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I-5 opens after derailment cleanup

UPDATED: Wed., Dec. 20, 2017

Two damaged train cars sit on flatbed trailers after being taken from the scene of an Amtrak train crash onto Interstate 5 a day earlier Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2017, in DuPont, Wash. Federal investigators say they don't yet know why the Amtrak train was traveling 50 mph over the speed limit when it derailed Monday south of Seattle. (Elaine Thompson / AP)
Two damaged train cars sit on flatbed trailers after being taken from the scene of an Amtrak train crash onto Interstate 5 a day earlier Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2017, in DuPont, Wash. Federal investigators say they don't yet know why the Amtrak train was traveling 50 mph over the speed limit when it derailed Monday south of Seattle. (Elaine Thompson / AP)

Less than two and a half days after an Amtrak train derailed near DuPont, Washington, killing three and sending cars and debris onto Interstate 5, state officials opened two of three southbound lanes in time for Wednesday’s evening commute.

The third lane is expected to open Thursday morning after the final debris is cleared.

Earlier in the day, the state Department of Transportation and state patrol moved the last car, a 275,000-pound locomotive, slowly up the closed section of the interstate and into a secure area at Joint Base Lewis-McChord where the other cars had been trucked for the investigation into causes of the crash.

National Transportation Safety Board investigators said Tuesday that the train was traveling at 80 mph on a stretch of track that is posted for 30 mph. The engineer did not hit the brake before the derailment started, they said, and an emergency brake was activated. The train was on its initial run for faster commuter service between Seattle and Portland when it derailed shortly after 7:30 a.m. Monday.

The derailment sent cars scattering along the tracks, across the bridge over which the train was crossing and hanging precariously above I-5. Killed in the crash were Benjamin Gran, 40, Jim Hamre, 61, and Zack Willhoite, 35. All died of multiple injuries.

Crews worked around the clock to untangle and move the cars, sometimes in heavy rain and strong winds. Initial reports said the roadway could need extensive repairs because of a gouge from a train car.

But Claudia Bingham Baker, a transportation department official, said an inspection Wednesday showed the gouge is in the asphalt shoulder.

“We’re not seeing a lot of extensive damage to the concrete,” she said.

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