Point Defiance Bypass testing, train travel update

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Following the derailment on an Amtrak train in DuPont on Dec. 18, 2017, Washington State Department of Transportation committed that positive train control (PTC) technology would be fully activated on the corridor before Amtrak Cascades trains return to the Point Defiance Bypass. This decision was made to be sensitive both to the people and communities involved in the incident and our ongoing passengers.

In the months following the derailment, Amtrak Cascades trains reverted to the old route along the water between Tacoma and Nisqually. Ridership on Amtrak Cascades has remained stable, with a 5 percent increase in riders this May, compared to May 2017.

Implementation of the positive train control system on the entire Amtrak Cascades line, including the Point Defiance Bypass, is progressing well. Amtrak, WSDOT, BNSF and Sound Transit are all working together to implement PTC prior to the national deadline at the end of the year. The goal is to seamlessly integrate the three elements that must all work together for the system to be fully activated:

  • Onboard equipment is undergoing final equipment testing and approval;
  • Back office servers are in place and Amtrak and BNSF are working to integrate their systems with one another;
  • The next step in the process is to test the entire system on the rail line. Throughout the summer, trains will be traveling along the bypass conducting various system tests and train crew qualifications. During this testing, expect trains on the bypass traveling at speeds up to 79 mph on both weekdays and weekends. As always, we want you to stay safe around the railroad tracks.

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