Posts Tagged ‘Washington Department of Transportation’

Cascades Service to Increase May 24

April 28, 2021

Additional Cascades Service roundtrips are set to begin service May 24.

Amtrak will restore three of four Seattle-Portland roundtrips and both Portland-Eugene roundtrips.

For more than a year the corridor has been limited to a single daily Seattle-Eugene roundtrip.

The trains will use a combination of Talgo Series 8 transets owned by the Oregon Department of Transportation and Amtrak owned Horizon equipment.

An additional full-corridor departure will leave Seattle at 7:25 a.m. and return from Eugene at 4:40 p.m., arriving at 11 p.m.

The new schedule has Train 507 departing Seattle at 6:10 p.m. and its equipment leaving Portland the next day at at noon.

The current schedule has a Talgo departing Seattle (No. 505) at 2:20 p.m. and leaving Eugene the next morning (No. 500) at 5:30 a.m. and arriving in Seattle at 11:50 a.m.

State transportation officials had wanted to shift the departure of No. 500 from Eugene to 8 a.m. but host railroads Union Pacific and BNSF would not allow it, Washington Department of Transportation Communications Manager Janet Matkin told Trains magazine.

Because the U.S.-Canadian border remains closed to non-essential travel, Cascades service between Seattle and Vancouver remains suspended.

At present, Amtrak operates a Thruway bus to Bellingham, Washington.

Washington state transportation officials said one Seattle-Vancouver roundtrip could be restored in July.

An official said Amtrak crews are qualified on the route and if the border opens sooner rail service could resume before July.

No date has yet been given as to when Amtrak will resume using the Point Defiance Bypass south of Tacoma.

Officials are eying late summer or early fall but said it is up to host railroad Sound Transit.

The public transit agency conducted testing on the route earlier this year and has been working through a crew qualification process.

Matkin said the Cascades will continue to operate at 50 percent capacity in compliance with Washington and Oregon’s ‘Ride Safe’ Initiatives.

Limited food and beverage service may begin at the same time or soon after the May 24 schedule expansion.

Talgos Sent to Beech Grove Shops

September 2, 2020

Two Talgo VI trainsets have been moved to Amtrak’s Beech Grove shops for storage.

Amtrak has not said what it plans to do with trainsets Mt. Hood and Mt. Olympus, which were removed from service following a December 2017 fatal derailment in DuPont, Washington.

The Talgos are owned by the Washington State Department of Transportation and were used for several years in Cascades Service between Vancouver, Washington, and Eugene Oregon.

The agency owns two other Talgo trainsets that remain in Washington State.

A National Transportation Safety Board investigation of the 2017 derailment was critical of the design of the Talgos but manufacturer Talgo has disputed that portion of the conclusions of the NTSB report.

Washington State Man Sues Over Cascade Derailment

March 3, 2020

A Washington State man has filed a lawsuit seeking damages to compensate him for injuries suffered in a December 2017 derailment of an Amtrak Cascades Service train near DuPont, Washington.

The lawsuit was filed by Timmy Brodigan, who was 16 at the time of the derailment.

The suit said he suffered a broken neck that has left him paralyzed.

The suit, which seeks an unspecified amount of damages, names Amtrak, the Washington State Department of Transportation and Sound Transit.

Although no damages amount was specified, the suit is seeking millions of dollars.

Although others filed lawsuits following the derailment, in which Cascades No. 501 plunged off a bridge and onto an interstate highway below, Brodigan’s suit is the first to name three defendant organizations.

The derailment left three dead and more than 60 injured.

A federal court jury earlier awarded $17 million to three victims in earliers cases.

An attorney representing Brodigan, Todd Gardner, said the negligence of the defendants resulted in his client now being dependent on a wheelchair to get around.

“He’d like his life back. He knows he’s not going to get that,” Gardner said at a news conference.

None of the defendants would comment on the lawsuit when asked about it by news media in Washington State.

Brodner’s lawsuit contends that Amtrak’s use of the Point Defiance Bypass south of Tacoma was rushed into service without adequate preparation.

The Dec. 18, 2017, derailment occurred on the first day of revenue service on the route.

Neither Amtrak nor Sound Transit has used the route since the derailment.

A National Transportation Safety Board investigation concluded that the Amtrak train was traveling nearly 80 miles per hour entering a 30-mph curve.

The NTSB report also noted that route did not yet have a positive train control system in operation at the time of the derailment.

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.”

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.

