Rail - Tacoma - Bypass of Point Defiance


December 2017

Train track testing in DuPont, JBLM, Lakewood and Tacoma Nov. 18 to Dec. 17
Final tests of the Point Defiance Bypass railroad tracks will take place starting Saturday, Nov. 18 and running through Sunday, Dec. 17 for preperation of the start of new service on the tracks Monday, Dec. 18. The tracks run from the Tacoma Dome Station, through South Tacoma, Lakewood, Joint Base Lewis-McChord and DuPont. Minor delays may occur at track crossings as trains pass through intersections over the next several weeks.
Most of the new service travel will happen between 6:30 a.m. and 10:30 p.m., but delays in schedules makes it important for drivers and pedestrians  to always follow good rail safety guidelines including:

  • Do not walk on or near the tracks
  • Do not stop your vehicle on the railroad tracks while waiting for traffic
  • Obey all signals at all times -- both pedestrians and drivers
  • Wait for crossing arms to go up and/or lights to stop flashing before entering a crossing; trains travel in both directions on the tracks
  • For more info visit our Stay Back from the Tracks page with tips from Seattle Seahawks Doug Baldwin

Start date announced for service expansion; use of Point Defiance Bypass route
Amtrak Cascades' new service schedule will start Dec. 18, which is also the start of the trains running on the Point Defiance Bypass route and the opening of the new Tacoma Dome Station in Freighthouse Square. The new schedule adds two more daily roundtrips between Seattle and Portland, cuts travel time and improves on-time reliability. It also marks the end of the nearly $800 million Cascades High-Speed Rail Capital Program.

Watch time-lapse photos  or a time-lapse-video of the new station construction at Freighthouse Square.

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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 six daily round trip Amtrak Cascades trains and one Coast Starlight train 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.
The new line opens to service on Dec. 18, 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  - $180.7 million


How can I get more information?

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WSDOT Rail Division
PO Box 47407
Olympia, WA 98504-7407
E-mail: mailto:rail@wsdot.wa.gov

thumbnail map of project area
Click to enlarge map

Design for new Amtrak Cascades station at Freighthouse Square in Tacoma
Click to enlarge photo

Excavators lower part of a turnout track near Nisqually as part of the new route trains will use in and out of Tacoma
Click to enlarge photo

See more project photos at project Flickr album