Posts Tagged ‘Point Defiance Bypass’

Group Pushes to Reopen Point Definance Route

January 25, 2020

All Aboard Washington is trying to turn up the heat to get Amtrak, the Washington State Department of Transportation and Sound Transit to resume using the Point Defiance Bypass.

The route has been out of service since a December 2017 derailment of a Cascades train that left three dead and several others injured.

Two of those killed were members of the rail passenger advocacy group, Jim Hamre and Zack Willhoite.

They were riding the first southbound revenue service Cascades to use the route.

In urging that the route be reopened as soon as possible AAW acknowledged that it was necessary to take safety measures on the route, including the installation of positive train control.

“The need for fast, frequent, and reliable passenger rail service has never been more urgent,” AAW said in a statement. “The traveling public wants a convenient, environmentally-friendly service that is safer than driving.

“With the right service improvements, the Cascades can meet this demand. But additional daily Cascades trains, with shorter running times between Seattle and Portland, cannot be implemented until the Bypass is in use.”

The statement contends that the installation of PTC plus other safety measures that have been undertaken made the route safe enough for scheduled passenger service.

“We believe that further postponing Cascades service on the Point Defiance Bypass — for which we have already paid $181 million — is detrimental to the interests of the Puget Sound region, the Pacific Northwest, and the traveling public as a whole,” AAW said.

“The taxpayers of Washington state have invested a significant sum of money to improve a useful service along a busy corridor. Let’s make that improved service a reality without delay.”

Neither Amtrak or WSDOT has indicated when the Point Defiance Bypass might reopen.

A consultant is conducting a study to be completed by Jan. 6, 2021, of “rail safety governance best practices and recommendations for the implementation of these best practices in Washington.”

Woman Awarded $4.5M in Cascades Lawsuit

November 14, 2019

A jury has awarded a woman injured in the December 2017 of an Amtrak Cascades train $4.5 million in damages.

The award was made in a Federal District Court in Tacoma, Washington, to Madeline Garza.

She was a passenger aboard the southbound train No. 501 when it derailed on a curve in DuPont, Washington.

A news release issued by Garza’s attorney said she was found lying on her back on the ceiling of an overturned passenger car.

The news release said Garza, who was 18 at the time of the crash, suffered a major injury to her pelvis and lower spine, as well as three fractured ribs and a lacerated liver.

Her case was the second to go to trial stemming from the derailment.

Three other plaintiffs who sued Amtrak were in September awarded nearly $17 million combined for pain and suffering.

The derailment had sent part of the train tumbling off a bridge onto Interstate 5. Three passengers were killed and more than 60 others injured.

A National Transportation Safety Board Investigation determined that the train was going faster than the posted speed limited for the curve when the derailment occurred.

The train was making the first revenue run on the Point Defiance Bypass at the time.

Amtrak immediately returned its Cascades Service trains to the previous route and has yet to resume using the Point Defiance route.

County Wants all NTSB Recommendations Implemented Before Amtrak Returns to Point Defiance Bypass

September 14, 2019

A Washington state county has issued a list of actions that it wants to see implemented before rail passenger service resumed on the Point Defiance Bypass.

The Pierce County Council has asked Amtrak, Sound Transit and the Washington State Department of Transportation not to use the route until all of the recommendations issued by the National Transportation Board are in place.

The NTSB issued the recommendations in its report into the cause of a Dec. 18, 2017, derailment of an Amtrak Cascades train that left three dead and dozens injured.

The derailment occurred on the first day of revenue service for Amtrak on the route, which is located between Tacoma and Olympia, Washington.

Amtrak suspended use of the Point Defiance route following the derailment and has not said when it will resume using it.

Among the NTSB recommendations were implementation of positive train control on the route and ending the use of older Talgo Series VI trainsets. WSDOT has already said it plans to do the latter.

No date has been set for Amtrak to resume using the Point Defiance Bypass and the resolution by Pierce County has no legal effect because it has no regulatory powers over the rail line.

City Demands NTSB Recommendations be Implemented

June 16, 2019

Although it might not mean much, the city council in Lakewood, Washington has adopted a resolution asking that the Point Defiance Bypass not be reopened until all of the National Transportation Safety Board’s recommendations are implemented.

