Oregon, Washington Consider Alternative To Amtrak For Cascades Rail Service

By Chris Lehman

Oregon and Washington might turn to a private company to operate its Cascades rail service. The two states are testing the waters to see if anyone other than Amtrak is interested in operating the route that includes Seattle, Portland and Eugene.

An Amtrak train pulls out of the station in Salem, on its way to Seattle. The federally-subsidized Amtrak has been synonymous with inter-city rail service in the United States since the early 70's. But today, federal law says states must shoulder more of the cost for running so-called corridor trains. That includes the Cascades route in Oregon and Washington. Both states figure if they're paying the bill, they may as well hire the best company possible to run it. Ron Pate is the Passenger Rail Director for the state of Washington.

Ron Pate: "I think Amtrak does a pretty good job today, but we really need to look at our other options for running this as a corridor."

Pate says any possible change is several years in the future. The state is already planning to increase service between Seattle and Portland in 2017…regardless of who's running the trains.

Amtrak Cascades: http://www.amtrakcascades.com/

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