The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) on Monday approved the Point Defiance Bypass, allowing WSDOT to finish the design, begin construction in 2015, and potentially complete it in 2017.
The bypass, starting at Tacoma’s Freighthouse Square and rejoining the BNSF mainline at Nisqually, will reduce the travel time between Seattle and Portland from 3 hours and 30 minutes for Amtrak Cascades trains to 3 hours and 15 minutes. The time savings on the route comes from the decrease in overall mileage, increased speed, and improved reliability. The bypass also removes 5 minutes of padding that was needed due to the frequent interactions with freight traffic in the Nelson Bennett area. All passenger trains, including the Amtrak Coast Starlight, will move to Freighthouse Square, closing the old station currently in use.
This finding is open to appeal. Lakewood Mayor Don Anderson told The News Tribune on Monday that “the City Council will consider its options, including taking the project to court.” Mayor Anderson and the Lakewood City Council have a long history of opposing the project.
The bypass will allow the State to start 2 additional round trips between Seattle and Portland, assuming it resolves the uncertainty of funding for Amtrak Cascades.