Monday, December 18, 2017

Amtrak train derailment: news and information

By Mike Allende

UPDATE - Dec. 22 1 p.m.

WSDOT announced Thursday, Dec. 21, that Amtrak Cascades passenger rail service will not return to the Point Defiance Bypass route until positive train control (PTC) technology is activated on the bypass.

This is not because we have any reason to believe the tracks are unsafe – the tracks were thoroughly inspected and tested and we believe them to be sound. We made this decision to be sensitive both to the people involved in Monday’s tragic derailment and our ongoing passengers. We also want time to reach out to communities along the bypass before service resumes.

Our trains will use the original route for the time being. The original route does not yet have PTC activated for Amtrak passenger trains, but we’ve had millions of successful boardings on it during the past two decades. BNSF has details about PTC activation for freight trains on the original route.

*Traveler note: With Amtrak Cascades trains staying on the original service route, travelers in Tacoma will use the  1001 Puyallup Ave. station rather than the Tacoma Dome Station on East 25th Street at Freighthouse Square.

UPDATE - Dec. 20 9:47 p.m.
As of 9:47 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 20, all lanes of southbound I-5 at Mounts Road (milepost 116) have reopened to traffic.

Crews were able to complete remaining work activities in the right lane and reopen that third and final lane ahead of schedule.

The Mounts Road on-ramp to southbound I-5 has also reopened.

There are no remaining closures following the Monday, Dec. 18, train derailment.

UPDATE - Dec. 20 5 p.m.
Two lanes of southbound I-5 reopen following train derailment near Nisqually All lanes to reopen by Thursday morning commute

DUPONT – Traffic is moving once again on outhbound Interstate 5 south of the city of DuPont following a train derailment that blocked all lanes earlier this week.

At 4:50 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 20, the Washington State Department of Transportation reopened the two left lanes near the Mounts Road exit.

"It took a highly-coordinated effort with several agencies during the initial emergency and recovery to reopen the highway after this terrible tragedy," said WSDOT Regional Administrator John Wynands. "We appreciate the patience of people in the nearby communities and users of the road while crews worked to ensure this stretch of I-5 is safe for the traveling public."

Additional nighttime work
The right lane of southbound I-5, and the southbound Mounts Road on-ramp will remain closed overnight while WSDOT maintenance crews continue emergency guardrail repair and slope restoration work. Crews expect this work to be finished in time to completely reopen the lane and ramp for the Thursday morning commute. Nighttime travelers should reduce their speed to 45 mph through the area for the safety of the crews along the road.

Several alternate routes were recommended to keep local traffic moving during the emergency closure of the highway. Those guide signs and flaggers will be removed throughout the night. WSDOT will also restore traffic signals that were retimed at key intersections.

Before heading out the door, travelers can find updated information on the WSDOT website, WSDOT mobile app and by following @wsdot_tacoma on Twitter.

UPDATE - Dec. 20 3 p.m.

Two lanes of southbound I-5 at Mounts Road (milepost 116) and the Mounts Road off-ramp in DuPont are slated to open by 5 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 20.

The right lane of the highway will remain closed overnight while crews finish additional emergency repairs. Our goal is to reopen the third lane of the highway and the Mounts Road on-ramp in time for the Thursday morning commute. For the safety of crews and travelers, we ask drivers to keep their speed below 45 mph.

We expect heavy congestion through the area, especially with increased holiday travel. Remember to be cautious, patient and attentive while driving.

MORE INFORMATION: For the latest travel information check the WSDOT blog or follow @WSDOT_Tacoma on Twitter.

UPDATE - Dec. 20 11:40 a.m.
All of the train cars are now removed from the area, but there is still a lot of work to do.

First we will clear the trees in the area that have been identified as in danger of falling over. Our crews can then safely enter the area to assess the extent of the damage to the roadway and guardrail. What exactly needs to be repaired in order to allow traffic to safely move through the area will be determined. Then we will work to reopen Southbound I-5 as soon as safely possible.

People on bikes will encounter heavy traffic on detour routes used by drivers due to the I-5 closure. Travelers using all modes, please use extra caution.

UPDATE - Dec. 20 8:50 a.m.
From 9 - 9:30 a.m. the locomotive move will require temporary closure of SB I-5 closure at Steilacoom-DuPont Rd at exit 119. Locomotive will move northbound in southbound lanes. No impact to Northbound freeway traffic. Load weighs 270,000 pounds and is 270 feet long and can only move several miles per hour. After the load is off I-5, the closure point will return to Center Drive and reopen as a local only detour. Steilacoom-DuPont Road will be closed as load is taken to investigation area.

We still have no ETA on when southbound lanes will reopen to traffic.

