It appears per the WSDOT website that the M Street to D Street connector also known as the Point Defiance Bypass for Sounder and Amtrak trains is currently under funded by as much as $14.9 million dollars. It is currently unknown what may be cut in the project itself or if the City of Tacoma or Lakewood would fork over the extra money to supplement the lack of funding.

This project delays multiple projects such as;

Extending Sounder to South Tacoma and Lakewood stations which just opened this past weekend.

Adding an additional 2 Amtrak Cascades trains between Seattle and Portland (after 3 other projects are installed as well, not just the sole reasoning for delay)

A trip reduction for the Amtrak Cascades service between Seattle and Portland that could save almost 6 minutes.

For more information, check out the WSDOT Folio of the project or the main project page.

14 Replies to “M Street to D Street Connection News”

  1. Hard to say but I would gather 1 or 2 of it Sound Transit and the rest the City of Tacoma. It’s amazing how much “trouble” a new mile of railroad can cause, granted it is “cutting” through the heart of the Dome District. There never was going to be an easy way to get into Lakewood from Freighthouse Square directly at least without this type of mitigation.

  2. There was a way to get fromthe Dome District to Lakewood, but Sound Transit chose the wrong method (they chose train instead of extending the existing LINK system). Although I don’t think it’s too late, using this method would not allow Amtrak (or likely any other train) to use the tracks. Would this be a bad thing? I don’t think so.

    1. So, the things you would be missing here:

      1) A direct trip from Lakewood and South Tacoma to Seattle.
      2) Any cost savings – it would be much more expensive to build streetcar tracks (because of the electrical infrastructure).
      3) 6 minutes phase 1 savings for Amtrak Cascades, and 5 further minutes for phase 2 when a second higher speed track is built alongside. These things can’t be done in the Nelson Bennett tunnel – which is single track and already overloaded.
      4) Storage space for further Sounder trains – we need Lakewood space for that.
      5) Further extension of Sounder to DuPont and later Thurston County.

      Amtrak is dependent upon this project – and is planning to reduce their travel time on a very popular service using it. Extending Link would be expensive and low ridership compared to extending Sounder.

      So, no, Sound Transit absolutely made the right choice in picking Sounder.

  3. I don’t know if this is really justified, but ever since I first read about this project about 4 years ago, I’ve felt like its completion would Amtrak Cascades seem more serious about competing with car travel. It’s partially because this makes the trip faster (6 minutes is not so much time on the face of it, but there are often backups around the north end of Tacoma, as I understand it), but it’s also that the route the train takes is the *less* scenic route, and that seems like a symbol that the train is about getting you there, not just being a pretty ride.

    1. It’s absolutely justified. There are other reasons here, too.

      Amtrak won’t just lose 6 minutes here. It’ll also run right next to I-5 at 79mph, creating an important psychological impact – the train will nearly always be outrunning traffic. This will also be the first place where 110mph service is implemented, making this even more pronounced.

      It’s also necessary to add more round trips to our Seattle to Portland service. I’m not sure whether we can add one or two more now without this project (Brian would know for sure), but this project is necessary to get up to the frequencies necessary so people can just *go to the train station* to get a train to Portland, rather than planning ahead for weeks.

  4. Well the ultimate goal for Amtrak Cascades is 2 hours and 30 minutes (give or take) which would then put it in direct competition with Greyhound, Airlines, and the good ole Automobile. I don’t foresee that becoming a reality however because of the investment cost.

    1. Current estimate is 3h 40m. Maybe Amtrak now has enough riders for an “express” once a day that doesn’t make any stops from Seattle to Portland. That would probably shave a few of the minutes they need.

      1. Actually, current travel time for most trips is actually 3h25m, scheduled at 3h30m, and sometimes as low as 3h20m. This would get us down to a more consistent 3h20m, which is faster than driving most of the day. The 506 and 513 are the only trains scheduled at 3h40m, because they run midday when a lot of congestion is likely.

        Right now the plan is to add more round trips and keep building small projects to shave a couple of minutes off here and there, until we can operate some 110mph sections. This bypass corridor would likely be the first such 110mph section.

  5. But that would be a ways off in the future, cause this bypass doesn’t connect on the southern end to the bnsf tracks, right?

    1. This bypass does connect at the south end, actually. There’s a rail overpass just before you get (southbound) to the Nisqually river delta – that’s this track.

      WSDOT has money set aside to do what’s necessary to run trains on this bypass in the same timeframe as Sounder.

  6. Sound Transit is not laying tracts for Amtrac in their proposal. They are just purchasing the space along side their track through Tacoma. Last we heard Amtrac will not be moving for fifteen to twenty years because of no funds. Are they in the $700,000,000,000.00 bail out also?

    1. Sound Transit bought the tracks all the way to where they connect at Nisqually. The money to run Cascades service isn’t coming from Amtrak as far as I know, it’s coming from WSDOT, as part of this project:

      As you can see, there’s about $60m in state funding here to upgrade the rest of the track.

      They’ve got a shortfall as well on their part, but not as much.

  7. Keith,

    Amtrak (including the Coast Starlight) will all shift to the Bypass in 2012. This includes the new Amtrak “station” in Freighthouse Square.

    WSDOT and Amtrak both are in this partnership together. Amtrak owns 2 of the 5 Amtrak Cascades trainsets, DOT owns the other 3.

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