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Budget Information

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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  
Click to enlarge map

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


May 2017

Signal improvement work starting May 18

Starting Thursday, May 18, additional traffic signal upgrades will take place at Barksdale/DuPont-Steilacoom/Wilmington interchange at Exit 119 off Interstate 5 in DuPont.

Crews will add a second signal controller and re-program the signal timing to improve operations at this intersection.

Drivers should be aware of the following:

Flaggers and officers will control the intersections, since traffic signals will not be operational during the upgrades.

Work will occur from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Drivers should expect delays.

The signal changes made at this interchange a few weeks ago were designed to keep vehicles from being caught on the railroad tracks. Initial changes to the signal timing caused significant traffic delays and Washington State Department of Transportation and Sound Transit are now making additional upgrades to address those long delays. However, the goal of ensuring drivers and pedestrians are safe around trains continues, since it was a promise made to the community when the new railroad route was designed. While signal timing will improve from current conditions, 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.

New Traffic Signal Timing in DuPont and Lakewood

WSDOT and Sound Transit recently changed the timing of stop lights at four intersections in DuPont and Lakewood – DuPont-Steilacoom, Berkeley, Thorne and Bridgeport. This has led to delays because drivers now must wait for the traffic signals to cycle through all three intersections at each exit. While this configuration is much safer, because cars and trucks are no longer caught on the railroad tracks, we understand drivers’ frustration.

We are working on ways to address the longer wait times, while still maintaining a safe environment when 14 daily passenger trains start traveling through this intersection at speeds up to 79 mph this fall. (More information is available on our blog about this issue). WSDOT and Sound Transit want to keep our promises to the community and prevent train-related tragedies. Keeping vehicles from being caught on the tracks is a key part of that commitment.

Some adjustments have already been made to the traffic signals and WSDOT engineers are looking at other options. We appreciate your patience while adjusting to the new signs and signals and encourage you to contact us if you would like additional information.

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?
Sign up to receive Point Defiance Bypass email updates 

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

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