UPDATE – Dec. 20 6:45 a.m.
All the locomotive cars have been removed from I-5 after work overnight, but the heavy 270,000-pound locomotive still must be moved from the roadway using special equipment due to its size. The locomotive has been placed on a special trailer but we do not yet have an eta for when the locomotive will be moved today or when the roadway will reopen.

Even once the locomotive is removed we will need to clear debris and possibly make emergency repairs to roadway.  We will reopen the roadway as soon as it is safe to do so. We continue to ask drivers to avoid the area and use the posted detours:
  • The primary detour is SR 16 to SR 3 – which is what commercial vehicles should use. We are seeing significant congestion on SR 507 and SR 7, and do not recommend travelers take SR 302.
  • A local-traffic-only detour is set up on Center Drive through JBLM to Nisqually and connecting to I-5. Drivers can expect heavy traffic on any alternate route and we are encouraging folks to only travel through the area if needed.

UPDATE - Dec. 19 9 p.m.
Operations to remove the remaining rail cars on and adjacent to the southbound lanes of Interstate 5 will continue through the night.

Crews made substantial progress today in clearing the site. Most of the derailed train cars have been loaded onto semis to be hauled away and securely stored. Bridge engineers also inspected the rail bridge and deemed it structurally sound, with only minor repairs needed for safely reopening the interstate.

Remaining work includes relocating the cranes to position them to remove the train's locomotive, which remains on the southbound I-5 lanes. Crews also need to remove a hazard tree. It is highly likely southbound I-5 will remain closed through Wednesday morning's commute and travelers should plan accordingly.

Reopening I-5
WSDOT maintenance crews have pre-staged supplies, equipment and staff, and plan to begin repairs on guardrail and damaged portions of the highway as soon as they are cleared to do so.

Southbound I-5 detour
The primary detour is SR 16 to SR 3 – which is what commercial vehicles should use. We are seeing significant congestion on SR 507 and SR 7, and do not recommend travelers take SR 302.

A local-traffic-only detour is set up on Center Drive through JBLM to Nisqually and connecting to I-5. Drivers can expect heavy traffic on any alternate route and we are encouraging folks to only travel through the area if needed.

UPDATE - Dec. 19 5:20 p.m.
A lot of progress was made today in challenging weather conditions. Crews removed six rail cars and mobilized specialized equipment to remove four more rail cars and locomotive. Once the rail cars are removed, crews will begin repairing damaged guardrail and pavement. WSDOT and Sound Transit engineers will assess the rail bridge structure prior to reopening of the highway. It is still too soon to tell when the highway will reopen.

UPDATE - Dec. 19 Noon.
Southbound I-5 is not expected to open before tomorrow morning's commute. We're seeing upwards of 14 miles of backup on the 507 detour and recommend travelers take the SR 16/SR 3 detour.

Five of the 14 rail cars have been moved and crews are working to move the large locomotive this afternoon.

UPDATE - Dec. 19 10 a.m.
Crews are beginning work to remove rail cars and the locomotive from the derailment scene on southbound I-5. This includes removing five rail cars on trailers as well as the locomotive sometime this afternoon.

We are working with JBLM to find a staging area to place the rail cars and also working with the city of DuPont on the best route to take.

At this point, we do not have a reopening time for I-5 southbound though we are working to reopen it as soon as we can safely do so.

Please continue to avoid the area to allow emergency crews room to do this important work.

UPDATE - Dec. 19 8:09 a.m.
An update to better desribe the Center Road detour -- which remains for local traffic only:
A local-traffic-only detour is set up on Center Drive through JBLM to Nisqually and connecting on to I-5.

UPDATE - Dec. 19 5:15 a.m.
Southbound I-5 in the DuPont area will remain closed at least through the Tuesday AM commute. Expect lengthy delays on all alternate routes & avoid the area if possible.

Follow @wsdot_tacoma for latest traffic conditions.

UPDATE - Dec. 18 8:50 p.m.
We want to provide the following update on I-5 closures related to the Amtrak derailment onto I-5 near Mounts Road and DuPont

WSDOT will start tweeting live conditions at 4:30 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 19 on Twitter channel @wsdot_tacoma.

Crews continue to work through the night on the train derailment, including investigating and planning for roadway clearing, which will begin once the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) authorizes removing the train cars. Our thoughts remain with the passengers and families affected by this crash and for the emergency responders from multiple agencies who are working tirelessly at the scene.

WSDOT will reopen traffic on Southbound I-5 as soon as it is safe do to so. All entities involved are working as quickly as they can, but we are anticipating this work may take days, not hours.

Northbound I-5 is open to traffic though backups still exists as motorists slow to observe the scene.

We continue to ask travelers to avoid the I-5 southbound area or alter travel plans if possible.

Southbound, the through-traffic routes are SR 16/SR3 and SR7/SR 507/SR 510.
Local traffic only can use a detour established at Center Drive through JBLM to State Route 510. JBLM is handling traffic control on base and the Washington State Patrol is handling traffic control outside of the base.

