First, let me say passenger safety is of the utmost importance.
For years I’ve been frustrated by the slide problem we have along the Amtrak Cascades route in Washington. It seems every time the weather gets bad the trains stop. However it’s during these times of bad weather when highway travel is slow or disrupted that we really need our trains. I think Amtrak Cascades has a unique opportunity to be there in the bad weather when other modes have failed. Right now they are worse off than the highways.
This winter has been particularly slide prone. According to the WSDOT there have been nearly 20 slides in the last 6 months keeping nearly 90 trains from their destinations. In my opinion this is not a good record and doesn’t give the public confidence in the reliability of the trains. If they don’t have confidence they’ll get there those passengers will seek a different mode of transportation.
The good news is WSDOT is very much aware of the issue and the perception. They wrote a blog post Wednesday addressing this very issue. I’m happy to hear they know about the problem and are trying to do something about it. Of course ‘something’ will take money which seems to be scarce these days. I hope they find it for the sake of the public’s perception.
I’m also hoping they can work out a plan with BNSF that can keep the trains moving when a slide does occur. Not all slides are as severe the Frazier slide of 2008 so I’d think there could be something done to keep Amtrak trains moving (refer again to my first sentence). A form B with a flagman on site for visual inspection maybe? An on call geologist who can better predict if more sliding will occur? A Hulcher like service that will come and remove anything that looks remotely like it might slide?
Let’s hope this does get resolved soon.