Washington train derailment 'could've been avoided,' local mayor says

The mayor of a city along a new route taken by the Amtrak train that derailed in Washington state had expressed conce...

Posted: Dec 20, 2017 12:30 AM
Updated: Dec 20, 2017 12:30 AM

The mayor of a city along a new route taken by the Amtrak train that derailed in Washington state had expressed concerns about the line as long ago as 2013, court records show.

Don Anderson, mayor of Lakewood, about 11 miles northeast of the crash site, said shortly after the wreck that the tragedy could have been avoided if "better choices had been made" about using the route for upgraded passenger service.

The Amtrak Cascades 501 train derailed Monday morning near DuPont, Washington, killing at least three people and injuring more than 100. It was traveling the inaugural service on the new route, which was designed to shave 10 minutes off the commute between Portland and Seattle.

"Our community was skeptical of the project both from a financial and safety standpoint, primarily a safety standpoint," Anderson said Monday.

Bypass project aims to cut commutes

In March 2010, money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 was set aside for high-speed rail initiatives. Hundreds of millions of dollars was granted to the Cascades High Speed Rail Capital Program between Seattle and Portland to improve train speeds between the two cities. Part of that effort included the Point Defiance Bypass Project.

The aim was to reroute passenger trains to avoid curves and single-track tunnels on the route along Puget Sound. Instead of running along the congested and windy coastline track, trains would run on an existing, inland line following Interstate 5.

The bypass would allow speeds to be increased up to 79 mph, cutting journey times between Portland and Seattle, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) said.

When it derailed Monday, the train was traveling 80 mph in a 30-mph zone, the NTSB said.

City sues over rail project

Lakewood sued WSDOT in 2013, saying, in part, that the upgrade project had not "undergone sufficient environmental review," according to court documents. The city's suit was dismissed in 2014, court documents show.

"Our community was concerned about the safety of a high-speed passenger rail line coming through an urbanized area on what had been, for years, essentially an abandoned rail route," Anderson told CNN after the derailment.

The train was running on track previously used for occasional freight and military transport, WSDOT said in a news release. That raised safety concerns, Anderson said.

"The principal risk we identified was actually the number of crossings and the lack of familiarity people had in the area with trains," Anderson told The Seattle Times on Monday. "We thought a train-vehicle collision was virtually inevitable."

The train apparently ran off the track as it came out of a curve while approaching or crossing an open trestle over I-5 near a federal wildlife refuge.

Prior to Monday's inaugural ride, WSDOT had conducted weeks of inspection and testing, the agency said. WSDOT did not immediately respond to CNN's request for comment about Anderson's remarks.

See bird's-eye view of train derailment

'Only a matter of time'

Anderson again raised safety concerns about the rail line earlier this month, as the opening date for the service approached. At a town meeting early this month, he said it was only a matter of time before the high-speed trains killed someone, and he asked for more safety improvements.

"Come back when there is that accident, and try to justify not putting in those safety enhancements, or you can go back now and advocate for the money to do it, because this project was never needed and endangers our citizens," he said, according to CNN affiliate KOMO.

The mayor told CNN he found out about Monday's derailment when he got a call from the city manager, who had gotten a report from the police chief.

"At first, I thought his comment that Amtrak had derailed was speaking figuratively about not opening on time," Anderson said. "He repeated and assured me that was not figurative, that was literal."

