Today’s (Monday, Dec. 18) tragic derailment of the Amtrak Cascades southbound train has significantly impacted the lives of many this morning. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of this event and their families.
We are working closely with multiple partners, including Washington State Patrol, Sound Transit, Amtrak, Pierce County, JBLM and local emergency responders to assess the situation and render assistance. After emergency response is complete, and the National Transportation Safety Board has released the scene, the train will be removed from the interstate right of way. We anticipate this will be a lengthy process due to the severity of the incident and the size and weight of the train cars. WSDOT is working with other agencies on any rerouting of traffic during the investigation.
The Amtrak Cascades train service is jointly owned by the Washington State Department of Transportation and the Oregon Department of Transportation. Amtrak operates the service for the two states as a contractor, and is responsible for day-to-day operations. Amtrak Cascades runs trains from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Eugene, Oregon.
The tracks, known as the Point Defiance Bypass, are owned by Sound Transit. The tracks were previously owned by BNSF and were used for occasional freight and military transport. WSDOT received federal grants to improve the tracks for passenger rail service. As owners of the corridor, Sound Transit managed the track upgrade work under an agreement with WSDOT. Funding for the upgrades was provided by the Federal Railroad Administration, which reviewed work throughout the duration of the contract.
Today was the first day of public use of the tracks, after weeks of inspection and testing.