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The scene of an Amtrak derailment over Interstate 5 taken in the evening on Monday, December 18, 2017 from Mounts Road. 
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The scene of an Amtrak derailment over Interstate 5 taken in the evening on Monday, December 18, 2017 from Mounts Road.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Technology that might have prevented Amtrak crash gets a big test

Test runs for a braking system that could have prevented a deadly Amtrak crash will take place this weekend.

The state Department of Transportation says trains will run along the tracks near Dupont, where a train derailed last December and fell onto busy Interstate 5, killing three people.

Amtrak is installing a system called Positive Train Control, which allows computers to automatically apply the brakes when a train is going too fast.

The train that crashed was on an inaugural run along a new route between Seattle and Portland when it derailed on a curve. The train was traveling nearly 80 mph – 50 mph over the speed limit on that section of track.

The engineer apparently realized six seconds before the crash that the train was going too fast.

In a preliminary report, investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board said Positive Train Control “would have notified the engineer of train 501 about the speed reduction for the curve; if the engineer did not take appropriate action to control the train’s speed, PTC would have applied the train brakes to maintain compliance with the speed restriction and to stop the train.”

The test runs along the Point Defiance Bypass are scheduled for Saturday and Sunday. Trains will be tested at speeds up to 79 mph, about the speed the train was going when it crashed.

Transportation officials have said they hope to restore service along the line by next spring.