Save the Amtrak Cascades! Don't Let WSDOT Undermine the Future of Our Passenger Rail

The founding purpose of the Amtrak Cascades was to draw cars off of I-5. The Long Range Plan for the Amtrak Cascades charted a pathway to do that, and until June of 2023, was bolstered by a Master Agreement with host railroad BNSF to ensure it could do so. Central to that plan are infrastructure improvements to deliver trip times of 2.5hrs (SEA-PDX) & 2.7hrs (SEA-VBC). These were mandated by the Legislature starting in 1991 and recently affirmed in the 2019 Washington State Rail Plan. These are critical to finally making train travel time competitive with driving.

Washington State Department of Transportation's (WSDOT's) current draft of its preliminary Service Development Plan (SDP) for the Amtrak Cascades is a "Service Under-development Plan." It ignores the original purpose of the Amtrak Cascades service, the long established trip time criteria, as well as the multiple sections of 110 mph dedicated passenger track described in the Long Range Plan that make achieving its founding mission possible. In fact, the preSDP ignores long established legislative intent AND its own 2019 State Rail Plan.

What's their excuse?
"Those goals are no longer needed, Ultra will take care of that" is what we were told by the WSDOT official in charge of the program! Legislators we are talking with find that excuse laughable, and want improvements to the Amtrak Cascades.

The vague plan for the possible "UltraHSR" bullet train in the distant future is NOT a valid excuse to disregard legislative intent or neglect our existing system. WSDOT does not have permission to undermine our current opportunity to implement the common sense vision for higher-speed, reliable rail on the existing Amtrak Cascades corridor.

Even IF the "UltraHSR" project is possible, someday, the trip time goals and infrastructure improvements described in the Long Range Plan are essential to make the Amtrak Cascades service time-competitive with driving on a timeline that is relevant for the climate crisis - not decades into the future. Compared to the "Ultra" project, completing the upgrades described in the Long Range Plan can be done in less than a decade (1/3 the time) at 1/10th of the price - and use existing corridor that serves many more communities along the route. The success of any future bullet train must be built on the foundation of a robust intercity rail system.

At this time, when unprecedented federal support is available, WSDOT must not be allowed to neglect the Amtrak Cascades' potential to finally become an automatic and obvious alternative to driving and maximize train ridership as it was intended to do.  

NOW is the time to speak out, to enhance the future of intercity passenger rail in Western Washington.

This tool does not send an email to WSDOT, so it is important to submit your testimony on their draft SDP using their email address (cascadesSDP@wsdot.wa.gov).  PLEASE use this tool to contact your WA State Legislators, to whom WSDOT is accountable.

Use this Tool to urge your Legislators to:

  • Tell WSDOT that it absolutely cannot ignore legislative intent nor abandon long established, mission-critical goals to shorten travel times on the Amtrak Cascades. WSDOT must include the trip time goals of 2.5hrs (SEA-PDX) & 2.7hrs (SEA-VBC) in the Purpose and Needs section of the Service Development Plan.

  • Clarify legislative intent by instructing WSDOT to update the Long Range Plan for the Amtrak Cascades (LRP), renew the Master Agreement with BNSF, and submit the updated LRP to the FRA as part of its Service Development Plan.

    This will accelerate our progress through the FRA's Corridor ID program, as well as allow WA to access other funding, such as Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) grants to immediately implement infrastructure improvements on the existing corridor.

In addition to sending an email to your legislators with this tool, be sure to contact WSDOT with your comments on their draft SDP (cascadesSDP@wsdot.wa.gov).


Letter Campaign by
Backbone Campaign
Vashon, Washington
Sponsored by