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Passenger Train Safety Act Introduced in U.S. House

Press Release

Date: March 3, 2020
Location: Washington, DC
Issues: Transportation

Today the bipartisan Passenger Train Safety Act, H.R. 6066, was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Reps. Denny Heck (WA-10), Derek Kilmer (WA-06), Rick Larsen, (WA-02), and Mark Amodei (NV-02).

H.R. 6066 codifies recommendations made by the National Transportation and Safety Board (NTSB) following the investigation of the derailment of Amtrak Cascades 501 in DuPont, Washington.

Specifically, the bill directs the Federal Railroad Administration to research safety issues relating to speed signs, seat securement mechanisms, and methods for mitigating derailment injuries; requires Amtrak to implement enhanced crew training; implements the use of audio recording so investigators can better understand the causes of railroad incidents; mandates positive train control (PTC) for train service on new routes; and requires railroad carriers to periodically review and update their speed limit action plans.

"Three people died and fifty-seven people were injured in the 2017 Amtrak Cascades derailment in DuPont," said Heck. "The crash took a harsh toll on the South Puget Sound community, but it also united us in resolve to keep rail passengers as safe as possible. NTSB investigators told us what we need to do to enhance rail passenger safety. And today we're doing it."

"In the aftermath of the tragic accident in DuPont, the National Transportation Safety Board outlined clear recommendations to ensure that meaningful steps are taken to improve the safety of railroad passengers," said Kilmer. "I'm proud to join Rep. Denny Heck in introducing bipartisan legislation to implement these recommendations and ensure folks in the South Sound and across the country can be safer when they travel."

"Communications and signaling safety mechanisms could save lives and lessen the likelihood of rail accidents like the Amtrak Cascades 501 tragedy," said Larsen, a senior member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. "I commend the National Transportation Safety Board for their critical recommendations, and I thank my colleagues in the Washington delegation, Reps. Heck and Kilmer, for their leadership to prioritize the safety of the traveling public."

"As representatives from states that have been impacted by fatal passenger train crashes, my colleagues and I recognize firsthand the importance of improving rail safety standards to prevent future tragedies in other communities," said Amodei. "Our bill makes meaningful improvements to current standards to ensure the traveling public is able to move as safely and efficiently as possible. I thank Congressman Heck for his leadership on this issue and look forward to working with my colleagues to advance this important legislation."

On the morning of December 18, 2017, Amtrak Cascades passenger train 501 derailed off an overpass near DuPont, Washington. Several passenger railcars fell onto Interstate 5 and hit multiple highway vehicles. At the time of the accident, 77 passengers, 5 Amtrak employees, and a Talgo, Inc., technician were on the train. Of those on board, 3 passengers were killed, and 57 passengers and crewmembers were injured.

On May 21, 2019, the NTSB released its final report on the derailment of Amtrak Cascades 501. The report found that a combination of factors led to the derailment, and it made specific recommendations on how to address safety issues.

The DuPont derailment occurred in Washington's 10th Congressional District, represented in the U.S. House by Congressman Denny Heck.