MENU
component-ddb-728x90-v1-01-desktop

Local railroads on track for installing system that could've prevented derailment

Experts think a technology called Positive Train Control would have prevented the December Amtrak derailment that killed three people and injured dozens more. Railroads now have until the end of the year to install it. (KOMO News)

SEATTLE -- Experts think a technology called Positive Train Control would have prevented the December Amtrak derailment that killed three people and injured dozens more.

Railroads now have until the end of the year to install it. But many of them are at risk of missing the deadline.

Nationwide, only about 25 percent of the track that carries passenger trains is PTC operational. But railroads in the Northwest are much further along. Still, some are tired of waiting for a deadline that's been discussed for a decade.

The chaotic memories still pain Chris Karnes.

"It's not something I like to talk about much anymore," he said.

Karnes is a long-time train advocate and was onboard Amtrak 501 when it derailed in December.

"It's been a really rough few months," he said. "I have not taken a trip to Vancouver or Portland ever since, and I will not until PTC is implemented on that line."

PTC is a technology that can automatically stop a train before accidents occur. The National Transportation Safety Board says PTC would have prevented the Amtrak 501 derailment, but it wasn't installed on the track.

On Wednesday, a congressional committee got an update on the progress.

The National Railroad Administration says 12 of the 41 railroads nationwide are at risk of missing the PTC deadline, but not the ones in our region.

Sound Transit says they've installed PTC equipment. Now they're just testing it, and expect to finish by year's end.

BNSF is done with their PTC work, according to the Federal Railroad Administration. And Amtrak says they're on track to have their trains PTC ready by the fall.

"This technology will save more and more lives over time," Karnes said.

Karnes worries a longer wait could mean another tragedy.

"By not implementing these, you're liable for all the damages and the pain that occurs to people," he said.

Some Sounder trains are already using PTC as well, it's operational all the way from Everett through Seattle and down to Lakewood.

close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off

Trending