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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Washington mudslide halts Amtrak, BNSF, Sounder

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Sound Transit commuter rail service between Everett, Wash., and Seattle is shut down at least until the evening of Jan. 21 because of a mudslide across the tracks, the Everett Herald reports. The slide hit around 7:30 a.m. Jan. 19 in north Seattle, blocking the tracks and forcing passengers on two of the four Sounder commuter trains to disembark at Edmonds Station and ride buses the rest of the way to Seattle, according to Sound Transit.

The trains operate on railway owned and maintained by BNSF. The company requires passenger trains to wait at least 48 hours before resuming operations after a mudslide on the tracks. A slide near the same location on Saturday morning did not affect weekday commuter service.

This is the first time Sounder service has been interrupted by mudslides on the tracks this winter, Sound Transit spokesman Bruce Gray said. Other, wetter winters have seen more slides and disruptions of service, he said.

The first two Sounder trains from Everett to Seattle made it past the location of Tuesday's slide before it occurred, Gray said. Those trains left Edmonds at 6:11 and 6:41 a.m.

The next train left Edmonds after 7 a.m. and its operators were soon warned by a signal there was trouble ahead, BNSF spokesman Gus Melonas said. The train then backed up to Edmonds. This train and the next one dropped off their passengers in Edmonds and returned to Everett.

The slide covers both tracks and is about 20 feet deep and 40 feet wide, Melonas said. The slide took about 40 trees down, and flowed over the seawall and into Puget Sound.

The suspension of service applies to Amtrak trains as well.

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