The first run of Amtrak Cascades service to Portland using the Port Defiance Bypass ended in tragedy as it derailed near Dupont, Washington. Some of traincars spilled off a railbridge and onto southbound I-5, colliding with five vehicles. Three train passengers died and more than 70 were injured. Our hearts go out to those affected.
Authorities expect southbound I-5 to remain closed at the scene of the accident for the rest of the day, and are asking commuters to avoid using this stretch of I-5 if at all possible. Amtrak canceled the next two southbound Cascades trains to Portland, and it’s not clear when Portland service will resume. Amtrak trains headed north and east continue to operate.
We previewed faster Seattle to Portland passenger train service this morning highlighting the greater speed and reliability. The derailment casts a dark cloud over the project. Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) co-owns Amtrak Cascades service with Oregon Department of Transportation. WSDOT issued a statement with its condolences and outlining next steps for the investigation.
Our statement on today's Amtrak Cascades derailment. pic.twitter.com/BxORZ9cMqV
— Washington State DOT (@wsdot) December 18, 2017
The upgrades allowed trains to reach 79 miles per hour in the new bypass, although the bridge was marked with a 30 miles per hour speed limit, as it was on a fairly sharp turn. A spokeswoman told The Seattle Times WSDOT doesn’t yet have a theory about what caused the derailment. One official said authorities believe the train may have struck something on the track before going off the rails, the Associated Press reported, but that was shared on a condition of anonymity and a preliminary suspicion not yet verified.
Amtrak said to call 1-800-523-9101 with questions about friends and family who were on the train.
The featured image is by the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office.
Author’s Note: In an earlier version of this article I said six people had died based on Associated Press reporting, but the AP later retracted that report and stuck with three confirmed dead for the time being.
Doug Trumm is the executive director of The Urbanist. An Urbanist writer since 2015, he dreams of pedestrianizing streets, blanketing the city in bus lanes, and unleashing a mass timber building spree to end the affordable housing shortage and avert our coming climate catastrophe. He graduated from the Evans School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Washington. He lives in East Fremont and loves to explore the city on his bike.