Mudslide disrupts NW Amtrak service

Freight traffic restored near Tacoma

By Craig Brown, Columbian metro editor

Published:

 

An unseasonably early mudslide has forced Amtrak service off the rails for 48 hours between Vancouver and Tacoma.

The slide occurred about 3 a.m. Tuesday near Titlow Beach, 8 miles south of Tacoma, said Gus Melonas, a spokesman for BNSF Railway. Mud and rocks fell down a saturated 250-foot slope, covering one of two parallel railroad tracks and scattering debris on the other.

Freight service was disrupted for only about a half hour, but Amtrak, following safety guidelines, will not be able to use the tracks in that area for 48 hours. It runs its frequent Cascades service and the flagship Coast Starlight through the area, a total of 10 trips per day.

Amtrak will bus Cascades passengers to all stations between Portland and Seattle, and continue to run trains between Portland and Eugene, Ore., and Seattle and Vancouver, B.C., said spokesman Steve Kulm in Oakland, Calif. The Coast Starlight, which serves the Bay Area and Los Angeles, will temporarily originate and terminate at Portland’s Union Station, with passengers north of there to be bused.

Assuming there are no more problems with the track, normal passenger service should resume Thursday morning.

Meanwhile BNSF will use heavy equipment this morning to clear the track nearest the hillside, which was covered about three feet deep for approximately 40 feet.

Melonas said that although slides are not uncommon in the Pacific Northwest, this one was earlier in the season than usual. Last year was the worst year in decades for the BNSF in terms of service disruptions, with heavy rain, snow, landslides and mud causing more than a dozen disruptions throughout the region.