Tom Banse | KUOW News and Information

Tom Banse

Tom Banse covers national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reports from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events are unfolding. Tom's stories can be found online and heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.

Before taking his current beat, Tom covered state government and the Washington Legislature for 12 years.  He got his start in radio at WCAL–FM, a public station in southern Minnesota. Reared in Seattle, Tom graduated from Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota with a degree in American Studies.

When not sifting through press releases, listening to lobbyists, or driving lonely highways, Tom enjoys exploring the Olympic Peninsula backcountry and cooking dinner with his wife and friends. Tom's secret ambition is to take six months off work and travel to a faraway place beyond the reach of email.

Washington state's Department of Transportation has unilaterally decided on a pre-condition before passenger trains resume service on the Point Defiance Bypass. That's where Monday's deadly derailment happened.

Six survivors of Monday's train derailment south of Tacoma have put Amtrak on notice that they plan to file a lawsuit. It's the first, probably inevitable, sign that various parties affected by the deadly train wreck are lawyering up.

Southbound Interstate 5 where Monday's Amtrak derailment sent train cars crashing down onto the freeway has re-opened. This comes as a big relief to drivers who endured hours-long detours or postponed travel between the Seattle-Tacoma area and points south.

The Washington State Department of Transportation just announced that two through lanes of Interstate 5 will reopen around 5 p.m. Wednesday at the scene of Monday’s deadly train derailment south of Tacoma.

The southbound freeway has been closed for two-and-a-half days.



Federal investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board expect to stay at least another week in Western Washington gathering evidence from Monday's deadly Amtrak train derailment.

Investigators have not yet interviewed the hospitalized train engineer.

Nostalgia is flowing freely in the skies this week as Delta Air Lines takes its remaining Boeing 747 jumbo jets on a farewell tour. They're the last of the iconic jumbos in U.S. passenger service.

The swan song stopped at Delta's main hubs, including Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. It also landed at the jet’s birthplace, Boeing's wide body assembly plant in Everett.

Railroad contractors are making slow progress at the scene of Monday’s deadly derailment on Interstate 5, in Dupont, Washington. Three people were killed and more than 70 injured when an Amtrak train derailed on its inaugural run on a new route from Seattle to Portland.

A brand new feasibility study of bullet train service between Portland, Seattle and Vancouver, BC, puts a sky-high price tag on construction costs. But Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signaled he's not deterred and is asking the Legislature to pay for further study.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and state lawmakers say they'll take action to preserve net neutrality rules for internet providers. This in light of an expected Federal Communications Commission vote Thursday to roll back Obama-era regulations.

The unmanned aircraft industry cluster in the Columbia River Gorge is growing yet again. An Australian company that specializes in drone engines plans to open a factory in Hood River, Oregon, early next year.

 

A wide range of business groups and universities from Oregon, Washington and British Columbia are teaming up to nurture science and tech startups. Nearly 50 organizations involved in business development signed on to the new Cascadia Venture Acceleration Network.

An aviation visionary from the Seattle area with a famous last name has joined the crowded field of personal air taxi startups. His new company unveiled a design that competes with a similar Airbus prototype expected to begin flight testing in Oregon soon.

The price of bitcoin set another new all-time high Wednesday, shooting past $13,000. The meteoric rise in the value of bitcoin and lesser known virtual currencies is having a real world effect in the Pacific Northwest.

Entrepreneurs are bombarding the public utilities in Central Washington with requests for cheap hydropower to run bitcoin computers.

The company that wants to build a coal export terminal in Longview, Washington, is keeping lawyers busy this week on multiple fronts. In recent months, the Millennium Bulk Terminals project has suffered repeated setbacks, mainly in the form of permit denials.

More than two months after Hurricane Maria, some people in Puerto Rico and Dominica still lack internet connectivity. One Pacific Northwest company is helping hurricane victims in the Caribbean get online.

We're learning more about a massive illegal marijuana growing operation busted by police in Western Washington this week. One unusual aspect of this case is that the 44 people arrested at a network of grow houses were all Chinese.

For the first time last year, the majority of new homes built in Seattle were built “green.” That’s according to the local homebuilders association. Portland home builders are also going for healthy, energy-efficient construction in a big way.

Shallow, active earthquake faults are being discovered all over Oregon and Washington state. Collectively, these may present a higher risk than the better known offshore Cascadia subduction zone.

The statewide unemployment rate in Washington again touched a record low of 4.5 percent in October. That's according to the Washington Employment Security Department, which has been tracking the number since the mid-1970s.

Alaska Airlines is saying "Adios" to Cuba. The Seattle-based airline Tuesday announced it will discontinue flights to Havana after the holidays. Alaska joins a parade of other U.S. carriers who are trimming back flights to Cuba or dropping service entirely.

A prototype of a single-seat passenger drone has arrived at Pendleton, Oregon's airport for flight testing. That according to the Silicon Valley-based Airbus subsidiary A^3—or “A-cubed”—behind the Vahana Project.

The battery-powered, self-flying aircraft has been reassembled after shipping and is now undergoing ground tests.

Tough new laws against handling a cell phone behind the wheel  took effect in Washington and Oregon this year. Each state’s legislature made it illegal to drive while holding an electronic device for most any reason.

The rare but ever-present risk of a tsunami has worried people along the Pacific Northwest coast for years. Different communities are working on moving critical facilities to higher ground.

There has been a lot of talk about potential Russian manipulation of the 2016 presidential election. Now there's concern about shadowy online electioneering filtering down to the state and local level. It comes in the aftermath of a high-stakes state Senate race in Western Washington.

Voters in Gearhart, Oregon, sent a decisive message this week about limiting vacation rentals in neighborhoods. The Oregon beach town is the first Northwest place to hold a vote of the people on an issue that's cropping up in city councils across the region.

Earlier this year, a gray whale calf died after getting tangled in crab pot lines near Seaview, Washington. Now commercial and tribal crab fishermen from the Washington coast have agreed to form a working group to discuss how to reduce the risk of a repeat.

More than 30 times this year, the federal government has received reports of whales tangled in fishing gear along the West Coast. Sometimes the whales manage to wriggle free. Other times they don't, and you see heart-rending pictures on the news or a rescue mission.

Democratic politicians from the Pacific Northwest are up in arms over a proposal to dramatically increase entrance fees at popular national parks next year.

This story has been updated.

Since recreational marijuana became legal in Washington state and Oregon, the booming industry has been having having trouble accessing the banking system. And now a hemp fashion retailer in Blaine, Washington, is having the same problem.

When commercial fishermen spool out long lines in pursuit of sablefish— better known to consumers as black cod—seabirds looking for an easy meal dive to steal the bait off the series of hooks.

Some unlucky birds get hooked and drown as the line sinks to the deep. 
And when the drowned bird is an endangered species such as the short-tailed albatross, it triggers scrutiny.

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