Washington State’s Department of Transportation has unilaterally decided on a pre-condition that includes implementing positive train control technology before passenger trains resume service on the Point Defiance Bypass, the location of Monday’s fatal derailment.
The state’s secretary of transportation told local officials on a briefing call that WSDOT will require positive train control be operational before the resumption of Amtrak Cascades service on the tracks parallel to Interstate 5.
“It’s important to note, this is not a comment on the safety of those tracks. We have no reason to believe those tracks are anything but safe,” WSDOT spokeswoman Barbara LaBoe said. “This is a decision based on sensitivity both to the people involved in Monday’s tragic events and our ongoing passengers.”
For the time being, LaBoe said the six daily departures between Seattle and Portland will use the old, slower routing next to Puget Sound.
The desired automatic braking technology is already in the process of being installed on the old and new routes, but it hasn’t been activated on either yet. LaBoe had no time estimate for when that will happen.
There is a nationwide deadline for PTC activation of Dec. 31, 2018. Some rail experts believe the safety system could’ve prevented Monday’s train wreck, which killed three passengers and injured scores more.