WSDOT explains speed limits around fatal train derailment

WSDOT explains speed limits around fatal train derailment

The Washington State Department of Transportation is responding to questions left in the wake of a fatal train derailment near DuPont earlier this month, stating that speed limit signs are posted before the site of the incident.

“With the recent derailment of an Amtrak Cascades train, we wanted to talk a bit about the Point Defiance Bypass and our agency’s work to develop it for Amtrak Cascades passenger train service …. we want to answer questions that have arisen about the tracks where the train derailed.” WSDOT states in a recent blog post.

Related: What the black box revealed in the Amtrak train derailment

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The official cause of the train derailment has not been announced. The National Transportation Safety Board is conducting an investigation into the incident and is not expected to come to a conclusion for up to a year. But WSDOT’s post makes a point of addressing the speed limits leading up to the site where a sharp curve in the tracks is located south of DuPont.

Related train derailment coverage:

The train that derailed was reportedly traveling in excess of 80 mph; the speed limit for the curve is 30 mph.

The bypass tracks have a reduced speed limit before the curve where the derailment took place to inform engineers to decrease their speed to negotiate the curve. The maximum speed limit decreases from 79 mph to 30, with signs posted two miles before the speed zone and just before the speed zone approaching the curve. Amtrak is responsible for ensuring all engineers on this specific set of tracks are qualified. It is common for railroads to have areas of reduced speeds due to curves or other factors, as found along the entire Cascades route.
Trains successfully ran the bypass track numerous times in the past few months during track testing, locomotive testing and engineer qualification on the tracks, and the ceremonial train ride with passengers on Dec. 15 during the new station dedication.

The Point Defiance Bypass is a new railroad route along I-5 around DuPont. The train derailment happened during the inaugural run of the new service between Seattle and Portland on Dec. 18.  The tracks are meant to take passenger service off of the previous route that runs along the shore of Puget Sound south of Tacoma. Sound Transit owns the stretch of tracks and recently completed upgrades and other work on the route.

WSDOT’s post also explains that planning for the bypass began more than 10 years ago. It also states that the bypass meets all Federal Railroad Administration requirements

Read WSDOT's full blog post here.