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How the derailed Amtrak train in Washington marks a tragic end to a $181 million project

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Amtrak Cascades Train 501 derailed Monday morning outside Tacoma, Washington.

 

  •  An Amtrak Cascades passenger train derailed on its inaugural service through the Point Defiance Bypass near Tacoma, Washington.
  • The Bypass is a $181 million project designed to make train travel through the region safer, quicker, and more reliable.

 

On Monday, Amtrak inaugurated service through the brand new Point Defiance Bypass near Tacoma, Washington. What was to be a joyous morning turned into tragedy as the first Amtrak Cascades train to traverse the route derailed causing several fatalities.

The Point Defiance Bypass project had been in the works for more than a decade. Proponents of the $181 million project say that it will reduce congestion and cut much as 10 minutes off the trip time between Seattle and Portland, Oregon.

The new bypass which takes the Amtrak train inland along the west side of Interstate 5 will allow for the addition of two new round-trip trains.

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The Point Defiance Bypass is in orange.

 

Traditionally, Amtrak Cascades passenger trains going through Tacoma would take a route along the shores of the Puget Sound. While picturesque, the coastal route features single-track tunnels and a risk for landslides. In addition, the route features tight curves and heavy freight train traffic requires the Amtrak Cascades to reduce its speed.

 

Monday’s derailment occurred during the morning rush hour with the train leaving the track right as it was about to cross over southbound lanes of I-5 near the south end of the bypass. As a result, the locomotive and several of the train’s passenger cars landed on the freeway. Authorities have not announced the exact number of injuries and fatalities caused by the incident.

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