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Couple's train trip to Seattle derailed by potential worker strike

Passenger trains across Washington are preparing to cancel all their routes as early as Thursday night.

SEATTLE — There’s something nostalgic about traveling by train.

“I’d been posting on Twitter for a while - X amount of days until we take the train cross country,” said Brent Parker.

Parker and his girlfriend Quinn are experienced rail riders. They decided to take an Amtrak train from New York City to Seattle for a wedding. 

“Our trip begins, we’re going from NYC to Seattle and then it just kind of ended abruptly with me angrily saying well that’s the end of that,” said Parker.

The couple, who planned their trip for more than a year, was in Chicago when they saw their route was canceled due to a looming worker strike this week. They said they were given 24-hours notice and immediately searched for flights and chose the least expensive one that would get them to Seattle in time for the wedding. 

The Washington State Department of Transportation told KING 5 that Amtrak canceled their routes to Los Angeles and Chicago because they didn’t want passengers to get stranded mid-trip ahead of a possible freight railroad strike.

“Amtrak is taking precautionary measures to ensure no passengers are stranded mid-trip should a strike occur,” said Janet Matkin, a spokesperson for WSDOT. 

On Wednesday, Amtrak announced it was canceling all long-distance trains beginning Thursday.

Matkin said the train tracks in Washington and Oregon are all owned by either BNSF Railway or Union Pacific. Those workers are the ones potentially striking. Amtrak cannot run without dispatchers.

There are 12 unions representing 115,000 workers that must agree on tentative deals and have their members vote on whether to approve them. So far, nine have agreed to tentative deals while three others are still bargaining.

Matkin suggested those traveling by train this weekend should prepare for their routes to be canceled. 

Meanwhile, the cancelations are already having an effect on travelers.

"We’re basically held hostage by these private freight companies being able to do whatever they want and that’s very frustrating to me,” said Parker.

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