The resolution references a report recently issued by the NTSB into the cause of a derailment in December 2017 of an Amtrak Cascades train that left three dead.

The train was on its first day of using the Point Defiance route, which passes through Lakewood. The derailment occurred near DuPoint, Washington.

Lakewood, a city of 60,000, has long opposed use of the route for passenger trains. In 2013 it sued the Washington State Department of Transportation in an effort to stop Amtrak and Sound Transit commuter trains from using the route.

However, a judge ruled the uses of the rail line aren’t subject to city regulation.

The NTSB made numerous recommendations in its reports although none of the transportation companies or agencies to which they were targeted are under any legal obligation to implement them.

The resolution of the city council said the failure of WSDOT, Amtrak, Sound Transit and others to implement NTSB’s safety recommendations “presents unacceptable safety risks for passenger rail travel in Washington State, as well as unacceptable risks to interstate commerce.”

PTC Now in Place on Cascades Route

March 27, 2019

Despite completion of a positive train control system on the Point Defiance route in Washington no date has been set for Amtrak to resume using it.

Amtrak used the route briefly in December 2018, but the first southbound Cascades train over the route derailed, killing three passengers aboard the train.

The Point Defiance route begins in Tacoma and rejoins the current route used by Amtrak at Nisqually, Washington.

News reports indicate that PTC is now in operation between Blaine, Washington, and Eugene, Oregon, which is used by Amtrak’s Cascades service.

Portions of the route also are used by the Empire Builder and Coast Starlight.

Amtrak Use of Point Defiance Bypass Unlikely Soon

December 22, 2018

Washington State transportation officials say it will be late spring 2019 at the earliest before Amtrak service resumes on a route where a derailment that left three dead occurred on the first day of service on the route.

The 14.5-mile Point Defiance bypass was to be used by Amtrak and Sounder commuter trains south of Tacoma, Washington, and away from the long-used route next to Puget Sound.

But on the morning of Dec. 18, 2017, Cascades No. 501 derailed on a curve near DuPont, Washington.

National Transportation Safety Board investigators have said the train was traveling nearly 80 mph as it entered a 30-mph curve.

The accident ramped up the calls for installation of positive train control systems on routes used by passenger trains.

PTC has since been installed on the Point Defiance route and been undergoing testing and crew training this year.

A Washington State Department of Transportation official told Trains magazine that revenue service on the Point Defiance route is not expected until late spring at the earliest.

“We do not have a specific date yet for our return to the Point Defiance Bypass,” says Janet Matkin, WSDOT communications manager.

The spokesperson indicated that officials are awaiting the release of the final NTSB report on the Cascades 501 crash. The NTSD has said its investigation is about two-third completed.

Investigators are examining a number of areas, including the crashworthiness of the Tago equipment used in Cascades service, the emergency response to the crash and Amtrak’s decision to begin using the Point Defiance Bypass before PTC had been installed.

WSDOT has said that PTC has now been installed over the entire length of the Cascades corridor between Vancouver, British Columbia, and Eugene, Oregon.

A lawsuit filed after the derailment contends that Amtrak failed to adequately train employees before revenue service began.

Amtrak has denied that charge, but is defending itself in 35 lawsuits stemming from the crash.

Amtrak To Test, Train on Point Defiance Route

December 7, 2018

Amtrak will be conducting training and testing this month on the Point Defiance Bypass in Washington State.

The runs will be conducted during both daytime and nighttime hours at speeds of up to 79 p.m. on Dec. 8 and between Dec. 15 and 16.

The route extends between Tacoma and DuPont and passes through Lakewood.

Amtrak plans to begin scheduled service on the route next spring.

The passenger carrier had started service over the Point Defiance Bypass in late 2017, but on Dec. 18, the first day of service, Cascades Service train 501 derailed on a curve near DuPont.

Investigators have said the train was traveling too fast at the time of the derailment, which left three dead.

Point Defiance PTC Testing Begins

September 17, 2018

Testing began last weekend of the positive train control system on the Point Defiance Bypass in Washington State.

The route is used by commuter trains serving Seattle-Tacoma and is expected to be used by Amtrak starting next spring.

