Amtrak Cascades Service Development Plan

Find details on our Amtrak Cascades Service Development Plan, which will provide paths to improve the Amtrak Cascades service over the next 20 years.

Developing a new plan

Much has changed on the Amtrak Cascades corridor since the last long-range plan was created in 2006. A refreshed plan that accounts for growth, operational, and social changes is needed to guide future improvements. The first phase of an Amtrak Cascades Service Development Plan (SDP) is underway now to create a blueprint for improving Amtrak Cascades service for the next two decades.

The Amtrak Cascades SDP will provide a summary of possible alternatives to improve the Amtrak Cascades service over the next 20 years. It offers a blueprint for future capital improvements and service changes and is at the core of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) requirements for improving and expanding passenger rail service on the corridor. Preparing a SDP will improve our ability to compete for federal funds for future infrastructure and service improvements.

Preliminary SDP planning

In partnership with FRA and BNSF, we are starting the SDP process with a Preliminary SDP document to address the uncertainty around future travel created by the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has changed the way people travel, including having impacted workforce and housing norms. It is critical to have a solid understanding of the pandemic’s impacts that will provide the baseline for future Amtrak Cascades service. The Preliminary SDP is focused on the portion of the current Amtrak Cascades route through western Washington between Portland, OR and Vancouver, BC.

The Preliminary SDP includes the following tasks:

  • Intercity passenger travel demand research to identify travel trends likely to affect ridership and develop future scenarios that reflect these trends
  • Preliminary Purpose and Need development to explain the goals of the project and the needs it is intended to address
  • Service option development to define options for changing Amtrak Cascades to address future travel trends and analyze how the current route would need to be modified to accommodate them
  • Alternative development to forecast ridership for the service options under the different scenarios we developed, then use a screening process to determine which ones should be the focus of further SDP analysis

The two primary end products of the Preliminary SDP will be:

  • A Preliminary Purpose and Need statement to guide decision-making as planning work continues
  • A range of alternatives that will be the focus of further SDP analysis


Work on the Preliminary SDP started in February 2022. Completion is anticipated by October 2023. A more detailed schedule will be provided as the project progresses.

Service partners

Several partners are directly involved in developing, funding, or operating Amtrak Cascades. They will be closely involved in developing this Preliminary SDP, contributing their expertise to the work.

  • Federal Railroad Administration
  • Oregon Department of Transportation
  • BNSF Railway
  • Amtrak
  • Sound Transit

Get involved

As development of the Preliminary SDP proceeds, we will seek input and feedback from:

  • Current and future riders of Amtrak Cascades
  • Communities along the corridor, particularly those in marginalized communities
  • Elected officials
  • Federal, state, regional and local agencies
  • Advocacy and special interest groups
  • Tribes

We will be providing updates as we complete the tasks involved in completing the Preliminary SDP. To be notified of these updates by email, sign up for our Amtrak Cascades Future Planning mailing list.

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