Engineers complete enviro study for $89M Point Defiance Bypass project

The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) announced Monday engineers recently completed an environmental assessment study of a proposed bypass that would reroute passenger train service between Seattle and Portland away from the Point Defiance train corridor along Puget Sound to a lesser-used inland route.

According to WSDOT officials, the study is a major milestone for the Point Defiance Bypass, an $89 million project that would reroute Amtrak Cascades passenger trains from the BNSF Railway main line near Point Defiance to an existing rail line that travels through South Tacoma, Lakewood and DuPont. The current route used by Amtrak Cascades carries nearly 50 freight and passenger trains a day. According to WSDOT officials, the proposed inland route is shorter and will allow Amtrak Cascades to shorten travel times by avoiding rail congestion and delays, and to add more trains between Seattle and Portland. In the last two years, Washington state has received nearly $800 million in federal rail grants, part of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act high-speed-rail program administered by the FRA.

The public is invited to view the study findings and offer comments for consideration by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) at two open houses:

  • Weds., Oct. 24 between 4 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. at the Clover Park Technical College Rotunda Building, 4500 Steilacoom Blvd., in Lakewood
  • Thurs., Oct. 25 between 4 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. at DuPont City Hall, 1700 Civic Drive, in DuPont

The meeting on Wednesday will serve as both an open house and public hearing where WSDOT and FRA will take public testimony in an open forum. Guests can sign up at the hearing to make brief comments. The environmental assessment is also available for review online here and at local libraries. As the federal lead agency, FRA will consider the comments prior to issuing a decision, expected near the end of this year. If the proposed project is approved, WSDOT would start work on improving this rail line, with trains scheduled to start running in 2017.

Point Defiance Bypass Project Map. (IMAGE COURTESY WSDOT)