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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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To bad they couldn’t re-route the freight trains too.  It would be nice to clear up that land on the downtown waterfront area.

October 12, 2012 at 5:01 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Elizabeth Burris

Wonderful news for Freighthouse Square and the Dome District!

October 13, 2012 at 11:51 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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I’d almost like to see the freight verses Amtrak routes flipped.  The route along the water is such a nice scenic train ride.  If the waterfront route were Amtrak only would that speed it up enough, by not having to schedule around freight?  Not to mention, it would keep loads of coal from going by the waterfront…

October 15, 2012 at 9:55 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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The inland route has grades that are too steep for heavily loaded long freight trains as you leave the Freighthouse. Longer slower freight would also snarl traffic at those at grade crossings in South Tacoma and Lakewood.  All of the freight yards for the port are also near the waterfront.  I think we’d all love to have a waterfront free of noisy freight traffic, at least in the Ruston Way and Narrows shoreline, but it just would not be technically feasible.

October 15, 2012 at 10:22 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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Jenny Jenkins

I know I’ll miss the views from the Amtrak Cascades on trips to and from Portland – that stretch along the Narrows is always the prettiest part of the trip.  That said, I won’t miss waiting for freight trains to clear the tracks.

October 15, 2012 at 10:24 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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Thanks @AreteTacoma!  Makes sense.

October 15, 2012 at 10:44 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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It’s good to see those old track upgraded to passenger service again. It’s been many years since that line carried passenger trains. I will miss the scenery along the coast though. It’s a good reason to get another trip in before it’s rerouted.

October 15, 2012 at 12:37 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Steve Crosmer

The line next to Pudget Sound could serve as a good alternate route in case of line blockage due to a grade crossing accident, deraliment, fire, or flooding, and likewise the new passenger route could return the same for the freight line as well when the need arises.

October 16, 2012 at 2:37 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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Julie Kerrigan

I am very sad to see the trains get re-routed.  I love seeing the water on the way to Portland and agree that that’s the best part of the trip.

October 16, 2012 at 10:18 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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James Schamp

That’s outrageous to by-pass one of the most beautiful areas on the Coast Starlight route.  Why not by-pass the freights and Sounders or just the Sounders who are essential to commuters.  Travelers on the CS are there for the scenery.  To miss seeing the Tacoma Narrows Bridge and that part of Puget Sound would be a tragedy for future travelers.

October 17, 2012 at 9:49 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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James@10, I think that AreteTacoma gave a great reason for the routes being set the way they are.  To call this “outrageous” and “a tragedy”, is the worst case of hyperbole I’ve ever heard in my life.  If this is as devastating to you as it appears, I think you may need to raise your bar for what is truly important up just a hair.

October 17, 2012 at 11:15 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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June 1, 2018 at 10:12 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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