DAVE ROSS

Did ‘culture’ play a factor in deadly train derailment?

Dec 20, 2017, 10:54 AM | Updated: 3:45 pm

train derailment...

The Amtrak train took a 30 mph curve at 80 mph and plunged off an overpass, sending rail cars plummeting onto a busy highway south of Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

The former chair of a regional rail system in Southern California who dealt with the aftermath of a deadly head-on collision says there’s likely a lot more to the derailment that happened Monday in Pierce County than just speed.

RELATED: Remaining locomotive hauled off

Keith Millhouse, the former chair of the Metrolink board in Los Angeles, California, says a safety system could have prevented the head-on Chatsworth crash between a commuter train and freight train in 2008 that killed 25 people. It’s probable that a safety system, known as positive train control, also would have prevented the Amtrak derailment that killed three and injured dozens more on Monday.

Positive train control was originally scheduled to be in place across the country by 2015. That deadline has been pushed back. Millhouse says commuter and freight agencies have put pressure on elected officials to keep it from happening.

“Basically, they consider it too expensive.”

But there are many factors that need to be taken into account, Millhouse says. That includes the “culture” around rail service and how seriously the agencies responsible take it.

“While this particular accident is fairly straightforward … there are many things that have to be looked at beyond speed. Culture is one of them,” he said.

An illustration of that, he says, is the location of “Train Safety” on WSDOT’s rail information website. The categories are not in alphabetical order and the safety information page is the 11th category down.

Millhouse says the track, which became part of a new route between Seattle and Portland, doesn’t look like it was designed for high-speed service.

Photos of the train derailment in Pierce County

He also questions if there was pressure to get it open early — a Seattle Times investigation found that is a possibility — and whether or not the train’s late departure was a factor in what happened.

Listen to the entire interview here.

Dave's Commentary

Dave Ross on KIRO Newsradio 97.3 FM
  • listen to dave rossTune in to KIRO Newsradio weekdays at 5am for Dave Ross on Seattle's Morning News.

Dave Ross

ten commandments louisiana...

Dave Ross

Ross: As Louisiana requires the Ten Commandments in classrooms, don’t limit anti-sin campaigns to schools

The State of Louisiana has passed a law requiring the Ten Commandments to be posted in every school in the state.

2 hours ago

supreme court pro-life...

Dave Ross

Ross: Supreme Court rules against pro-life challenge, so what’s next for the Christian Nationalists?

The Supreme Court last week unanimously turned down the pro-life challenge to the FDA’s decision to make Mifepristone widely available.

7 days ago

luxury lane toll...

Dave Ross

Ross: Let the rich pay the exorbitant ‘luxury lane’ toll prices

The new higher tolls for solo drivers in the luxury lane are hitting the $15 maximum every rush hour, all to save exactly three minutes of driving.

14 days ago

trump belltown hellcat...

Dave Ross

Ross: If popularity creates immunity, maybe the ‘Belltown Hellcat Bandit’ should run for president

A lot of completely normal Americans believe Trump should have gone free, and he probably will because of his popularity.

21 days ago

forever chemicals living defensively...

Dave Ross

Ross: Living defensively has its limits when facing ‘forever chemicals’

The trouble is that "living defensively" has its limits – as we heard when 3M lost control of its "forever chemicals."

1 month ago

Image: In this photo illustration, the logos of social media applications Instagram, Facebook, Link...

Dave Ross

Ross: If you hope the government will save kids from social media, think again

Social media firm TikTok must sell itself to a non-Chinese company, or it goes dark in the U.S. But that law is headed straight to court.

1 month ago

Did ‘culture’ play a factor in deadly train derailment?