Taxpayers may end up paying for a derailment last month that was caused by an Amtrak employee’s operating error.
An Amtrak Cascades train carrying 267 holiday weekend travelers derailed on July 2 near Steilacoom.
The Amtrak engineer in charge was operating the train too quickly to stop for a red light that signaled a drawbridge ahead was not ready for crossing. The train then traveled over a failsafe switch that intentionally derails a train to prevent a more serious accident.
Nobody on board the train was seriously injured, and the Amtrak engineer was removed from his post.
The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) say that since Amtrak’s engineer caused the derailment, they expect the railroad will be accountable for the costs associated with the event.
But in a letter obtained by KING 5, Amtrak is telling the states it won’t be paying for many of the costs.
The passenger rail service says that insurance will cover the cost of damages to the passenger cars, but there’s a $100,000 deductible. They say that ODOT, as the legal owner of the equipment, will be responsible for paying the deductible. Furthermore, Amtrak says that when the passenger cars are out for repair, the states may need to pay to rent other train cars.
In the letter, Amtrak says those costs were always spelled out in the operating agreement it has with Washington and Oregon.
Leadership from WSDOT and ODOT says they will be meeting with Amtrak later this week to discuss the costs.
If the train had not been derailed by the track safety feature, it may have crashed on the Chambers Bay drawbridge, which opens to allow boats to travel between Puget Sound and Chambers Bay, which is the site of a boat moorage.