The board of the Tillicum Woodbrook Neighborhood Association (TWNA) has received a request from the design-build contractor for the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) to update this community concerning I-5 construction as it relates to the two interchanges for Tillicum.
There are two parts to this presentation scheduled for May 2, 6:30 P.M. at the Tillicum Community Center, 14916 Washington Ave. SW, Lakewood.
The first “is to provide a construction schedule update specific to Thorne Lane and the impacts on Union Avenue, as it will need to be closed for an extensive amount of time to raise the profile of it to match the new elevation of the Thorne overpass. You can see just how tall the Berkeley overpass is. Expect that Thorne will be just as tall.”
Presenters of WSDOT’s rail division will also be on hand to update the community concerning high-speed Amtrak trains coming through town.
Shortly after the December 18, 2017 derailment just south of Tillicum, a horrific crash of a train on its inaugural run that made international news as it took three lives and injured 62 others of the 77 passengers on board, the TWNA Board contacted WSDOT requesting the neighborhood be placed on the list of “communities along the bypass” that would be reached out to before service resumed.
As of this current announcement, the rail division is “still not certain when they will be returning to the Point Defiance Bypass, but they might have more information by May.
“No date has been set as they are awaiting the results of the investigation.”
Tillicum, along with the rest of Lakewood, has long opposed the rerouting of Amtrak Cascades service from along the Puget Sound waterfront to the life-congested neighborhoods paralleling I-5.
Turns out the fears of death by train – not an infrequent occurrence on the more remote shoreline – were not unfounded.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation into the derailment of train 501 “is about two-thirds complete,” according to WSDOT’s project website.
Not until the NTSB issues its full report however can Amtrak Cascades return to the bypass.
Preliminary findings, according to a July 10, 2018 article by Mike Lindblom, Seattle Times transportation reporter, determined that the engineer of the train traveling at 80 mph on a 30-mile curve “tried in vain to see a speed-limit sign.”
The engineer had made only “one southbound training run in the new corridor between Lakewood and Nisqually.”
The engineer “told investigators about a last-minute change in locomotives” leading the NTSB to speculate that “his peripheral vision was hindered within the unfamiliar locomotive.”
“Event-recorder data say emergency brakes weren’t applied before the December crash.”
Michael DeCataldo, vice president of Amtrak operations, “admitted that as many as seven people rode in the front cab last year during night practice trips, exceeding Amtrak standards, in the Lakewood-Nisqually area.”
“The board mentioned the lack of ‘cab signals,’ that trigger an alarm if a speeding train passes trackside detectors.”
Positive Train Control (PTC) – lifesaving technology – had been required by Congress in be in place by the end of 2015 but as of the derailment in December of 2017 that had not been done.
One day after the derailment a co-authored story in “The Seattle Times” stated that “to fully collect federal stimulus money, construction had to be completed by mid-2017,” leading to the suggestion – one WSDOT disputes – that “officials pushed ‘aggressive’ timeline before safety technology was ready.”
The Amtrak derailment in Washington led six congressmen from the state in early January, 2018 to propose a bill that would prohibit the use of new passenger train routes until the train-stopping technology had been installed, according to Lindblom.
In July of 2018, Washington State Senator Steve O’Ban demanded to be brought to account those found derelict in their duties to ensure safety.
“It is my hope that upon the conclusion of its investigation, the NTSB will hold accountable those responsible for the events that led to the loss of life in my district.
“The victims’ families and my constituents deserve accountability from the appropriate personnel and agencies that caused this accident.”
According to a KIRO 7 report by Deborah Horne, September 15, 2018, PTC has now been installed.
For more information, WSDOT has a question and answer page on their website about the derailment.