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Amtrak canceling some Southwest Chief, California Zephyr routes in Colorado

A possible strike involving freight railroads has started to impact commuter rail operations.

WASHINGTON — Amtrak announced Monday it is pre-emptively canceling some long distance trips, mostly out of Chicago, ahead of a possible freight railroad strike later this week.

Starting Tuesday, Amtrak said service would be suspended on the Southwest Chief (Chicago to Los Angeles), the Empire Builder (Chicago to Minneapolis to Spokane to Portland/Seattle), the California Zephyr (Chicago to Denver to San Francisco) and the Los Angeles to San Antonio Train #421 portion of the Texas Eagle routes.

The company explained the move was necessary "to avoid possible passenger disruptions while enroute." 

Freight railroads and their unions face a looming strike deadline on Friday to settle their contract dispute. 

While 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. 

"These initial adjustments include the cancellation of three Long Distance routes on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2022, and could be followed by impacts to all Long Distance and most State-Supported routes. These adjustments are necessary to ensure trains can reach their terminals prior to freight railroad service interruption if a resolution in negotiations is not reached," Amtrak said in a statement. 

The company noted that most travel within the Boston to New York to Washington corridor and related branch lines won't be affected because Amtrak owns those lines. 

Amtrak said it plans to reach out to impacted customers, who can change their reservation to another date or receive a full refund. 

The Association of American Railroads trade group put out a report last week estimating that shutting down the railroads would cost the economy $2 billion a day.

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