Sound Transit photo

In one of the first tangible signs that the Point Defiance Bypass is coming to a close this year, Sounder trains will not serve Tacoma, South Tacoma, or Lakewood from February 17-22. During the 6-day closure, crews will prepare to open the south track of the new Tacoma Trestle. Despite it being a 6-day closure, Sound Transit has minimized rider impact by aligning the closure with with a weekend and a lightly-ridden Presidents Day holiday. Service will resume for the afternoon commute on Wednesday, February 22. So if you’re a Sounder commuter who is fortunate to have Presidents Day off, your total inconvenience will amount to just 2.5 days.

Once service begins on the south track of the new trestle, the historic Milwaukee Road wooden trestle will be demolished and crews will continue work on the second (north) track, and this work will finish in 2018. Amtrak Cascades trains will begin using the new trestle later this fall.

Given the geography of the alignment, stations from Puyallup northward have always enjoyed the best time advantages and the highest ridership. Tacoma, South Tacoma, and Lakewood together accounted for 14% of South Sounder ridership in 2015, less than Puyallup alone (16%). So rider inconvenience should be relatively minimal.

In addition to regularly scheduled Sound Transit 580 buses between Lakewood, South Hill, and Puyallup, Sound Transit will run 4 timed shuttles to connect Lakewood (Green Line), South Tacoma (Orange Line), and Tacoma (Blue Line) to Puyallup, and to connect reverse commuters from Puyallup to Tacoma (Teal Line).

18 Replies to “Sounder Will Be Truncated to Puyallup February 17-22”

  1. I drove through Tacoma to DuPont the other day and saw some of the track work that was being performed.

    It surprised me how many at-grade crossings there are. A lot of them are quite major thoroughfares like Steillacoom Blvd. The tracks are a barrier throughout South Tacoma so traffic tends to focus on the roads that do have crossings.

    I suppose that since the tracks will only be used by Cascades these won’t have as much potential for backup as crossings used by freight traffic, but it still seems like a potential for future delays.

    Sound Transit cites signal work on at-grade crossings at Clover Creek Drive, North Thorne Lane, Berkeley Street, 41st Division Drive, and Barksdale Avenue (Steilacoom-DuPont Road). I also see at-grade crossings on Bridgeport Way, 108th St, 100th St, Steillacoom Blvd, 74th St, 56th St, Pine St, and many minor streets.

      1. I’m not following the alternative physics. If the train is twice as fast, does that really mean the crossing gates are down only half as long?

      2. Good point Brent. The gates will still be down minimum fifteen seconds before the train arrives in addition to the time it takes to cross the tracks. Most freight are able to go 59 passenger trains 69.

      3. Brent,

        Not at all. Since the train is moving more quickly, it takes longer to stop. So there has to be an extra margin of “no trespassing” time before it crosses the roadway.

      4. They typically have the gates down a minute or two before the train gets to the crossing. On modern signals, a pulsed signal in the track uses the Doppler effect to determine the train speed so that the gates don’t have to be down extremely early for a slow train.

        For an Amtrak Cascades trains, the gates will be down far longer for the warning period than they are for the train itself.

        A 70 car freight train moving at 10 mph is a different matter.

    1. What’s maximum train speed between Tacoma Dome and Lakewood now? Because if we’re doing 35, it’ll still be twice present speed on I-5 at rush hour.

      Which has made a deeply-involuntary motorist out of me. If I’ve got an appointment in Seattle before noon, fifty miles each way back roads to Angle Lake. Much of it within a mile of I-5. Very short fuse over every excuse why Sounder trains can’t terminate in Lacey. What, twenty minutes from Dupont? And a twenty minute express bus ride to Downtown Olympia.

      We’ll have brand new track and switches. For number of trains…doesn’t BN single-track anywhere between Vancouver BC and Seattle? Look, if Amtrak Cascades can run that track, why can’t we? Not kidding about wrapping a Talgo section or two with ST colors. And making it worth Thurston County’s financial while to at least get out of the way.

      And getting some good stats on those passenger hydrofoils. Been told the Mosquito Fleet used to serve Olympia. Bet it didn’t go any slower than Highway 5. But aside from freight interference north of Tacoma that railroad is the only land-based un-blockable right-of-way along the whole I-5 corridor at the hours we need it most. For as far ahead as we can foresee with a space telescope.

      Mark Dublin

    2. A Sounder or Amtrak train causes at most 30 seconds to a minute of delay to cars waiting at a level crossing, with a couple of exceptions – Kent, Auburn, and Puyallup north bound trains (maybe others I’m not aware of) have crossings close enough to Sounder stations that a stopped train keeps it active. But a Sounder train stops for about 2 to 3 minutes, except for then the conductor lollygags with the station agents (knock it off – we all have somewhere else to be :-).

      A typical fright train can be the best part of 3 minutes – which seems like an eternity when you’re sitting in a car waiting for it.

      People to race the barrier arms – possibly because TV shows and movies generally only depict someone racing to beat a train – so its a baked in behavior for how people react to them. Is that 30 seconds to 3 minutes worth your life? If you’re that pressed for time you should learn some better time management skills :-) And in the end your trip time is probably not impacted, the next several sets of traffic lights and intersections are going to buffer you anyways.

  2. It WILL, however, become a very expensive issue once double tracking is completed and maximum speed limit rises to over 160KPH/100 MPH

    1. Do you really think they will go 100 MPH through such a crowded area? I always had the impression that speeds such as that were reserved for rural areas with grade separation.

      1. Crossings are allowed at up to 110mph. Some of those are rural, but some of the stuff from Harrisburg to Philadelphia, PA is pretty urban, as well as other areas.

      2. The state’s goal for Cascades is 90 mph and then 110. All these track upgrade projects are steps toward that. Sounder can join in the speed if it buys compatible trains. But I wouldn’t expect 90 mph for a while yet, and I don’t know what’s the grade-crossing threshold for slowing down.

    1. Do you mean whose livery will it be? … since Pierce Transit operates the Sound Transit Express buses that serve Pierce County (and some that don’t but serve south King County).

  3. Awesome to see the mention of alternative routes, Zach, but should you mention that Pierce Transit Route 400 also goes from Tacoma Dome to Puyallup Station? ( An option for folks who usually take the train from Tacoma Dome. Unless they want to just take Sound Transit bus 590/594 which serves Lakewood, Tacoma and Downtown Seattle directly and is actually often faster than the train–especially for Tacoma/Lakewood riders. (

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