The Federal DOT is contributing $6 million to the Point Defiance Bypass project so trains traveling south from Tacoma won’t have to use the congested, single track Nelson Bennett tunnel and the slow, winding tracks south of it. The contribution will help the $140 million Sound Transit Project to extend Sounder to Lakewood. When completed, Amtrak trains will use the new inland route, known as the Lakeview subdivision, shaving 6 minutes off Seattle to Portland travel time. 6 minutes isn’t even the biggest impact here – trains can commonly be held up for ten or fifteen minutes waiting for freight in that area. This project will almost entirely eliminate freight’s effect on passenger rail operations around Tacoma.
Once this project is complete, an additional 5 minutes can be removed from the schedule by building a second, 110mph track in part of this corridor. I consider this to be the most important of the high speed segments, as it is adjacent to Interstate 5. Drivers will be very aware that they have an alternative.
A note to Mike Lindblom: $50 million unfunded of $151 million does not mean Sound Transit has “raised only about half”, especially considering the current $50 million shortfall noted on the project web site is probably not updated to include the this $6 million, or the $4.2 million from the FHWA you mention. $40 million of $151 million is a little more than a quarter.