Slides stop Amtrak service to Seattle until Thursday

Amtrak used charter buses to transport travelers between Portland and Seattle

By Bob Albrecht and John Branton

Published:

Updated: February 14, 2011, 10:15 PM

 

Rail travel on Amtrak between Portland and Seattle has been delayed until Thursday morning after being stalled over the weekend and all day Monday by three landslides along the route in the Felida area. The most recent was about 6:30 p.m. Monday.

A 48-hour moratorium on passenger travel is instituted following a landslide, said BNSF spokesman Gus Melonas. In the meantime, Amtrak was using charter buses to transport travelers between Portland and Seattle.

As a result of the Monday evening slide — which was in the same area as the first two — and the moratorium, passenger traffic on the north-south route is expected to resume Thursday morning, said Marc Magliari, an Amtrak spokesman.

The first slide, at 6:50 a.m. Saturday, covered a section of the BNSF Railway track between Vancouver’s rail junction and Felida.

Crews quickly cleared the mud, rocks, trees and other debris from each landslide.

Melonas said a shelf atop a 100-foot-high cliff adjacent to the tracks peeled off.

The slide covered a 20-foot section of the double main rail line with mud, rocks, trees and other debris to a depth of 3 feet. The first rail line was cleared about 9 a.m.

The second slide, in the same area, happened about 12:12 a.m. Sunday and dumped another 20-foot-long and 3-foot-deep swath of debris onto one of the lines. It was cleared about 2:30 a.m.

“We brought in machinery and removed the material,” Melonas said of the 90-minute cleanups.

Freight trains have been allowed to travel along the line, but passenger trains calls for a higher level of precaution.

About 50 to 60 trains typically use the BNSF line between Vancouver and Seattle each day.

All three slides happened just south of the Felida Moorage, Melonas said. The third was spotted by a BNSF watchman who was in place observing the area in case of more problems.

A team of BNSF engineers will be on site today, studying the geology and stability of the cliff.

Heavy rains in January saturated the cliffs, Melonas said. “The heavy saturation brought the hillside down.”

For information about Amtrak, call 800-USA-RAIL.