Testing begins for Washington state passenger bypass line

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Work continues on the new station for Amtrak Cascades trains next to the Sounder facility at Tacoma’s Freighthouse Square on Feb 3. The existing Tacoma station used by the Cascades and the Coast Starlight is on the current Point Defiance line, so passenger trains south to Portland, Ore., can’t switch to the by-pass until this station and bridge work to the south are completed.
Bob Johnston
TACOMA, Wash. — The beauty of viewing Puget Sound from the window of a passenger train is quickly drawing to a close as testing begins this week on the Point Defiance Bypass line south of Tacoma. The testing will consist of an Amtrak Cascades trainset operating up to 79-mph to test signals and crossing gates on the newly upgraded line between Lakewood and Nisqually, Wash.

The project is part of a plan to relocate Amtrak trains from the current BNSF Railway freight line along south Puget Sound to a more inland route that closely parallels Interstate 5. The project took a branch line and upgraded it several classes to higher standards. This new routing avoids freight congestion, track curvature, a single-track tunnel under Point Defiance, and congested rail yards in Tacoma. This new route will also save 10 minutes of travel time for Amtrak service along the corridor. In recent years, Sound Transit upgraded the line between Tacoma and Lakewood for use on their commuter rail service to Seattle with fourteen daily trains operating on the Lakewood to Tacoma segment.

The project is slated to be complete by fall with the 10 daily Amtrak trains on the corridor being moved over to the new inland route. Two additional round-trip Amtrak trains will be added to the schedule after the line is opened. Part of the project also calls for the construction of a new Amtrak station inside the former Milwaukee Road freight-house building in downtown Tacoma, a site that already houses a Sound Transit station stop.

More information is available online.

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