Category: Travel News Updates

Amtrak Service South of Seattle Stops After Derailment

Amtrak Service South of Seattle Stops After Derailment

(Updated at 9:45 a.m. PST, Thursday, December 21, 2017)

Amtrak service south from Seattle was interrupted on Monday, December 18, 2017, after one of its  “Cascades” trains derailed between Tacoma and Olympia sending train cars crashing onto vehicles in the southbound lanes of Interstate 5.

News media were reporting at least three fatalities among passengers on the train, plus numerous injuries to passengers and apparently also to some highway travelers.

In its live updates, the Seattle Times said that the number of fatalities were at least six, but later revised the number back to three. Over 100 people were sent to hospitals. The train’s engineer and conductor survived the crash.

Until Monday, Amtrak trains traveling to and from Seattle from Oregon and points south were routed along the shores of Puget Sound south of Seattle.

(Photo Courtesy of Amtrak)

The “Cascades” train derailment happened on a new route to the east of Puget Sound that opened Monday.

Amtrak Service South From Seattle

On Thursday morning, December 21st, the Amtrak Website indicated that with the exception of minor delays of 3 to 5 minutes in the departure time for some trains, southbound trains had left or were expected to leave Seattle  on-time.

At 1:00 p.m. on Wednesday, the Website said that:

“Until further notice, all Cascades and Coast Starlight Service trains will detour between Olympia-Lacey -Tacoma, operating out of the original Tacoma Station located at 1001 Puyallup Avenue, Tacoma, WA 98421. Please note that customers traveling on this detour may experience a 10 to 15-minute delay.

“Beginning Dec. 20, Cascades Service from Eugene to Portland, OR will be operating with substitute equipment and limited amenities, including no food service, checked baggage service, business class or bikes. Pets will still be allowed on board. Additionally, Trains 505 and 508, which were scheduled to operate as thru service between Eugene and Seattle, will now operate only between Seattle and Portland. New Trains 515 and 510 will be introduced on the segment between Portland and Eugene and will be a cross platform connection at Portland for passengers traveling north of Portland. “

Interstate I-5 Lanes South of Tacoma Reopen

I-5 southbound lanes closed after the train derailment have now all been reopened.

The Washington State Department of Transportation Blog states that:

“As of 9:47 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 20, all lanes of southbound I-5 at Mounts Road (milepost 116) have reopened to traffic.

“Crews were able to complete remaining work activities in the right lane and reopen that third and final lane ahead of schedule.

“The Mounts Road on-ramp to southbound I-5 has also reopened.

“There are no remaining closures following the Monday, Dec. 18, train derailment.”

Trump “Travel Ban” Partially in Place After Supreme Court Rules

Trump “Travel Ban” Partially in Place After Supreme Court Rules

Supreme Court Will Hear Trump Travel Ban Challenge

(Updated Sunday, July 1, 2018: The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the final version of Trump’s “travel ban.” It’s potential impact on those wishing to enter the U.S. is discussed in this New York Times story.)

(Updated at 5:15 p.m., PDT, Sunday, April 22, 2018: On Wednesday, April 25, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral argument in the case that challenged the third iteration of the ban against entry to the U.S. by travelers. Presumably the Court will issue its final ruling in the case before its October 2018 term ends near the end of June. See this TravelWire News story and this one in the New York Times for more details on the upcoming hearing.)

In an unsigned order issued today, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to review lower court rulings which had blocked enforcement of an executive order signed by Donald Trump in March that block entry into the U.S. by travelers from six predominantly-Muslim countries.

As The New York Times said in a story published today that reviews the Court’s action:

“Mr. Trump’s revised executive order, issued in March, limited travel from six mostly Muslim countries for 90 days and suspended the nation’s refugee program for 120 days. The time was needed, the order said, to address gaps in the government’s screening and vetting procedures.” (Trump signed a more sweeping travel ban on January 27, 2017.)

Injunctions Against Travel Ban Partially Stayed Pending High Court Review

More importantly, the Court stayed the injunctions issued by the lower courts that prevented the government from suspending travel to the U.S. by citizens of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for 90 days, “with respect to foreign nationals who lack any bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.”

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TSA Plan to Check Books and Other Items in Carry-on Bags

TSA Plan to Check Books and Other Items in Carry-on Bags

(Updated, 10:00 a.m., PDT, Wednesday, June 28, 2017.)

At the beginning of this month, Tales Told From The Road reported “that at ten U.S. airports TSA was testing a requirement that electronic devices larger than a smartphone be removed from carry-on bags.”

News outlets, including The Hill, are reporting that the agency now wants to look at books and reading material in passenger carry-on luggage, stating that:

“TSA began testing the new security requirement for books and other paper products at airports in Missouri and California earlier this month. The new screening process requires passengers to remove all reading material and food from their carry-ons and place them in a bin.

“Travelers already have to remove laptops from carry-on bags and place them in a separate bin. The new policy would let TSA employees flip through books to see if anything is hidden in their pages.”

The American Civil Liberties pointed out that the book-checking policy “raises very special privacy issues.” But the organization agreed that TSA could be justified examining books or other paper materials to make sure that a passenger isn’t trying to bring aboard a flight weapons or explosives, including “sheet explosives” which are flat enough to be hidden within a stack of papers or photographs.

Three months ago, Travel + Leisure reported that TSA was, at times, having passengers remove books from carry-on luggage, examining them for hidden weapons or narcotics, and even swabbing the books down.

In a story dated Wednesday, June 28, 2017, about TSA testing new technologies, including 3D scanning of carry-on luggage, The New York Times TSA spokesman, Mike England, who stated that: “At no time has the removal of books been T.S.A. policy, nor are we considering making it policy.”

However, the Times then pointed out that:

“..Mr. England did say that T.S.A. employees may occasionally ask travelers to declutter their carry-ons by removing items from them and placing these items into separate bins so that the bags are easier to screen.”

Presumably that qualifying remark means that TSA could ask passengers to remove books from carry-on bags, if necessary, to allow the bags to be properly screened