SEATTLE — President Joe Biden said Thursday that a tentative railway labor agreement has been reached, averting a strike that could have been devastating to the economy.
Railroads and union representatives had been in negotiations for 20 hours at the Labor Department on Wednesday to hammer out a deal, as there was a risk of a strike starting on Friday that could have shut down rail lines across the country.
Amtrak, whose routes between Seattle and Portland would have been impacted by the shutdown because they use much of the same track, quickly began working to restore plans for service that had been left in doubt over fear of a strike.
Sounder commuter rail service between Everett and Lakewood would have also been suspended if unionized freight railroad workers voted to strike.
A suspension of the Sounder commuter train is something Monique Guillebeau says would have a major impact to those who have come to rely on it.
Guillebeau, who catches the Sounder in Kent, spent years in traffic. She and others say service suspension due to a possible freight railroad strike would be devastating.
"That means I have to get up earlier to make sure I get to work on time," she said. "Where this is a guarantee I don't have to deal with the traffic or gas."
Sounder commuter rail service between Everett and Lakewood would be suspended if unionized freight railroad workers vote to strike.
Amtrak train service between Seattle and Portland would also be suspended.
Sound Transit announced it is working with partners on additional bus service on existing express routes that overlap with Sounder service.
The Amtrak Cascades line, which is set to resume in full Monday, Sept. 26 with service up to Vancouver, British Columbia, and Sounder service cannot operate without BNSF Railway and Union Pacific employees.
A strike would have resulted in "complete service disruptions" beginning Sept. 16, according to information from Amtrak.
The train tracks that Amtrak and Sounder trains run on in Washington state are primarily owned by BNSF and Union Pacific.
Meanwhile, freight railroads and their unions face a looming strike deadline on Friday to settle their contract dispute.
There are 12 unions representing 115,000 workers that must agree on tentative deals and have their members vote on whether to approve them. So far, nine have agreed to tentative deals while three others are still bargaining.
Though the negotiations don't involve Amtrak, most of the company's 21,000 route miles outside of the Northeast Corridor are on tracks owned, maintained and dispatched by freight railroads.