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Rail - Tacoma - Bypass of Point Defiance

parts of the project are in constructrion, others are still in design
 thumbnail map of project area  
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Freighthouse Square station Oct. 2015
Design for new Amtrak Cascades station at Freighthouse Square in Tacoma
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Point Defiance Bypass exacavators
Excavators lower part of a turnout track near Nisqually as part of the new route trains will use in and out of Tacoma
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See more project photos at project Flickr album


July 2016


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.

Contract awarded for new station; construction starts in June.
May 11, 2016
WSDOT has awarded the construction contract for the new Tacoma Amtrak Cascades Station. Construction will begin June 6, with the new station opening in fall of 2017.

Amtrak Cascades station moving forward in Tacoma’s Freighthouse Square
March 24, 2016
WSDOT is pleased to announce it has finalized a possession and use agreement with the owner of Freighthouse Square. This allows construction of the new Amtrak Cascades station to move forward while the courts settle on a fair purchase amount, as part of the eminent domain process.

The station construction project will be advertised for bid on April 4, with work beginning in June. The new station will open in 2017.

While the purchase price for the section of the building remains to be determined, WSDOT is pleased the legal process has helped keep this project on track and within federal grant deadlines.
For further updates, visit the New Freighthouse Square station page.

Station pre-bid materials, details
Information about pre-bid materials and pre-qualification for the new Amtrak Cascades station in Tacoma are available on New Freighthouse Square station page.

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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 Cascades 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  - $149.9 million

How can I get more information?
Sign up to receive Point Defiance Bypass email updates 

WSDOT Rail Division
PO Box 47407
Olympia, WA 98504-7407

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