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The mayor of Lakewood, Washington, predicted deadly accidents from high-speed trains

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Note: Originally published by KOMO on Dec. 5

City leaders gave a chilly reception to a new high-speed rail plan for Amtrak trains that starts running later this month, our affiliate KOMO reported.

The idea is to use the Sound Transit tracks that cut through the city and open them up to Amtrak trains. However, huge safety concerns remain.

State transportation workers came to Lakewood Monday night to share progress on the bypass project.

Right now, passenger trains, including Amtrak Cascades, must slow down due to curves and single-track tunnels on the BNSF Railway main line tracks near Point Defiance and along southern Puget Sound. This project reroutes passenger trains to a bypass rail line along I-5. The proposed route is the same that Sound Transit uses for Sounder commuter rail service to Lakewood.

Recent track upgrades will allow Amtrak to send its locomotives through at 79 miles an hour. City officials in Lakewood have long been worried about the dangers residents could face as these trains race through the city.

“We want to make sure as many people as possible understand what's going on, understand we are starting a new service on December 18th and ensure that they know how to stay safe around the railroad tracks,” said Janet Matkin with WSDOT.

Amtrak said the bypass route saves railway passengers about 10 minutes and improves on-time reliability.

The mayor of Lakewood believes it is just a matter of time before these high speed trains kill someone. He asked the DOT presenters to do better. Mayor Don Anderson said grade separations – such as overpasses – should be included to keep trains away from cars and pedestrians.

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“Come back when there is that accident, and try to justify not putting in those safety enhancements, or you can go back now and advocate for the money to do it, because this project was never needed and endangers our citizens,” Anderson said.

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