Oregon, Washington Consider Alternative To Amtrak For Cascades Rail Service

Apr 10, 2014

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.

The federally-subsidized Amtrak has been synonymous with inter-city rail service in the United States since the early 70s. 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.

"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," says Ron Pate, Passenger Rail Director for the state of Washington.

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.