­tra­tions have sought to elim­i­nate its long-dis­tance routes – Amtrak has pros­pered under the Biden admin­is­tra­tion. The transcon­ti­nen­tal Empire Builder, run­ning between Seat­tle and Chica­go, was restored to dai­ly ser­vice last May.

The Amer­i­can Res­cue Plan con­tained $1.7 bil­lion for Amtrak, allow­ing restora­tion of such routes as Empire Builder and the City of New Orleans.

Oth­er rail projects have also pros­pered. The omnibus spend­ing bill passed by Con­gress last month, which funds the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment through Sep­tem­ber 30, includ­ed $583 mil­lion to sup­port extend­ing Sound Transit’s light rail sys­tem south to Fed­er­al Way and north into Sno­homish Coun­ty. It also pro­vid­ed $15 mil­lion to made the mono­rail sta­tion at Seat­tle Cen­ter acces­si­ble to all riders.

The Amer­i­can Res­cue Plan Act and the infra­struc­ture pack­age have also been kind to Washington’s region­al air­ports, includ­ing those in places unlike­ly to vote for Cantwell or Sen­a­tor Pat­ty Mur­ray, D‑Washington, who has just become chair of the Sen­ate Appro­pri­a­tions Committee.

Pang­born Field, serv­ing Wenatchee, is get­ting $10 mil­lion. There’s just over $1 mil­lion for a new ter­mi­nal at the Moscow/Pullman Air­port, plus $150,000 for the air­port in Ephra­ta and $110,000 for the field at Ocean Shores.

All told, Wash­ing­ton air­ports are get­ting $38.68 mil­lion in grants from the Fed­er­al Avi­a­tion Administration.

The Portland/Seattle/Vancouver route is renowned for its scenery.

The trains used to run along the waters of South Puget Sound before the Point Defi­ance bypass reopened. Cas­cades trains still hug the coast­line at the base of Blan­chard and Chuck­anut Moun­tains south of Bellingham.

The Empire Builder, on its route east, skirts the south bound­ary of Glac­i­er Nation­al Park and pro­vides access at West Glac­i­er and East Glacier.

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