Construction of the new tracks and signals running from South Tacoma to Nisqually is nearly complete. Testing along this corridor is scheduled for mid-January through February. During this testing phase, trains will be running at varying speeds, up to 79 mph. Drivers and pedestrians are urged to be safe around the train tracks. Details about the testing
will be updated as the schedule is finalized.
The new tracks will divert passenger trains onto a new bypass along I-5 and a relocated Amtrak station at Freighthouse Square in Tacoma. (Details about the new station are on the New Freighthouse Square station
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.
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.
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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