Lakewood leaders warned of danger from new Amtrak route

LACEY, Wash. — Lakewood city leaders and South Sound residents and media warned that the Point Defiance Bypass route where an Amtrak Cascades passenger train derailed near Lacey Monday, injuring dozens and killing three others on the first run of the new route, could lead to fatal accidents and traffic disruptions.

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In 2013, a post by the News Tribune’s editorial board questioned whether the new line, which shaved about 10 minutes off the Seattle to Portland route, was worth the threat to public safety.

A train accident on tracks near I-5 easily could create backups stretching miles in both directions.
Is making the train ride to Portland 10 minutes quicker worth the threat to public safety and all the disruption it will create for thousands of drivers? Is the state really that desperate for federal rail funds?

The new high-speed route takes the trains inland, running parallel to I-5 through Tacoma, Lakewood, Joint Base Lewis-McChord and Dupont, separating passenger trains from freight trains that continue to use a waterfront route. See a map of the route here.

It is also the same route that Sound Transit uses for its Sounder commuter train, but that is not a high-speed train.

The News Tribune was not alone in its fear of what could happen.

The city of Lakewood had even sued Amtrak to stop the rerouting, and Lakewood Mayor Don Anderson and some residents in the area had long voiced their concerns about the danger.

At a city meeting on Dec. 5, Anderson said he believed the trains were too close to traffic and pedestrians.

"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," Anderson said at the city meeting.

Anderson also told local media that it would be only a matter of time before the high-speed trains kill someone.