DUPONT, Wash. - A state senator unveiled legislation Thursday for better oversight of train transportation after a scathing meeting this week where the National Transportation Safety Board blamed systemwide failures for the fatal derailment of an Amtrak train in Dupont in December 2017.
Sen. Steve O'Ban and officials headed back to Dupont Thursday morning, where three people were killed and dozens were injured when the train flew off the tracks and onto Interstate 5.
At a news conference there, O'Ban said restoring the public's trust is a top priority and announced a new bill that calls for a panel to complete a comprehensive review to certify a new or existing transportation service.
“I’m taking the chance that these agencies will do the right thing and postpone service resumption until the legislature has the opportunity to establish this commission. The public trust absolutely has to be restored. It’s not going to be restored without having the independent bipartisan panel like this weigh in,” said O’Ban.
The Point Defiance Bypass, where the train derailed, is not yet back in service.
This week's NTSB meeting has already prompted action. The state of Washington is going to remove older train cars from the Amtrak Cascades line after the action was recommended by the board.
Of the six Amtrak cascades trains that run from Oregon to Vancouver, B.C., four are the model Talgo Series VI.
They've been running since 1999, but the NTSB investigation into the Dupont derailment found that they broke apart during the incident, sending debris flying, including wheel units that essentially flew like missiles.
"Given the NTSB's criticism of these cars and their structure, it's probably not appropriate to continue to operate them at high speeds, so the first thing you could do immediately is slow the system down," safety expert Keith Millhouse said.
Federal officials have made it clear the rail car model is not strong enough to withstand crashes, but at a hearing in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, NTSB officials said they had received no response from Amtrak about their plans for the trains.
Officials with the Washington State Department of Transportation, which funds Amtrak Cascades along with Oregon, initially said they needed time to review the NTSB recommendations.
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