The planned move of Tacoma’s Amtrak station to Freighthouse Square, already home to Tacoma Dome Station, moved closer to fruition on July 13, as local officials celebrated the start of construction. Secretary of Transportation Roger Millar was joined by Tacoma mayor Marilyn Strickland at the Tacoma Dome Station plaza, and both spoke about the change that the new station will bring to the city and how they were welcome to embrace it.
The new station is part of the Point Defiance Bypass project, which will create an inland route for passenger rail between the Nisqually River and Tacoma Dome, increasing reliability and allowing for additional daily roundtrips on Amtrak Cascades between Seattle and Portland. When the station opens late next year, Amtrak will abandon its current 1970s-era station on Puyallup Avenue, and be located in close proximity to Tacoma Link and Sounder service.
The ceremony also honored the contributions of a citizen advisory committee that played a key role in the design of the station, suggesting a slew of incremental improvements to the initial concepts presented by WSDOT. The new station will integrate the existing warehouse on the site, which was built in the early 20th century for the Milwaukee Road, and instead build a glass facade next to the current Sounder entrance; an earlier plan had proposed a complete demolition and replacement of the structure with a modern steel-and-glass station and was met with backlash from Tacomans.
The project has, however, not been without controversy. Negotiations with the owner of the Freighthouse Square mall stalled earlier this year after he attempted to raise the price of land on the station site, resulting in WSDOT considering the use of eminent domain to acquire it; a month later, the owner backed down and signed an agreement with WSDOT, allowing for construction to move forward while the final price is determined at a later date.