Senator proposes new transportation panel in wake of derailment report
Washington State Senator Steve O’Ban is proposing a new transportation panel in response to the fatal train derailment near DuPont in 2017. Standing at the site of incident, he pointed to some of the failures identified by the NTSB.
“Sound Transit failed to do a competent hazard analysis of its updated plan, including a failure to identify the hazard at mile marker 19.8 and provide adequate mitigation,” O’Ban said. “Amtrak did not effectively train its crew, WSDOT should have provided better oversight to ensure safety.”
After 17 months of investigation, the NTSB released its final findings this week on the Amtrak derailment that killed three and injured dozens in 2017. The agency cited several safety failures from multiple agencies. NTSB found that Sound Transit — the agency responsible for the new tracks where the derailment occurred — did not adequately identify hazards on the tracks to prevent dangerous situations.
According to KIRO 7 TV, the NTSB also found blame with Amtrak, the Washington State Department of Transportation, and the Federal Railroad Administration.
The NTSB report included dozens of recommendations; O’Ban is focused on one and is proposing new oversight to avoid a repeat of the tragedy. O’Ban said that it was recommended that the state take on oversight of Sound Transit, WSDOT, and Amtrak’s efforts to comply with the NTSB’s recommendations.
“The public must have the confidence that a competent bi-partisan body, with a clear mission of putting passenger safety first, has certified that the NTSB recommendations have been carried out, and the resumption of this Amtrak service will be safe,” he said.
“Today I am announcing legislation to establish the state Transportation Oversight Panel to provide the necessary independent review and certification that this train service is safe to passengers and the communities in which it will travel,” O’Ban said.
Service along the Point Defiance Bypass route was stopped after the crash in 2017 on its inaugural run of the new express service. That service was expected to begin again this year, but O’Ban is essentially saying “not so fast.” He would prefer the creation of the oversight panel in the next legislative session to verify all these safety changes have been made.
“The purpose of this panel is to create comprehensive independent review and certify the safety of a new transportation system, or an existing service that has failed to ensure passenger safety,” O’Ban said. “The resumption of the Amtrak service on this Nisqually bypass would be condition on the review by this panel …”
The panel would be comprised of the chairs and ranking members of the Senate and House transportation committees, and managed by a non-voting chairperson who doesn’t hold office. It would be completely independent from the executive branch and any of the transportation agencies involved, which would be WSDOT, Sound Transit, and Amtrak.
DuPont Mayor Michael Courts said everyone of those agencies should be on board with this. He said the NTSB report that was released this week was very disturbing.
“It is disappointing to realize these agencies that we entrust with public safety failed so utterly,”Courts said. “I can only assume they would eagerly embrace the idea of external oversight to help restore public confidence in them.”
“Mass transit is important to our region, but equally important is public safety,” he said. “If the public is going to be asked to commit the type of public treasure to these facilities that hey have been, then we need the confidence to believe that those charged with providing oversight will do so in a responsible, safe manner. “