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 684070

Reported Deaths: 8086
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1407851856
Ramsey58714945
Dakota52269497
Anoka48192481
Washington30731309
Stearns24909240
St. Louis20363335
Scott19700145
Wright18589163
Olmsted15877110
Sherburne13539101
Carver1212252
Clay917195
Rice9129121
Blue Earth870147
Crow Wing7820102
Kandiyohi745189
Chisago715458
Otter Tail668393
Benton6472101
Mower560738
Winona556152
Goodhue551980
Douglas537484
Itasca519671
Beltrami508072
McLeod503263
Steele502921
Isanti492570
Morrison468363
Nobles449950
Becker436859
Polk435975
Freeborn430438
Lyon395154
Carlton391759
Nicollet378947
Pine375126
Mille Lacs355860
Brown347944
Cass345735
Le Sueur341729
Todd322634
Meeker305749
Waseca290125
Martin263533
Wabasha24364
Dodge24224
Roseau234023
Hubbard233041
Houston205416
Renville200248
Redwood199642
Fillmore196810
Pennington191121
Wadena185826
Faribault180825
Cottonwood177024
Sibley176710
Chippewa171539
Kanabec165029
Watonwan155311
Aitkin155238
Rock139519
Jackson134912
Pope13128
Yellow Medicine125320
Pipestone125026
Koochiching118119
Swift117619
Murray115510
Stevens115211
Marshall104118
Clearwater102618
Lake91321
Wilkin89714
Lac qui Parle84824
Mahnomen6909
Big Stone6854
Grant6848
Norman6549
Lincoln6524
Kittson53322
Unassigned53093
Red Lake4807
Traverse4255
Lake of the Woods3984
Cook2140

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 432122

Reported Deaths: 6339
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk67341672
Linn25698353
Scott22828261
Black Hawk19121334
Woodbury16940233
Johnson1659690
Dubuque14547218
Pottawattamie13058183
Dallas12746102
Story1187148
Warren685993
Webster6304102
Cerro Gordo6212102
Clinton620097
Des Moines594482
Muscatine5781108
Unassigned57410
Marshall564280
Sioux542775
Jasper516575
Lee511078
Wapello4993128
Buena Vista472942
Marion449083
Plymouth434083
Henry339940
Jones331158
Bremer325365
Crawford321644
Carroll317053
Washington315754
Benton312656
Boone308736
Mahaska275453
Dickinson270846
Kossuth251471
Jackson246044
Clay245729
Tama238273
Delaware234643
Buchanan233938
Hardin230847
Page221624
Cedar220525
Fayette220345
Wright217641
Winneshiek215937
Hamilton211752
Harrison198875
Clayton194458
Madison193820
Butler188836
Floyd187742
Mills185224
Poweshiek181036
Cherokee179440
Iowa176425
Allamakee176252
Lyon174441
Jefferson169138
Calhoun168313
Hancock167335
Winnebago164231
Grundy158835
Cass155556
Louisa154949
Shelby151739
Appanoose151249
Emmet149541
Franklin148524
Humboldt147226
Sac144722
Union144237
Mitchell141643
Guthrie138132
Chickasaw137518
Palo Alto131124
Clarke125024
Montgomery122239
Keokuk116232
Howard115622
Monroe114033
Ida107538
Davis103125
Pocahontas99023
Greene98012
Adair95334
Monona94733
Lucas94523
Worth9268
Osceola83717
Decatur74510
Fremont74111
Taylor72412
Van Buren70919
Wayne65123
Ringgold62226
Audubon58414
Adams3914
Rochester
Clear
57° wxIcon
Hi: 66° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 57°
Mason City
Clear
51° wxIcon
Hi: 69° Lo: 49°
Feels Like: 51°
Albert Lea
Partly Cloudy
55° wxIcon
Hi: 66° Lo: 49°
Feels Like: 55°
Austin
Partly Cloudy
55° wxIcon
Hi: 68° Lo: 50°
Feels Like: 55°
Charles City
Partly Cloudy
55° wxIcon
Hi: 70° Lo: 50°
Feels Like: 55°
Cooler conditions continue through the week
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

Austin 3rd graders enjoy a day on the farm

Image

Mason City Schools to enact mask mandate

${item.thumbnail.title}

Olmsted County Risk Mitigation Program to offer housing assistance

${item.thumbnail.title}

Olmsted County works to combat falls in older adults through Fall Prevention Coalition

Image

Albert Lea area schools shift to universal mask policy

Image

Albert Lea Schools

Image

Dispatcher Praised

Image

Risk Mitigation Program

Image

Fall Prevention Awareness

Image

Olmsted County 2021 Food Security Assessment

Community Events