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Rail - Tacoma - Bypass of Point Defiance


May 2015

    Consensus on the façade and interior design of new Amtrak station at Freighthouse Square was reached in April thanks to participation from several key stakeholders. This agreement was needed to continue critical design work ahead of the 2016 start of construction. For details, visit the New Amtrak Station at Freighthouse Square page.
  • 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.
  • Station design work continues. WSDOT’s project team expects construction to begin in 2015 and the new route to open to service in 2017. Notice of action (pdf 37kb) 

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The Point Defiance Bypass Project proposes to reroute passenger trains to an existing rail line along the west side of I-5 through south Tacoma, Lakewood, and DuPont.

WSDOT and FRA are proposing the Point Defiance Bypass project to:
• grow the Amtrak Cascades service and,
• make the service more reliable.

Sound Transit currently uses a portion of this route for Sounder commuter rail service to Lakewood.

The project team is gaining valuable feedback and ideas as it conducts aggressive outreach to communities along the corridor.

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 proposes to reroute 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.

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. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) issued a Documented Categorical Exclusion (DCE) in August 2008.

Construction of Phase 1 began in June 2009 on the first stage of construction. Funding for this project has been provided by the Legislature for completion by 2019, but the recent American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) High Speed Rail award that Washington State received in 2010 will provide funding to complete construction by fall 2017.

The Federal Railroad Administration requires a project-level Environmental Assessment (EA) under their regulations before the ARRA funding can be made available for construction of Phase 2. 

On March 1, 2013, FRA determined the Point Defiance Bypass project would not result in significant adverse impacts to the environment and issued a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI).

WSDOT’s project team is now advancing design work and expects construction to begin in 2015 and to open the new route to service in 2017.

Financial Information

Washington state is delivering nearly $800 million in federally funded rail corridor improvements using high speed rail grants administered by the Federal Railroad Administration. The Point Defiance Bypass is one of those projects.

  • American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) - $89.1 million
  • Total Funding From All Sources - $89.1 million

How can I get more information?
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WSDOT Rail Division
PO Box 47407
Olympia, WA 98504-7407

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