Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Changes ahead as new Amtrak Cascades service, Tacoma Dome Station and the Point Defiance Bypass launch on Monday

By Barbara LaBoe

After years of work planning and constructing almost $800 million in passenger train improvements, we're excited to be just days away from saying “All Aboard!” to our new, expanded Amtrak Cascades service.

Starting Monday, Dec. 18, we'll have additional trains running each day and travelers will use our new Amtrak Cascades Tacoma Dome Station in Freighthouse Square for the first time. If you can't wait to see the station, you can watch a video of the station construction online. Our work didn't just take place in Tacoma, though: it involved 20 projects that stretched from Blaine at the northern border of the state all the way down to the Port of Vancouver on the southern border. Tracks and signals were upgraded, stations improved or built, eight new Siemens Charger locomotives purchased and landslide catchment walls added to keep debris from reaching tracks and stopping train service.
Crews install the large, historical interpretive display about Tacoma's train history that is featured in the walkway of our new station. It was developed in conjunction with the Citizens Advisory Committee, which helped develop
the design of the station featuring large windows, wooden beams and terrazzo flooring.

New service = More travel options
The improvements are all geared toward making passenger train travel in Washington more convenient and attractive, including allowing us to add two more daily round trips between Seattle and Portland. This makes it easier to plan day trips on Amtrak Cascades -- whether for business or fun. The improvements also cut travel time between Seattle and Portland and help improve on-time reliability. We, along with the Oregon Department of Transportation, fund and oversee the Amtrak Cascades service, contracting with Amtrak to run the trains on a day-to-day basis. You can learn more about the new times and schedules online, as well book your next trip. You can also book by phone at 1-800-USA-RAIL.
This map of the Point Defiance Bypass -- in orange -- shows the route passenger trains will take in and out of Tacoma starting Dec. 18, including areas that will parallel I-5. It's one of many improvements along the Amtrak Cascades corridor in Washington.

Be alert for changing views
Part of the new service is made possible by trains taking a new route in and out of Tacoma – one that eliminates sharp corners and a single-track tunnel along Point Defiance. The new Point Defiance Bypass route starts in Nisqually and continues into South Tacoma, paralleling Interstate 5 in several areas near DuPont, Lakewood, Joint Base Lewis-McChord and Tacoma.

Drivers will see the trains along the west side of I-5, so be prepared for the changing views and any other drivers who may be distracted by the passing trains. If you use intersections near I-5 like the Thorne Lane, Berkeley, 41st Division/JBLM Main Gate or Steilacoom-DuPont Road, you'll also want to be alert for signals and crossing arms when trains come through, and you may want to leave a little extra travel time while everyone adjusts to the change.
New Charger locomotives, like this one seen at Seattle's King Street Station, will power the enhanced Amtrak Cascades service. They will run the entire Amtrak Cascades corridor, from Vancouver, British Columbia to Eugene, Oregon.

Stay back from the tracks
As always, please be safe and extra alert around any train tracks. Trains often run in both directions and today's newer engines can't always be heard as they approach. We need motorists and pedestrians to stay off tracks for everyone's safety. Here are some general tips:
  • Do not walk on or near tracks.
  • Do not stop your vehicle on railroad tracks while waiting for traffic.
  • Obey all signals at all times – for both pedestrians and drivers.
  • Wait for crossing arms to go up and/or lights to stop flashing before entering a crossing; trains travel in both directions on the tracks and one may be coming from the opposite direction of another that just passed by.
Need more tips for staying safe near tracks? Doug Baldwin of the Seattle Seahawks has you covered – take a look at the train safety video he partnered with us to create as well as a train safety adventure video. Our Stay Back from the Tracks webpage has even more safety information.

Please follow these tips to keep yourself and everyone else safe near train tracks. And starting on Dec. 18, enjoy our expanded service and new station!


Coug66 said...

So, can I now take Amtrack from Olympia/Lacey to Tacoma Freighthouse and then connect there with light rail to SeaTac?

WSDOT said...

Coug66, thanks for your question. There's not a direct light rail connection from Tacoma to Sea-Tac, but you have options if you ride the train from Lacey to our Tukwila station, which is a quick cab or Link ride from the airport. More details about options are available here: Some of the train times are altering slightly due to the new service. You can double check times here:

Bpendragon said...

Will the Amtrak Coast Starlight also use this alignment and Station? or will it continue to use the old one for the time being?

WSDOT said...

Bpendragon, yes, starting Dec. 18 all passenger trains will use the new bypass route and station in Freighthouse Square – including the long-distance Amtrak Coast Starlight and then our Amtrak Cascade trains. Only freight trains will remain on the old route around Point Defiance.

Tom Barr said...

Sadly that tunnel and the Point Defiance root was cool, right along the water. Progress often means giving up something for convenience. Now we can watch I-5 instead of Puget Sound. :)

Tom Barr said...

route, not root. Duh...

David Pittman said...

Is there long-term parking in the area of the new station?

Steve said...

How will passengers access the second track from the station? There should be safe access to the second track, especially if two trains will ever arrive at the station at the same time.

WSDOT said...

Tom Barr, It’s hard to beat traveling along the water and under the Tacoma Narrows Bridge and we’ll miss that too, but the changes allow for more trains per day, faster travel times and less congestion with the freight trains which will remain on the old route -- making the trains more convenient to all types of travelers. Our new station in Tacoma also is quite an upgrade with large windows, wood beams, terrazzo floors and a large train historical interpretive display in the walkway – and lots of multimodal connection options.
And, wonderful water views are still available on our trips north of Seattle.

WSDOT said...

David Pittman, a study of area determined there is sufficient private parking near the station to meet long-term parking demand. There are two lots managed by Diamond parking that offer overnight parking near the station. The first is on the southwest corner of the intersection of East D Street and East 25trh Street (1/2 block from the station). The second is on the southwest corner of the intersection of East G Street and Puyallup Avenue (three Blocks from the station). Both cost about $10 per 24-hour period.

WSDOT said...

Steve, you can reach the second platform at the new Tacoma Dome station from the sidewalk on D street and from a pedestrian path from 26th Street behind the platform. Crossing arms and other safety features are in place.

wank1 said...

We went from a route with near zero chance of a car-train collision to one where the trains cross at grade on several I-5 on/off ramps. We will have more trains traveling at higher speeds closer to vehicles and pedestrians... So much for target zero.

Trina Jones, photographer said...

Tried to look up schedules and the website is not working for information form Tacoma to Portland, too bad. people will strike while iron is hot.

Petetheheat said...

Well, I guess all the hype about this new rail service went out the window today the 18th dec. Now we have to watch out for falling trains.

slopester said...

did that train derail this morning on it's maiden voyage on your new tracks?

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