The investigation into Seattle’s recent monorail crash was expected to begin late last week after crews got the pair of trains safely back to a maintenance station. Crews early last week were using a 120-ton hydraulic crane and a pulley system to attach cable from a tow truck to the trains and pull them on the tracks toward the station, at Seattle Center. As of ENR press time, the trains had advanced far enough to be separated but were not yet at the station.

Carrying 84 passengers, Seattle’s red and blue trains sideswiped each other the evening of Nov. 26. The one-mile line connects Seattle Center to the downtown Westlake Center Mall. The accident occurred at Westlake station. Officials believe failed signal lights or failed communication between drivers contributed to both trains passing through the narrow curve at the same time. There were not any injuries.

For almost 20 years, the elevated trains have navigated the tapering point of the track just before the city’s Westlake Center. City and monorail officials have always been aware of the pinched track and implemented special procedures and protocol to safely operate the trains.

"Obviously, one of those protocols was not followed, causing the accident. Our investigation will determine how that occurred," says Perry Cooper, spokesman for the Seattle Center. "Once the investigation concludes, we will review the procedures and determine if anything needs to change to avoid the situation again, and proceed from there."

It was not known at ENR press time if the state Dept. of Transportation or the National Transportation Safety Board would assist private operator Seattle Monorail Services with the investigation.

The last time the elevated line was closed was after a 2004 Memorial Day fire, which cost $2.5 million to repair and renovate the two trains. The line was closed for six months. City and monorail officials won’t know the extent of the damage from the most recent crash until the investigation is under way.