Almost four years after a deadly derailment on the Point Defiance bypass near DuPont, Amtrak Cascades service will resume on the bypass on Nov. 18.
The first train to use the bypass is scheduled to leave Seattle at 7:22 a.m. and arrive at the new Tacoma Dome station at 8:08 a.m., according to an Amtrak statement. The first northbound train will leave Eugene, Ore., at 5:30 a.m., stop in Portland at 8:20 a.m., and arrive in Tacoma at 10:54 a.m.
Amtrak said a total of eight trains — including Amtrak Cascades and Coast Starlight — will use the bypass daily, with additional trains added in the months ahead as COVID restrictions ease.
Use of the bypass is resuming after the addition of safety measures and the implementation of most of the National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) recommendations following the 2017 derailment, the Amtrak statement said. The other recommendations are being pursued, the statement said.
Key among the safety improvements is the installment of activated positive train control, which uses GPS technology to stop or slow down a train before a collision or derailment occurs.
The NTSB first called for widespread use of the crash-preventing technology in 1990 and in 2008, Congress mandated APTC be installed on every passenger and high hazardous material route across the country within seven years.
The railroad industry has been slow, however, to act and typically ends up adding the technology after there’s been a fatal crash, wrote Deborah A.P. Hersman, the former chair of the National Transportation Safety Board, in a December 2017 opinion piece for The Seattle Times.
Four years ago on Dec. 18, Amtrak 501 was on its inaugural run on the newly opened, faster rail line when it careened off the tracks near Olympia. Rail cars careened off an overpass onto rush-hour traffic on Interstate 5 and three people were killed and 62 injured.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) placed primary blame for the crash on Sound Transit, which owns the $181 million corridor, for failing to require safety improvements near the curve, where the 80 mph speed limit abruptly dropped to 30 mph.
In addition to installing APTC, Amtrak said it has:
- Developed and implemented policies and processes to proactively identify and mitigate risks, enhanced reporting standards, expanded crew training, and redesigned safety training courses.
- Implemented progressive speed reductions to ensure trains slow down gradually and operate at required speeds across the route.
- Requalified and trained crew members.
- Upgraded the system’s high-fidelity simulators with route specific details and conditions.
The opinions expressed in reader comments are those of the author only and do not reflect the opinions of The Seattle Times.