Exit133 is about Tacoma
Amtrak Bypass Moves Forward
Tacoma is one step closer seeing passenger trains re-routed from the Point Defiance tunnel/Ruston Way route to a new route that will run through south Tacoma. Earlier this week WSDOT announced that engineers had completed an environmental assessment of the proposed bypass route.
The current route is scenic, offering passengers some of Tacoma’s best views of the Sound as it passes along the waterfront from Steilacoom, past Salmon Beach, under Point Defiance, and along Ruston Way. It is however, slow, and prone to delays, as trains must slow for curves and single-track tunnels owned by BNSF.
The proposed bypass would re-route only passenger trains, leaving freight trains on the current route. The bypass is planned for 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.
The bypass project will mean more frequent, more reliable, and faster Amtrak service. According to WSDOT, the completed bypass project will ultimately bring seven daily round trip passenger trains through Tacoma, with an average crossing speed of 79 mph (about 45 seconds per intersection).
Other changes proposed include moving the Amtrak station from its current location on Puyallup Avenue to Freighthouse Square, where the Sounder currently stops. Some logistical changes would be necessary to accomodate the differences in size and shape of the Amtrak and Sounder trains, and the addition of a waiting and baggage area at the station.
The environmental assessment completed this week is a required process for Phase 2 of the project. The information from the assessment is available to the public now, with WSDOT and the Federal Railroad Administration taking public comment during a 30 day comment period, including project open houses on October 24 and 25.
So what do you think? You’ve got until November 9 to have your say on the project.
For more on the project, including this month’s open houses, visit the WSDOT project site.
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