Freighthouse Square Amtrak Station, Take Two? Take Three…?

The latest proposal for the new Tacoma Amtrak station location at Freighthouse Square puts it right in the middle of the existing semi-historic building, according to The News Tribune.

WSDOT's latest recommendation comes after public outrage at the not-so-affectionately dubbed "Amshack" design originally proposed for the west end of the building. Okay, "outrage" may be a strong word for it, but the most vocal public sentiment was definitely against the conceptual design that would have demolished the old shopping center's most visible face at East 25th and East D, and replaced it with a steel and glass structure.

In response to the negative public reaction, WSDOT invested in additional study of the possible locations, hiring of a local architect to help with the process.

In March a citizen panel came back with a recommendation that the station be located at the east end of the building, in part because they deemed it least disruptive to other uses of Freighthouse Square. A station at that end would be elevated several stories above the street below, requiring a significant amount of construction, including elevators to make it work. According to the TNT, that option would have cost nearly twice as much to operate as the central and west end locations, which would be able to operate basically at grade. The added cost makes the east end a no-go for WSDOT.

The proposed central location would be located just west of the existing Sounder station. Like the unpopular west end location, that location would require a tear-down of the existing Freighthouse structure, with the replacement built in the original footprint. The existing construction is just too old; foundations are weak, wiring is outdated, and the layout is... quirky. A new design would bring updated infrastructure, and a more open layout for Amtrak operations.

You can learn more about WSDOT's latest proposal, and some of the research on the other options at a public meeting hosted by WSDOT today at 4 at UWT. If the public likes what they see, the plan can move to federal review this summer. Construction could begin as early as late 2015. Activation of the Point Defiance Bypass route is currently anticipated for spring 2017.

The old building will not be easy to add a new station to, regardless of the location. We've got three proposed locations. Does the central location seem like a good compromise?

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This seems like it might be a way to preserve the look of each end of the building while giving the interior the makeover (for more than just the train station section) it sorely needs.  People should visit Wenatchee’s new Pybus Public Market if they want an example of the kind of amenity Freighthouse could be for Tacoma but currently is not.

June 26, 2014 at 9:57 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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Wow, just watched the video on the site for Pybus Market. This looks exactly like what we need down at Freighthouse.

June 26, 2014 at 11:39 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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Why can’t they put it on the West side but not make it so ugly? A quality architect who gives a crap about this little city could design a good fit.

June 26, 2014 at 3:52 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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WSDOT pleads poverty in the quest to design at Freighthouse Square a new Amtrak station for Tacoma, thereby making the preferred east-end alternative there an apparent impossibility because its higher development and claimed operations costs.  One wonders if the eventual sale of the current Amtrak station site along Puyallup Avenue might yield funds that the federal passenger railroad agency, with the encouragement of local members of Congress, might be able to be use to build a better-qualty new Amtrak station at Freighthouse Square, supplementing WSDOT funds already earmarked for the project.  Seattle squeezed lots of money out of Olympia to fully restore King Street Station for Amtrak services, which is maybe why WSDOT is so pressed to build a new Amtrak station in Tacoma as cheaply as possible.

June 26, 2014 at 4:20 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Tim Smith

The bigger shame is that we only have one location to consider - Freighthouse Square - and other much more accessible, safer, and regionally responsive locations in Tacoma have not been considered. Available property, connectivity to Sounder, and room for growth all exist in South Tacoma. This will be at least the third major rebuild around Freighthouse Square in less than a decade. Of course reviewing the City of Tacoma transportation plan….oh that’s right we don’t have one. We just keep pouring available funds into glorified projects that only serve the transportation needs of the downtown core instead of creating a local transportation system that serves the South Puget Sound region. I’m going back to my tomato plants.

June 27, 2014 at 4:00 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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Personally, I think building a new Amtrak station in Lakewood for the Cascades and Coast Starlight makes the most sense. There’s room to build a proper station building, with ticketing, waiting room, and baggage handling space, the Sound Transit garage can be expanded, or a new facility built to handle Amtrak’s Short and Long term parking needs along with adding more ST parking. I would then also add a stop for Amtrak Cascades at Freight House Square, with modest facility’s, including waiting room space, and a Quick Track machine. No Parking would be provided, and no baggage handling and its required modifications would be needed here so it should fit within the existing structure without major modifications. Both sites offer easy access to transit, and the freeway, and the addition of the Lakewood stop would make Amtrak access to JBLM even easier (plus probably silence the Lakewood community who is fearful of the trains).

June 30, 2014 at 12:10 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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I think the initial presentation of the west end drawings went wrong because the proposed retrofit follows the same roofline as the existing warehouse. A unique stand-alone rail station with an airy courtyard adjacent to a period appropriate refaced Freighthouse Square warehouse might serve as an acceptable compromise between WSDOT and the Dome District stakeholders.

The juxtaposition of different building styles and building materials is already a self-evident characteristic of the district.

At one time in Tacoma, rail travelers were worthy of buildings like the brick-walled and copper-topped Union Station. Today we have locals fighting for the right to board a train at a former railway wooden warehouse.

It’s all enough to drive a man to raise tomato plants in one of Tacoma’s community gardens.

June 30, 2014 at 12:08 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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