Good news for anyone who is looking to travel between Seattle and Portland, there will soon be more trains between the cities.
The Washington State Department of Transportation announced Saturday that earlier and later departures on the Amtrak Cascades route will be offered later this year. The trains will also travel between the cities faster, and delays should be reduced.
The new schedules are set with an eye to serving business travel between the two cities. The added early trains will depart around 6 a.m. and arrive around 9:30 a.m. The new late trains depart around 6 p.m., after most people get off work, and at 7:30 p.m.
All trains on the route will be around 20 minutes faster than today. Most of time savings come from a new route that bypasses Point Defiance in Tacoma. That section of track, while scenic, forces trains to slow down and has been the site of many mudslides that close the line for 48 hours.
The Point Defiance Bypass is just one of 20 infrastructure projects along the corridor funded by nearly $800 million in federal high-speed rail grants. Despite that name, the current 79 MPH speed limit on the route won’t be increasing.
The improvements will also benefit BNSF’s freight volumes. In exchange, the railroad agreed to ensure that passenger trains meet an 88 percent or better on-time performance, or face a fine. In effect, it means BNSF will be required to work with Amtrak to give passenger trains more priority over freight.
The new schedule will start later this year. Before the trains start running, Amtrak must wait for Sound Transit to finish building a new trestle east of the Tacoma Dome. That project is running a few months behind schedule.