New Equipment Will Replace Talgos on Cascade Route

August 27, 2019

The Washington State Department of Transportation will receive a federal grant to replace three state-owned Talgo 6 trainsets used in Amtrak Cascades service.

WSDOT received a $37.5 million Federal Railroad Administration grant to be used to meet half of the equipment replacement costs.

One of the three trainsets to be replaced was damaged in a December 2017 derailment that left three passengers dead.

The new equipment will be acquired through Amtrak’s 2019-2020 national equipment replacement contract.

“By participating in this national procurement process with other states that sponsor passenger service, [the state transportation department] will be able to leverage the buying power of both Amtrak and other states,” WSDOT said in a statement.

One bidder will be selected to provide various configurations depending on what each state desires.

In a statement, the FRA said the new passenger cars “will provide flexible train car capacity, reduce infrastructure lifecycle costs for the Amtrak Cascades fleet, and improve onboard amenities.”

Aside from the FRA grant, funding for the new equipment will come from state funding as well as insurance proceeds from the trainset lost in the derailment.

The new equipment is expected to arrive in the mid-2020s. In the interim, Amtrak is seeking temporary equipment to replace Talgo 6 trainsets currently in service.

FRA Grants to Benefit Passenger Rail

August 27, 2019

The Federal Railroad Administration has announced the awarding of more than $272 million in grant funding to 10 rail projects through its State of Good Repair Program.

Several of those projects will benefit passenger rail.

The Michigan Department of Transportation was awarded up to $23.3 million for a rehabilitation work on the state-owned line between Kalamazoo and Dearborn that is used by Amtrak’s Wolverine Service and Blue Water trains.

The project entails rebuilding rail, crossties and track surfaces, and replacing two railroad bridges in Jackson.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation received $15.1 million to rehabilitate and upgrade an interlocking plant in Philadelphia at the junction of the Amtrak-owned Keystone Corridor and Northeast Corridor main lines.

Work will include slope stabilization and reconstruction of retaining walls, rehabilitation of an existing but underutilized track, and switch and signal reconfiguration.

Chicago commuter agency Metra will receive $17.8 million to construct a new grade-separated, double-tracked rail bridge over Milwaukee Avenue north of the Grayland Metra Station on Metra’s Milwaukee District-North Line in Chicago.

The city-owned New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal will receive $3.7 million to complete final design for upgrading station platforms and train service capabilities.

The platform modifications will bring the platforms into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, increase platform height to provide level boarding for Amtrak’s Sunset Limited and City of New Orleans, and improve the step height for boarding the Crescent.

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation was awarded $41.2 million to replace and upgrade Tower I interlocking, a major rail network junction at the entrance to the Boston South Station terminal area.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation received $76.9 million for the Piedmont intercity fleet and infrastructure investments project.

The project involves the acquisition of 13 new passenger coaches for use in the Piedmont service and an expansion of the Charlotte Locomotive and Rail-car Maintenance Facility.

New Jersey Transit received $18.4 million for platform D improvements at Newark Penn Station. The project includes repairing and/or replacing Platform D slabs and joints, reconstructing platform edges, installing new tactile strips and timber rub rails, repairing the overhead canopy and upgrading lighting.
The Rhode Island Department of Transportation was awarded $12.5 million for a major rehabilitation of the Amtrak station in Providence.

The Washington State Department of Transportation was awarded $37.5 million to procure three new consists for use in the Amtrak Cascades service.

The project will replace the three Washington state-owned Talgo VI trainsets: two used in current service and one damaged in the December 2017 derailment.

The loss of the damaged trainset reduced the Amtrak Cascades schedule from six to four daily round trips.

The project will enable WSDOT to meet existing and anticipated passenger demand, and allow Washington to retire its Talgo VI trainsets.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation was awarded $25.7 million to replace deteriorated, outdated passenger cab-baggage and coach cars used in the Chicago–Milwaukee Amtrak Hiawatha service with three single-level cab-coach cars and six single-level coach cars.

Study Backs High-speed Rail in Cascadia Corridor

July 18, 2019

High-speed rail service between British Columbia and Oregon could cover its operating costs as soon as 2040 a recently released study concluded.

The study, released by the Washington State Department of Transportation, said that a route between Vancouver and Portland via Seattle would deliver economic and social benefits but before it can be implemented decisions must be made as to what equipment would be used and where it would operate.

Among the options are conventional rail, maglev or hyperloop. Other unresolved issues include funding and the cost of construction.

The benefits of the rail system would include a faster travel time, reducing current traffic congestions, cutting greenhouse emissions and creating jobs.

