WSDOT: Feds approve $89M Point Defiance Bypass rail project

Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) officials announced Monday the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has approved a proposal to reroute Amtrak Cascades passenger train service from the BNSF Railway main line near Point Defiance to an existing rail line that travels through South Tacoma, Lakewood, and DuPont.

With this approval, WSDOT’s project team will advance design work on the $89 million Point Defiance Bypass project, with construction expected to begin in 2015 and service on the new route expected to begin in 2017.

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 allows Amtrak Cascades to reduce travel times by avoiding rail congestion and delays, as well as expand the service and add two more daily trains between Seattle and Portland. The new bypass route is located along an existing 18-mile freight corridor owned by Sound Transit. Part of the bypass route is the same route that Sound Transit uses for Sounder commuter rail to Lakewood.

“This is a major milestone for not only this project but for customers and our entire passenger rail program,” said WSDOT Secretary Paula Hammond. “This new section of track allows us to add more daily round trips between Seattle and Portland, making rail travel reliable and more convenient for our passengers.”

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.

“This is an important step in alleviating rail congestion and reducing travel time for passenger rail service between Seattle and Portland,” said FRA Administrator Joseph C. Szabo. The agency determined the new route would not result in significant adverse impacts to the environment. “Incremental successes, like this one, are critical to helping states and regions achieve their long-term vision for higher performing passenger rail service.”

More information is available online here.

Point Defiance Bypass Project map. (IMAGE COURTESY WSDOT)

Point Defiance Bypass Project map. (IMAGE COURTESY WSDOT)