Rail - Tacoma - Bypass of Point Defiance


October 2017

Improvements underway for I-5 exit, crossing in DuPont

Drivers who use I-5 exit #119 near DuPont and Joint Base Lewis-McChord are seeing more green and less red these days.
Read about the signal changes that were recently made at the interchange of I-5 and Steilacoom-DuPont Road/Wilmington Drive/Barksdale Avenue on the WSDOT Blog.

While signal timing will improve from initial congestion, traffic at this interchange still will be controlled at a higher level than in previous years.

Beginning this fall, 14 passenger trains will be traveling through this intersection each day at speeds up to 79 mph. WSDOT and Sound Transit want to prevent tragedies at this interchange and keeping vehicles off the railroad tracks is key.


Watch 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.
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  - $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