Amtrak service resumes on Point Defiance bypass nearly 4 years after deadly derailment

Nov 18, 2021, 1:48 PM | Updated: 1:54 pm
Cars from an Amtrak train lay spilled onto Interstate 5 below alongside smashed vehicles as some train cars remain on the tracks above Monday, Dec. 18, 2017, in DuPont. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Amtrak passengers are now able to travel over the Point Defiance bypass for the first time since a deadly 2017 train derailment.

The first Amtrak Cascades train to use the bypass left Seattle at 7:22 a.m. Thursday.

The bypass is a stretch of track that runs near Interstate 5 through Tacoma, Lakewood, Joint Base Lewis McChord, DuPont and Nisqually. It was created to help cut down on travel time between Seattle and Portland.

When the bypass first opened nearly four years ago, a train derailed, killing three people and injuring dozens more.

Photos: Train derails onto I-5 in Washington

Investigations following the incident revealed the train was going nearly 80 miles per hour when it hit a curve with a posted speed limit of only 30 miles per hour.

In a statement, Amtrak says they have worked in partnership with Sound Transit and the Washington State Department of Transportation on intensive system testing, crew qualifications and safety certification.

“Amtrak is continuously improving safety for the benefit of our customers, employees and the communities we serve,” said Stephen Gardner, president of Amtrak. “We are ready to safely resume service on the bypass consistent with the steps required by our host railroad, Sound Transit, the Federal Railroad Administration and our own safety management system.”

Sound Transit, which owns the tracks, required Amtrak to verify compliance with their safety requirements before resuming passenger rail service on the bypass. Amtrak began testing trains in January, before training and qualifying crew members along the route in June.

A total of eight trains will use the route daily, with additional trains expected to be added in the coming months as COVID travel restrictions ease.

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Amtrak service resumes on Point Defiance bypass nearly 4 years after deadly derailment