Drivers can expect heavy traffic on any alternate routes and we are encouraging folks to only travel if needed. The Mounts Road Gate onto JBLM will be closed in the morning.

We also recommend checking in with the following sites for the latest traffic information:

WSP Blog:
WSDOT website:
WSDOT blog:

Other information

Train Service
Some limited service resumed Monday and will continue Tuesday using the former route around Point Defiance. Passengers with travel plans also can confirm their train's status, change their plans or review refund information using a range of tools – including, smartphone apps or by calling 800-USA-RAIL. Service Alerts, Passenger Notices and other announcements are posted at

Speed Limit details
from Sound Transit:
  • Speed around the curve is 30 mph.
  • Maximum authorized speed prior to that speed zone allows trains to travel up 79 mph; however, there are a number of areas where the speeds are limited below that maximum.
  • Speed signs are posted two miles before the speed zone and just before the speed zone approaching the curve.
  • Engineers are trained to slow trains according to posted speeds.
Positive Train Control
From Sound Transit and Amtrak:
While equipment has been physically installed in the Lakewood subdivision where the incident occurred the system is not yet operational or certified for use. Full implementation is planned to occur by the second quarter of 2018 on that segment, in advance of the deadline.
Sound Transit, Amtrak and other agencies are working to implement positive train control in the Puget Sound region in advance of a December 2018 federal deadline. Work will continue in the coming months.

Original post

Monday's derailment of an Amtrak Cascades train in DuPont creates a significant traffic impact that could last for several days. Southbound I-5 is closed with traffic being detoured off at Center Drive north of Mounts Road.

There is no estimate as to when the highway will reopen but it will likely remain closed at least through Tuesday morning, but a definitive time hasn't been determined.

While we encourage people to avoid the area if possible, the primary alternate route after exiting at Center Drive will be going through Joint Base Lewis McChord to State Route 510. Drivers will be directed through the Center Drive Gate, Perimeter Road, Mounts Road Gate, Old Pacific Highway and SR 510 back to I-5. There will be traffic control handled by JBLM on the base and the State Patrol will lead traffic control in other areas.

Because Center Drive is a two-lane, local road, it does not easily accommodate freight traffic. Freight traffic is advised to use SR 16 to SR 3, then US 101 to get back to I-5 near Tumwater.

There has been significant congestion on many nearby highways including SR 7, SR 507 and SR 302.

Please note that regardless of which alternate route you might take, very heavy congestion should be expected. The detours do not have the same capacity as I-5 and are not equipped to handle the same level of traffic.

Drivers going northbound should stay on I-5 and avoid exiting at Center Drive to leave that road clear for the southbound detour.

Please be sure to give any emergency response crews plenty of room to reach their destination. For updates on information, people are encouraged to sign up for our email/text alerts at

For those wondering about train speed limits in that area, here is some info from our partners at Sound Transit:
  • Speed around the curve is 30 mph.
  • Maximum authorized speed prior to that speed zone allows trains to travel up to 79 mph; however, there are a number of areas where the speeds are limited below that maximum.
  • Speed signs are posted two miles before the speed zone and just before the speed zone approaching the curve.
  • Engineers are trained to slow trains according to posted speeds.


Unknown said...

Is Center Drive open to traffic? I'm interested in filming the derailment from the east side of I-5 from the general NB I-5 on-ramp area.

Unknown said...

Excuse me, I meant the area on Mounts Road at the I-5 on-ramp.

Unknown said...

Is there an I-5 DOT traffic camera that shows the accident scene in real time? I think it would be fascinating to see what it will take to clean up the wreckage. What a mess, nevertheless.

WSDOT said...

Nothing with a video feed, just still camera shots that update every few minutes. Some of these show the area:

Unknown said...

Is it worth diverting if travelling I5 Northbound from Portland to Spanaway or just remain on I5 northbound?

Rae said...

Other than a little slowing Northbound while people look at the accident, Nortbound is not a problem. Stay I-5 Northbound to 512 to get to Spanaway

Rae said...

Stay on I-5 Northbound until 512 that goes to Spanaway. Northbound I-5 is not a problem except at the accident that was Southbound, where people slow to look

Mikke said...

Thank you for this update. If it's within your capacity, please extend this family's thanks to all the workers whose pre-Christmas plans and spirit have been disrupted by this heart-breaking incident.

Our thoughts and prayers are with those who experienced this event or lost a loved one...and also with all those out there in the gale-force wind gusts and rain laboring to clean up and set the transportation infrastructure right again.

WSDOT said...

lb S - Best bet is to stay on I-5.

Unknown said...

Is the JBLM detour open to non military?

WSDOT said...