Amtrak began using the line last December but on the first day of operation a southbound Cascades train derailed near DuPont, Washington, killing three passengers.

Investigators have said the train was speeding as it entered a curve.

Amtrak officials subsequently said the carrier would use its original route between Tacoma and Nisqually, Washington, until the PTC system had been placed in service.

PTC Expected to be Running in Cascades Corridor

August 29, 2018

Positive train control is expected to be in operation on the Point Defiance Byass route in Washington state by the end of the year, Amtrak and the Washington Department of Transportation said this week.

The two added that PTC should be operation on the entire Cascades corridor as well.

Amtrak had started using the Point Defiance Bypass last December, but a southbound Cascades train derailed on the first day of service on the route, resulting in three passengers being killed and dozens injured.

The National Transportation Safety Board has indicated in a preliminary finding that the Amtrak train was speeding through a curve at the time of the derailment.

The Point Defiance Bypass runs through Tacoma, Lakewood, Joint Base Lewis-McChord and DuPont.

Amtrak expects to begin using the route in spring 2019. WSDOT said that will give officials an opportunity to monitor the performance of the PTC system along the Cascades route.

“Amtrak, Sound Transit and BNSF are all working together to ensure PTC is operating seamlessly in the entire Pacific Northwest and they are confident they will meet the Dec. 31, 2018, federal deadline for implementation in our region,” officials said in a statement.

NTSB Looking at Talgo Safety

July 24, 2018

The National Transportation Safety Board probe into the December 2017 derailment of an Amtrak Cascades train that killed three and injured more than 60 is focusing on the safety of the Talgo equipment involved in the incident.

“Now that we have evidence of how the Talgo trainset performs in a crash, does the [Federal Railroad Administration] have any concerns that would cause you to re-examine your decision to grandfather this equipment?” NTSB investigator Michael Hiller asked an FRA during a recent hearing.

In response, the FRA’s Gary Fairbanks said, “I didn’t see anything as the way the cars performed that would cause us to go back and reconsider the grandfathering petition because the items that were covered in the grandfathering petition performed adequately.”

The Talgo equipment involved in the derailment had been operating under a FRA waiver.

During the hearings, the NTSB also zeroed in on the training of Amtrak locomotive engineers.

The derailment occurred on the first day of revenue service on the Point Defiance Bypass between Tacoma and Nisqually, Washington.

NTSB investigators are also questioning if Amtrak did enough to identify a potentially dangerous curve at DuPont, Washington, where Cascades No. 501 derailed.

At issue was whether Amtrak operating personnel received a sufficient number of familiarization trips over the route before revenue service began.

Most of the training runs were made at night to avoid interfering with Sounder commuter trains during the day.

Testimony at the NTSB hearing showed that one training run had seven people in the cab, exceeding the number considered safe by Amtrak standards.

Locomotive engineers were not only learning a new route, but a new locomotive, the SC-44 Charger.

In interviews with NTSB investigators, the engineer of Cascades No. 501 said the curve at milepost 19.8 was on his mind, but that his limited familiarity with the lines of sight from the Charger locomotive may have hindered his ability to see the wayside warning signs until it was too late.

As Cascades No. 501 entered a 30 mph curve, it was traveling at 78 mph.

Mike DeCataldo, Amtrak’s senior director for system safety and customer satisfaction, said  Amtrak will only begin a new service or route “once all safety precautions and mitigations are in place.”

DeCataldo said Amtrak will require a minimum of four round-trips over the entirety of the new route, up from the previous minimum of one, before an engineer or conductor is qualified to operate over it.

Amtrak has said it will not use the Point Defiance Bypass until positive train control train is installed, which is not expected until the end of this year.

In a related development, an Amtrak mechanic has filed a federal whistleblower complaint in connection with the Cascades derailment, saying carrier ignored his safety concerns on the day of the accident.

Michael McClure said in the complaint that he told his superiors that there was a mechanical failure in the trainset that later derailed.

“They were more primarily concerned about getting it out in time for the inaugural run than looking at the safety aspect of it,” McClure said.

He contends that the fault dealt with the train’s braking system. However, it has not been formally established if that played a part in the derailment.

McClure’s complaint alleges that Amtrak has “an ongoing pattern and practice of violating the Federal Railroad Safety Act.”