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Rail News: High-Speed Rail

Annual ridership up for Amtrak's Cascades


Amtrak Cascades' ridership hit a 16-year high in 2010 at 838,251 passengers, a 10 percent increase compared with 2009, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation.

Last year, the state of Washington received $782 million in federal stimulus funds for high-speed rail. WSDOT will use the funds to upgrade the Cascades corridor to operate trains at higher speeds.

"This tremendous growth in ridership confirms the demand for Amtrak Cascades and the need to continue improving the service and reliability," said WSDOT Secretary Paula Hammond in a prepared statement. "The next steps in our long-term plan will improve rail infrastructure, reduce freight- and passenger-train congestion and expand Amtrak Cascades service."

In the fourth quarter, Amtrak Cascades set a new ridership record, too, with an increase of more than 1,700 riders over 2009, making it the highest fourth-quarter ridership since 1994.

Service to Vancouver, B.C., contributed to Cascades' 2010 ridership growth, with more than 138,000 riders traveling to and from Vancouver, WSDOT officials said. A second daily train to Vancouver, B.C., began in August 2009 to provide transportation to the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. The second train is expected to remain in service at least until October.

Cascades operates three daily round trips between Portland, Ore., and Seattle; one daily round trip each between Seattle and Vancouver, B.C., and Portland and Vancouver, B.C.; and daily service between Seattle and Eugene, Ore., via Portland. Amtrak operates Cascades in partnership with the Washington and Oregon departments of transportation.