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Tom Shillue

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DuPont Amtrak crash: Deadly race for tax dollars by 3 unaccountable agencies

The Amtrak train making the first-ever run along a faster new route hurtled off the overpass Monday near Tacoma and spilled some of its cars onto the highway below, killing some people, authorities said. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

The DuPont Amtrak crash that killed three people was, in part, a now deadly race for federal tax dollars. Three unaccountable agencies, Amtrak, WSDOT and Sound Transit, were all involved in pushing “an aggressive timeline” for the sole purpose of sucking up federal tax money. The Seattle Times’ Mike Lindblom has the full account (bold emphasis is mine), please read it all:

Washington state transportation leaders had long ago envisioned the corridor would be refurbished by 2019, according to state records, but to fully collect federal stimulus money, construction had to be completed by mid-2017. The state then vowed to open the line this fall.

Two of these agencies, WSDOT and Sound Transit are set to build a train line on the I-90 floating bridge, an engineering first. That project is already 40 percent over-budget because Sound Transit’s engineers had to redesign part of the project having failed to properly account for the fact that floating bridges, well, float. The deadly events of the DuPont Amtrak crash should put an immediate stop to the I-90 project until Sound Transit, which is an agency run be an un-elected board, is put under the control of an elected body.

DuPont Amtrak crash: Money for nothing

This was never about the commuting public, ten minutes of time savings on a five-hour train trip already made that clear. This was certainly never about relieving congestion – that’s what the little people want, not WSDOT. This had absolutely nothing to do with completing the ten-year late, many billions over-budget so called light rail Sound Transit builds. No, this was about getting tax money and, there is simply no way to justify three lives lost, $188 million spent to carry 80 people and save ten minutes. This was money for nothing and yet another reason why federal stimulus dollars are a sick joke.

Sound Transit: Much more involved

The DuPont Amtrak crash was about speed; the train was going 80 MPH in a 30 MPH zone. But, it was also about arrogance, lack of accountability, and organizational greed. Now, thanks to The Seattle Times, we learn that Sound Transit, the most arrogant, unaccountable and consistently law breaking government entity in the state, played a larger role than first described. Again, from the Times and, again, please read it all:

Sound Transit, the agency tasked with construction in some parts of that corridor project, wrote in documents in 2016 that the ‘project is under a very aggressive schedule” and that even a one-month delay would have impacts. It noted that the state was under a deadline with the federal government to be reimbursed for costs.

Project management shared safety concerns with mayor who predicted a deadly crash

According to the Times, a project manager on this build, Derek Smelser, shared concerns with Lakewood City Council about the lack of Positive Train Control, a computer system that automatically slows trains going too fast. Amtrak has fought for years to delay the implementation of the system, and neither WSDOT nor Sound Transit demanded it. Lakewood’s Mayor predicted the train line would kill people. But, three unaccountable agencies didn’t care: there was tax money to be lapped up. Now, we have the Dupont Amtrak Crash.

Apparently, Sound Transit’s involvement didn’t end with construction and providing the rails. According to a discussion Tuesday evening on KIRO Radio’s Ron & Don Show between guest hosts Zak Burns, Mike Lewis and New Anchor, Kim Shepherd, the safety system in use was that employed by Sound Transit. Positive Train Control is designed specifically to stop events like the DuPont Amtrak crash from occurring. The safety system in use by Sound Transit? Apparently not.

Governor Jay Inslee and the DuPont Amtrak crash

There is one man who can demand and get accountability from WSDOT and help get it from Sound Transit: Governor Jay Inslee. WSDOT reports to him and Inslee should find, name, and the fire the people responsible for putting pursuit of tax dollars ahead of lives. Inslee should do that today–he won’t–but, he should. Secondly, Democrats in the state House have stalled every single attempt to bring Sound Transit under the control of voters, the way any agency with a $75 BILLION budget should be managed. Jay Inslee should demand that his party finally recognize the rouge nature of Sound Transit and demand that they finally work with Republicans to convert Sound Transit’s Board to an elected body. Inslee should also immediately demand the resignation of Peter Rogoff, the head of Sound Transit, who has overseen the illegal car tab tax, the illegal campaign donations, the illegal sharing of Orca Card data with the transit lobby, the billions of dollars of over-budget work. Now, Rogoff has overseen Sound Transit’s involvement in the DuPont Amtrak crash.

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