The travel time between Seattle and Portland could be as little as an hour.

Ridership was projected at more than 3 million trips annually with farebox revenues of $156 million to $250 million a year by 2040.

The recent study is an extension of one conducted earlier. Funding for the study was provided by Washington, Oregon, British Columbia and software maker Micosoft.

“The need for continued additional transportation infrastructure investment in the Cascadia megaregion is clear — crowded roads, congested airports, and limited intercity rail service constrain the mobility of residents, businesses, and tourists,” the report said. “Vancouver; Seattle; and Portland have the fourth, sixth, and tenth-most congested roads in North America, respectively. Airport delays are making air travel increasingly unreliable, and the travel time and frequency of intercity rail service are not competitive for most trips.”
The study focused on what it termed ultra-high-speed ground transportation, which would travel as fast as 250 miles per hour.

No construction timeline was provided other than it could being in six to eight years with costs ranging from $24 billion to $42 billion. Who would pay those costs is not directly address by the study.

“It’s really like building another I-5, only one that is faster, more reliable, safer and more environmentally friendly,” said Janet Matkin, a spokesperson for WSDOT.

Trains would operate on a dedicated right of way and service frequency would be 21 to 30 roundtrips a day.

The $42 billion cost of the system caught the eye of a state legislator who said he doesn’t see the state taking on the project on its own and doesn’t see construction starting in eight years as outlined in the study.

“I don’t see that happening,” state Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens and chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, said of the ambitious schedule.

Saying the cost can’t be covered by the state, Hobbs said it needs to be in partnership with the private sector.

“There needs to be more analysis, especially on the financial part,” he said.

Some Talgo Equipment to be Removed From Cascades

May 27, 2019

In the wake of a National Transportation Safety Board report on the December 2017 derailment of an Amtrak Cascades train, the Washington State Department of Transportation said it will remove Talgo Series 6 trainsets from service “as soon as possible.”

In a statement, WSDOT said it is working with Amtrak to determine the timing of the equipment removal and equipment replacement.

The NTSB recommended that the Talgo Series 6 equipment be removed from service due to safety issues.

WSDOT said it had planned to remove that equipment from service in the mid 2020s, but the NTSB report has advanced that timetable.

Talgo equipment is used in Cascades service between Eugene, Oregon, and Vancouver, British Columbia. WSDOT and the Oregon Department of Transportation fund that service, which is operated by Amtrak.

In its report about the Dec. 18, 2017, derailment near DuPont, Washington, that left three dead, the NTSB determined that the wheels of the Spanish-built trains became detached during the derailment.

NTSB Investigators described them as “projectiles” that crushed passenger car compartments and highway vehicles.

“Had the rolling assembly not detached we may not have had fatal injuries,” NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt said.

The derailment occurred on a 30-mph curve. Train 501 was en route to Portland, Oregon, from Seattle and entered the curve traveling 78 mph.

It was the first day of operation for Amtrak on the Point Defiance Bypass, which is owned in part by commuter agency Sound Transit.

The NTSB said the lightweight design of the Talgo trains was a factor in the severity of the crash.

Manufacturer Talgo has contended that its equipment is safe and performed as expected.

In announcing the conclusions of its accident investigation report, one NTSB member noted that the Talgo Series 6 equipment was “grandfathered” into safety standards of the Federal Railroad Administration because the equipment couldn’t meet updated crashworthiness standards.

The state of Washington owns two Series 6 trainsets and Amtrak owns two others. Oregon owns two Series 8 Talgo sets.

WSDOT spokeswoman Janet Matkin said the agency will be challenged to find funding to buy new equipment.

However, WSDOT is part of a multi-state compact that is acquiring new single-level cars for use on corridor routes operated by Amtrak.

Matkin noted that her agency is seeking federal funds to purchase new equipment and is awaiting a decision by the FRA on those grant applications.

WSDOT has thus far not taken Talgo up on an offer of 31 cars that would make up two or three trainsets depending on capacity, said Talgo spokeswoman Nora Friend.

Friend said the Series 8 cars were offered to WSDOT at less than that list price. The cars are new, but had originally been built for service in Wisconsin before Gov. Scott Walker canceled a planned rail expansion project.

Friend said Talgo 6 cars have a usable life of 30 years. The Series 6 cars owned by WSDOT and Amtrak are 21 years old and some Series 6 equipment is older and still in operation all over the world.

Sound Transit, which came in for criticism in the NTSB report, said it will hire an outside consultant to review the agency’s safety procedures.

