How much compensation should there be for Amtrak riders – and those on I-5 below – who suffered “broken bones, brain injuries, spinal wounds and other trauma” when Amtrak 501 derailed on its inaugural run December 18, 2017 just minutes after passing through our community of Tillicum?
That’s the question before jurors in the Tacoma trial that began this September 3.
The Pierce County Council just last week – as announced in an editorial opinion in the Tacoma News Tribune (TNT) today, September 5 – rendered its own verdict “adopting a resolution opposing restoration of the Point Defiance bypass until more than two dozen safety measures are enacted.”
My daughter left for work early that December morning, passing beneath the bridge in DuPont just five minutes before the train derailed spilling sections of the train onto I-5.
Three people died and dozens were injured.
At our August meeting of the Tillicum Woodbrook Neighborhood Association (TWNA) Senator Steve O’Ban, republican member of the State Senate Transportation Committee, likewise reiterated his opposition to any of the planned Amtrak trains rolling through Tillicum.
“I called for Amtrak and Sound Transit to hold off resuming the Pt. Defiance Bypass route through Lakewood until all of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommendations could be implemented.”
The NTSB’s report was a damning indictment of WSDOT, Sound Transit and Amtrak.
When asked if local governments could halt restoration of the bypass route, Janet Matkin, Communications Manager for the Washington Department of Transportation (WSDOT) – who was present at the June, 2019 meeting of the TWNA – said, “You have to remember, there’s a difference between a recommendation and a requirement,” according to the TNT.
Still, long-needed and should-have-been-implemented-before-not-after-the-fact safety measures are being taken.
According to WSDOT’s “December 2017 derailment” Q&A website page, nearly $75 million will be spent to purchase passenger rail cars to replace those “below regulatory standards” – a conclusion reached by the NTSB in its investigation of the derailment and a charge leveled at the Federal Railroad Administration.
Those rail passenger cars won’t be available however until the mid-2020’s according to WSDOT.
“There is no set date to return to the bypass,” says WSDOT on its website.