Roughly three weeks ago WSDOT completed the required Environmental Assessment (EA) for the Point Defiance Bypass (PDB). You can wade through the full 1,500 pages if you dare, but to the casual reader I would suggest the concise Executive Summary. For those unfamiliar with the project, a small sampling of 4 years of STB coverage can be found here, here, here, and here.
It is wholly predictable that rebuilding and upgrading an existing single-track railway would create no significant environmental impacts, especially when its construction will allow for greatly increased diversion of vehicle trips to train trips. Nonetheless, it is a relief to note that the EA indeed found no significant negative impacts to air quality, noise/vibration, soils, wetlands, flora/fauna, social justice, or cultural resources. Temporary construction impacts will be aggressively mitigated through Best Management Practices (BMPs).
What about transportation impacts? Traffic around Joint Base Lewis McChord is notoriously terrible, and while a good portion of local opposition hints of NIMBYism, Department of Defense and Lakewood officials have had some legitimate concerns about the project’s impacts on the obsolete, overburdened, and underbuilt interchanges adjacent to JBLM. Interestingly, the EA found that building the PDB will actually improve Level of Service (LOS) at Thorne Lane (Log Center Gate), Berkeley St (Madigan Gate), and Barksdale Rd (Dupont Gate) (page 4-17). Signal timings will improve, sidewalks will be rebuilt, and Lakewood will have added a lane on the Freedom Bridge, among many other small projects. 2030 Level of Service at 41st Division Drive (Main Gate) will still be failing (Level F) whether the project is built or not. Lastly, including the construction of the Cross Base Highway in the 2030 demand model does nothing to reduce projected vehicle delays (page 162).
It is clear from this EA that the addition of 14 daily passenger rail trips, each causing average vehicle delays of 45-55 seconds, is the least of the South Sound’s traffic concerns. Meanwhile, the eventual doubling or tripling of Cascades capacity is a great public benefit that opens up great possibilities for a fully-integrated, regionally-funded passenger rail corridor (maybe even with integrated ticketing?).
If you would like to show your support for the project, you may submit public comment on the EA through November 9, and there are open houses tomorrow and Thursday:
- Wednesday, Oct. 24, from 4 to 6:30 p.m. at the Clover Park Technical College Rotunda Building, 4500 Steilacoom Blvd., Lakewood
- Thursday, Oct. 25, from 4 to 6:30 p.m. at DuPont City Hall, 1700 Civic Drive, DuPont
The Oct. 25 meeting in DuPont will serve as both an open house and a public hearing where FRA and WSDOT will take public testimony. The DuPont open house will run from 4 to 5 p.m., followed by the public hearing from 5 to 6:30 p.m.