“I completely agree with the NTSB that we have a confusing and troubling regulatory regime here where four different agencies plus BNSF have a very convoluted distribution of roles and responsibilities,” said Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff.

The NTSB had recommended that Sounder Transit undertake a review of its safety certification process “top to bottom, when it comes to our role as a track owner.”

Although Sound owns the track where the Cascades 501 derailment occurred, it doesn’t plan to operate rail service there.

“It was our responsibility to not only determine safety protocols but to oversee that Amtrak implemented all of them,” Rogoff said. “That clearly didn’t happen when it comes to whether Amtrak included curve safety protocols in the general orders to its crews, or verifying the level of training Amtrak provided to its train crews.

Amtrak has yet to resume using the Point Defiance Bypass, which it sought as an alternative to the BNSF route it now uses between Tacoma, Washington, and Portland.

Neither Amtrak, WSDOT, nor Sound Transit have said when Amtrak’s Cascades and Coast Starlight might begin using the Point Defiance route.

WSDOT spokeswoman Matkin said her agency needs time to review the NTSB report in detail.

The agency has said previously it would not permit passenger service to resume on the Point Defiance Bypass until the NTSB report is released and installation of a positive train control system is completed.

The NTSB report said the engineer on Amtrak Cascades 501 said he missed the first trackside sign that a curve was ahead. The report said the engineer’s lack of familiarity with the route played a role in the derailment.

NTSB Releases Cascades 501 Accident Report

May 27, 2019

The National Transportation Safety Board last week released it long-awaited report on the derailment of Amtrak Cascades Service No. 501 in December 2017 and zeroed in the failure of Central Puget Sound Transit Authority to mitigate the hazards of a curve on the Point Defiance Bypass.

No. 501 entered the 30 mph curve traveling 78 mph. The resulting derailment killed three passengers aboard the train and injured 57 others. Eight people were injured after some cars fell on motor vehicles on Interstate 5 near DuPont, Washington.

The derailment occurred on the first day of operation for Amtrak on the Point Defiance Bypass.

By law, the NTSB is required to issue a single “probable cause” at the conclusion of its investigations, but the agency made 53 specific findings and listed 26 recommendations.

The NTSB recommendations were addressed to numerous agencies, including the U.S. departments of transportation and defense, Amtrak, Washington State and Sound Transit.

The report also singled out the safety of the Talgo Series 6 equipment used by Cascades Service trains.

It also noted that the locomotive engineer was distracted by the overspeed alerts due to his confusion about the bells and alarms and screens since he hadn’t seen those alerts during regular training.

The NTSB recommended that locomotive engineers receive more simulator training.

The report also noted that the conductor sitting in the cab was too passive, acting more like an observer than an active member of the crew.

During a five-hour hearing to announce the findings of the report NTSB Chair Robert Sumwalt emphasized the need to focus on preventing wrecks rather than surviving them.

In particular, he spoke about repeated delays to implementing positive train control systems on routes used by passenger trains.

“Today’s new and reiterated and reclassified recommendations, if acted upon, will make rail transportation safer for passengers and train crews,” Sumwalt said “But they will require action by several parties, including the Federal Railroad Administration. The repeated postponement of Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations Part 270, ‘System Safety Program,’ has delayed needed safety improvements for passenger rail.”

After saying there have been six delays of the PTC deadline, Sumwalt called on the Federal Railroad Administration to act.

“It’s time. It’s time to move forward on it,” he said. “We want the FRA to move. They’re saying it will be done by September. It’s time. It’s past time, to get it done. There’s no other way to put it. It’s time, it’s past time, for the FRA to act. As we’ve seen, lives depend on the issuance of that rule.”

Among the key recommendations made by the NTSB, it called for U.S. DOT to require to require inward-facing image and audio recordings in locomotive cabs.

It wants the FRA to act more forcefully on PTC and hinted that all passenger service should operate in PTC territory.

The FRA should also study how better signage and wayside plaques might improve situational awareness for train crews, to compel better compliance with emergency lighting rules, to look into child safety-seat use and research how the compartmentalization approach to interior safety can be affected by the range of passenger sizes.

WSDOT was urged to stop using Talgo Series VI trainsets. Amtrak was told to work harder at training crew members and ensure that they can show knowledge of their territories.

Central Puget Sound Transit was asked to conduct an immediate review of all operating documents, coordinate to develop operating documents with current and prospective tenant on railroads where it is the host, and immediately review its safety program, analyze any gaps, and develop an action plan to address deficiencies.