Amtrak derailment cleanup, brutal traffic continue. Drivers should ‘pack your patience’

Update: Both directions of Interstate 5 and DuPont-Steilacoom Road will close briefly Wednesday morning while crews remove a 270,000-pound locomotive from the freeway, said Capt. Dan Hall of the Washington State Patrol.

Initial post: Commuters should prepare themselves for another day of detours, authorities say, as it remains unclear when southbound Interstate 5 will reopen following the derailment of an Amtrak train on Monday morning.

“There is damage to the road and the train trestle needs to be inspected,” said Brooke Bova of the Washington State Patrol. “WSDOT cannot do that until all the train parts have been removed. We ask people to be patient. It may appear we aren’t moving fast but we are doing this as safely as possible.”

While much progress toward an opening has been made, said state Department of Transportation spokesman Doug Adamson, the next major hurdle will be removing the 270,000-pound locomotive from the road. The locomotive has been lifted on to a trailer but special equipment is needed to transport the wreckage.

WSDOT does not yet have an estimated time for removing the locomotive. Workers also need to clear debris and make repairs to the road.

“We are doing this as quickly and safely as we can,” Adamson said.

The Amtrak passenger train derailed Monday morning killing three people, injuring many more and blocking I-5’s southbound lanes. Long detours on rural highways have been required to travel from Pierce County to Thurston County and points south.

Officials have recommended taking state Routes 16, 302, 3 and U.S. Route 101 through Gig Harbor and Shelton to get to Olympia. State Routes 7 and 507 through Yelm have been clogged with commuters. A detour through Joint Base Lewis-McChord is available only for locals, Adamson said. The road can not handle the 60,000 vehicles per day that travel I-5 southbound in that area.

“If you don’t have to drive, don’t,” Adamson said. “And if you do, pack your patience.”

The closure of I-5 cut off DuPont resident Eileen Kim from her business in Lacey. It usually takes her 15 minutes to get to the Log Cabin Bar & Grill. Until the freeway reopens she’ll have to travel two hours or more through Yelm.

“My son just called and I told him not to bother trying to get to work because it would probably take about two hours,” Kim said Monday. “Luckily a lot of my employees live in that area.”

She hoped I-5 would reopen soon, but her primary concern was with the passengers on the train. “We’re just praying for the people who were on that train,” Kim said.

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

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