Abbie Maenhout - The JBLM detour is for local traffic – those who live and work in the area – and emergency responders. It is at capacity so all other traffic is encouraged to use other detours such as SR 16 to SR 3.

Unknown said...

Thank you!

softwarehelper said...

Do you anticipate the SB I5 lanes of traffic will be open for the Wednesday morning commute?...if so, what time?

WSDOT said...

softwarehelper, no, it is highly unlikely to be opened by then.

Ernie said...

Do you anticipate the SB 15 lanes to be open for Thursday morning commute? Thank you for your hard work!

WSDOT said...

Ernie, unsure right now. We know it's unlikely they'll be open for the Wednesday morning commute, but beyond that we just don't know.

Unknown said...

If traveling at 5am through the Hwy 507 southbound detour, do you expect long backups?

Thanks for the updates!

Joshua Lowe said...

Does local traffic for the detour onto JBLM include those living in Olympia?

WSDOT said...

Shaun - You'll likely encounter some congestion but should be better than leaving later into the commute.

WSDOT said...

Joshua - Most people are being allowed through but there is much less congestion using the SR 16/SR 3 detour.

Unknown said...

How is traffic on SR 3 Belfair Shelton, Olympia, Route, pls advise!

WSDOT said...

mark deardorff, depending on the time of day, we are seeing heavier than normal traffic, especially heading southbound into Belfair.
Many areas, however, are at highway speeds.

While it is out of the way, this detour via SR 16, 3, and US 101 is keeping traffic moving around the southbound I-5 closure in DuPont. Please also consider watching the WSDOT Travel Alerts web page.

jWilliam Dunn said...

Why not turn the northbound I-5 lanes into a two-way detour (like during construction projects)?

Unknown said...

Does the JBLM detour from Center Drive have an end time tonight or is it until I5 is opened?

WSDOT said...

jWilliam Dunn, while there are alternate routes for Southbound I-5, we also need to keep Northbound I-5 moving. Changing Northbound to handle both directions likely would only mean one lane in each direction.

WSDOT said...

Joy Bentley, JBLM is planning to keep the detour open until I-5 Southbound is reopened.

Robert said...

Any idea why SR 507 moves forward 1000’ then stops for 5-10 minutes?

D. Brown, Olympia resident said...

RE Center DRive detour option...What exactly does "local traffic only" mean?
Is Lacey and Olympia considered local traffic???

NK said...

I’m confused if I live near nisqually may I take the center exit Wednesday morning? Will it be open? In one blog it said it will be closed Wednesday morning?

NK said...

I’m confused why would taking the center drive exit for locals be a longer wait? I saw it was recommended to do the 16 route? That seems like it would take forever for locals?

Anne said...

Must drive from Portland to Sumner and back Wednesday but not familiar with the roads up there. Probably will leave Sumner around 3-4pm. Google maps is telling me to take either 512/507 from Pulyalup to I5 at Grand Mound, or 161/7/12 from Sumner to I5 near Mary’s Corner. Neither of these are on the list of detour recommendations—any advice?

WSDOT said...

Hey Robert, with Southbound I-5 still closed in the DuPont area, more drivers will be using the detour routes including SR 507.

WSDOT said...

D. Brown, Olympia resident, local traffic means those who live or have business to do in the DuPont area.

NK said...

I’m confused again...local traffic is being routed at center dr to go to nisqually and then exit to I-5. But your last comment said it was only for DuPont people who have business. Why would they then be routes all the way down to nisqually to exit into I/5? What about the nisqually people are we allowed to exit center drive?

WSDOT said...

Hey NK, with Southbound I-5 still closed, all of the detours are seeing a lot more traffic than when the main highway is open. We are encouraging drivers to avoid the area if they can. SR 16 to SR 3 is the recommended detour, when there are no other traffic impacts such as accidents, due to significant congestion on the other detours of SR 507 and SR 7.

NK said...

I asked an earlier question center dr open for nisqually workers?

WSDOT said...

Hey NK, that's up to JBLM personnel, who have said the route is open to local traffic, which includes people who live and work in that general area.

MEB said...

We’re on our way from Issaquah to Shelton and will reach Gig Harbor right around 3pm. Can you tell me what the situation is westbound on Hwy 302?

MEB said...

We’re on our way from Issaquah to Rochester. Are you still recommending SR 16-3-101?
If so, what’s the situation on SR 302?

MEB said...

We’re on our way from Auburn to Rochester. Are you still recommending SR16-3-101 or is the route through Spanaway better?

WSDOT said...

MEB - Yes, SR 16/SR 3 is still the preferred detour.

MEB said...

Thanks! What’s the situation with Hwy 302 westbound from Hwy 16 to Hwy 3 through Allyn?

seattlecoach said...

Wow wsdot workers. Well done. You’re amazing.

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