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US: Transportation governance study informs major Washington State rail safety bill

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CPCS study helps the Washington State Joint Transportation Committee (JTC) shape new bill to improve rail safety and governance.

It’s rewarding to see how our timely advice has contributed to actionable steps and moved the conversation in improving rail safety in Washington State,” says lead CPCS transportation specialist Joel Carlson. 

Rail safety and governance study: context and findings 

In 2017, an Amtrak train derailed near Dupont, Washington State. A subsequent investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board highlighted opportunities to strengthen the security and oversight of passenger rail in the state.

In response, the JTC commissioned CPCS in July 2020 to take a closer look at this issue. Our study addressed:

  • Safety roles of all rail stakeholders
  • Best practices in rail safety governance in other countries and U.S. states  
  • Gaps in Washington’s existing rail safety governance structure  
  • Recommendations for this governance structure  

CPCS experts delivered the study to the JTC in January 2021 with 15 recommendations centred around:

  • Strengthening state agencies in overseeing the safety of rail operations and new rail services – a direct response to the 2017 Amtrak derailment
  • Improving stakeholders’ awareness of rail safety roles and increasing collaboration among them
  • Emphasizing safety of at-grade rail crossings 

“CPCS concluded that Washington’s rail safety governance structure was generally in a good spot, though there was room to improve,” says transportation advisor Donald Ludlow and CPCS’s U.S. Vice President. “Our recommendations for the JTC aim to strengthen the state’s rail safety governance and prevent a derailment like the 2017 Amtrak incident.” 

Rail expertise also put to use for Canada’s Railway Safety Act Review 

This is not the first time CPCS was asked to develop a comprehensive rail safety study for a state legislature.

CPCS conducted a similar study in 2018 for the state legislature of Florida. In 2017, the infrastructure advisory firm helped inform Canada’s Railway Safety Act Review through a review of safety occurrence trends and data governance.

About CPCS

CPCS is a global management consulting firm specializing in infrastructure. CPCS solves challenges specific to transport, power and public-private partnerships. The firm is headquartered in Ottawa, Canada, and has offices in Canada, United States, across Africa and globally.

For business opportunities, contact Donald Ludlow. Write us at

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