Who decided to send MAX train through flooded tracks? - KPTV - FOX 12

Who decided to send MAX train through flooded tracks?

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PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) -

While TriMet and ODOT conduct two investigations as to why a MAX train drove through high water under the Morrison Bridge, the president of the union representing TriMet employees said the operator was told to do so.

Surveillance video from TriMet shows a train car flooding and passengers jumping onto their seats to avoid the water Saturday afternoon.

“The first thing, we have to apologize to our customers. This is not the level of service we intend to provide,” said Robert Nelson, TriMet’s deputy general manager.

Nelson said he was “deeply shocked and deeply troubled” when he saw video of the flooding.

The light rail vehicles are designed to operate in the rain, but Saturday was the first time the tracks have flooded this badly, he said.

The operator stopped after spotting standing water on the tracks and called to ask what to do, according to Shirley Block, president of the Amalgamated Transit Unit 757.

“Then the assistant manager that was in the room gave the order to slow the train down to 10 miles per hour, proceed through the water,” said Block. “To me, that's not acceptable. At no time.”

But Nelson said they have no information a manager gave that instruction.

“As far as we're aware, up to this point in the investigation, that never happened,” he said, adding that the investigation will take several more days.

In a statement released Tuesday, TriMet went further, stating “we categorically deny that TriMet management ordered an operator to proceed through the flooded area.”

According to TriMet, the agency alerted trains in downtown around 3 p.m. Saturday to slow down to 10 mph or less and to “use their best judgment” when proceeding if there was standing water on the tracks.

A few minutes later, the agency issued that as a formal order to the entire fleet.

TriMet said the flooded train traveled through the water an hour later.

Nelson admitted there were communication gaps and said they were trying to determine what happened.

They will review several hours of audio transmission as part of their internal investigation.

ODOT is conducting a review on behalf of the Federal Transit Administration.

TriMet will implement any recommendations from both investigations as soon as possible, said Nelson.

“It’s clear to me, this is coming from the investigation, that procedure is not adequate in this level of event that we had,” he said.

Block said she hopes the agency learns from what happened.

“TriMet really got lucky with this one,” she said. “Because that was really dangerous, very dangerous for that to happen.”

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