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Rail - Tacoma - Bypass of Point Defiance

Status

August 2015

  

Construction started in December 2014 on the Nisqually Crossover, the southernmost part of the rail bypass that will divert passenger trains onto a new bypass along I-5 and a relocated Amtrak station at Freighthouse Square in Tacoma.


New station design work continues.
WSDOT’s project team expects station construction to begin in 2015 and the new route to open to service in 2017. Notice of action (pdf 37kb). For updates, visit the New Amtrak Station at Freighthouse Square page.


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Overview
The Point Defiance Bypass Project will reroute passenger trains to an inland rail line along the west side of I-5 through south Tacoma, Lakewood, and DuPont.  Sound Transit currently uses a portion of this route for Sounder commuter rail service to Lakewood.
This project will improve passenger train reliability by reducing congestion with freight trains and eliminating travel on tight corners and tunnels.

Why is WSDOT upgrading tracks for passenger trains to bypass the Point Defiance area in Tacoma?
Passenger trains, including Amtrak Cascades, currently must slow down due to curves and single-track tunnels on the BNSF Railway main line tracks near Point Defiance and along southern Puget Sound.

This project reroutes passenger trains to an inland route.  The bypass is on an existing rail line that runs along the west side of Interstate 5 (I-5), from south Tacoma through Lakewood and DuPont. It reconnects back to the BNSF Railway main line near Nisqually, on the east side of I-5. It also adds a new Amtrak station in Tacoma's Freighthouse Square building.

Freight train traffic patterns will not change with most freight trains continuing to use the existing main line near Point Defiance and along southern Puget Sound. The few freight trains that currently use the bypass route will continue to use it during and after the project.

The End Result
The end result is more frequent, more reliable, and faster Amtrak Cascades service.

The improvements will allow passenger trains to use the bypass route without being delayed by freight or Sounder trains. After the completion of other capital rail projects, two additional daily round trip passenger trains could be added. Freight train traffic will not increase on this line beyond the minimal amount that utilizes it today.

When completed, the Point Defiance Rail Bypass project will bring a total of seven daily round trip passenger trains through Tacoma, Lakewood, and DuPont intersections, with an average crossing time of 45 seconds per intersection and a maximum speed of 79 mph. 

Project Benefits

What is the project timeline?
The environmental and design process began in July 2006, and was completed in 2008.
Now in construction, the new line will open to service in 2017.

Financial Information

Washington state is delivering nearly $800 million in federally funded rail corridor improvements using American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) high-speed rail grants administered by the Federal Railroad Administration. The Point Defiance Bypass is one of those ARRA-funded projects.

  • Project budget  - $89.1 million

How can I get more information?
Contact:
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WSDOT Rail Division
PO Box 47407
Olympia, WA 98504-7407
360-705-7900
E-mail: mailto:rail@wsdot.wa.gov
 

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