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Reps. Heck, Kilmer, Larsen Applaud House Passage of Passenger Rail Safety Reforms

Press Release

Date: July 1, 2020
Location: Washington, DC
Issues: Transportation

Today, Congressman Denny Heck, Congressman Derek Kilmer and Congressman Rick Larsen applauded the inclusion of pivotal rail passenger safety measures in H.R. 2, the Moving America Forward Act, and the bill's passage from the House of Representatives by a 233 to 188 vote.

The Moving America Forward Act codifies several of the National Transportation Safety Board's (NTSB) passenger safety recommendations following the derailment of Amtrak Cascades 501 in DuPont, Washington in December 2017. Rep. Heck, Rep. Kilmer and Rep. Larsen first introduced these provisions in H.R. 6066, the Passenger Rail Safety Act.

"December 18, 2017 was a heartbreaking day for the South Puget Sound community," said Heck. "I'm proud that my colleagues in the House have honored the lives lost and families shattered in the Cascades 501 derailment by passing meaningful reforms that will prevent similar accidents in the future. I thank Chairman DeFazio for prioritizing the safety of rail passengers across the country."

"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 Reps. Larsen and Heck in working to make sure these recommendations are implemented and that folks in the 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 thank my colleagues in the Washington delegation, Reps. Heck and Kilmer, for their leadership to prioritize the safety of the traveling public and incorporate the National Transportation and Safety Board's recommendations in the Moving Forward Act."

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.

H.R. 2 includes the following rail safety provisions recommended by the NTSB following the derailment in DuPont:

Directs the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to conduct a series of studies and perform research on safety issues relating to speed signs, seat securement mechanisms, and methods for mitigating injuries in the event of a derailment.
Requires Amtrak to ensure crewmembers receive the proper training and demonstrate proficiency on the characteristics of a territory by using all resources available to them.
Requires railroad carriers to periodically review and update their speed limit action plans.
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.