Update: BNSF closures, Amtrak bus connections continue in Pacific Northwest

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BNSF Railway Merritt, Wash., Robert W. Scott
BNSF Railway train Q-CHCSSE (Chicago to South Seattle) emerges from a snow squall at Merritt, Wash., on the east side of Stevens Pass on the BNSF Scenic Subdivision on Jan. 5, 2020.
Robert W. Scott
Updated Jan. 16, 2020, 9:45 a.m.

SEATTLE – Less than favorable weather conditions yesterday afternoon and overnight prevented the opening of BNSF Railway’s Scenic Subdivision (see Winter weather hits BNSF hard in Northwest). Work continues to  clear downed trees and wires from along the main line in the north Cascade Mountains. Overnight, the area received more snow, which caused problems for maintenance crews. Parts of adjacent U.S. Highway 2 remains closed due to widespread downed trees and wires. BNSF hopes to open the rail line for service Jan. 16 by 6 p.m. CT, says Gus Melonas, BNSF public affairs director. BNSF continues to detour some priority train traffic via its Seattle and Stampede subdivisions. "Scenic remains closed. We are removing snow and multiple trees down between Skykomish and Scenic (9 mile area). We are re-routing some traffic via Columbia River Gorge Route and Stampede Pass," explains Melonas in an email.
Amtrak Public Relations Manager Olivia Irvin says that the Empire Builder is maintaining its current routing between Chicago and Spokane but Amtrak is using buses to bypass the closed area. “Bus service is provided between Spokane and Seattle and Spokane and Portland,” Irvin says. “We will continue to monitor the situation and make a decision on resuming service as the owner of the railroad [BNSF] determines that the route is safe.” The last Amtrak train that operated across the line with no issues was on Jan. 11. Cancellations began Jan. 12.

“Amtrak Empire Builder Train 7 [originating on Jan. 10] was delayed on Jan. 12 near Leavenworth [Wash.] for 9 hours and 19 minutes due to weather conditions. There were 68 passengers on board that train,” Irvin says.

BNSF has not confirmed with Amtrak when the tracks will reopen.
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