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Monday, October 08, 2012
Melanie Coon, WSDOT Rail Communications, 360-705-7905 (Olympia)
David Smelser, Cascades High Speed Rail Program Manager, 360-705-6916 (Olympia)
OLYMPIA – Amtrak Cascades passengers are one step closer to more frequent and reliable rail service between Seattle and Portland. Engineers recently completed a study of proposed bypass that would reroute the service away from the congested Point Defiance train corridor along Puget Sound to a lesser-used inland route.
The environmental assessment is a major milestone for the Point Defiance Bypass, an $89 million project that would reroute passenger trains from the BNSF Railway main line near Point Defiance to an existing rail line that travels through south Tacoma, Lakewood and DuPont. The current route used by Amtrak Cascades is congested, carrying nearly 50 freight and passenger trains a day. The proposed inland route is shorter and will allow Amtrak Cascades to shorten travel times by avoiding rail congestion and delays, and to add more trains between Seattle and Portland.
The public is invited to view the study findings and offer comments for consideration by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) at two open houses:
- 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
Thursday’s meeting will serve as both an open house and public hearing where the Washington State Department of Transportation and FRA will take public testimony in an open forum. Guests can sign up at the hearing to make brief comments. The environmental assessment is also available for review on the Point Defiance Bypass website and at local libraries. As the federal lead agency, FRA will consider the comments prior to issuing a decision, expected near the end of 2012. If the proposed project is approved, WSDOT would start work on improving this rail line, with trains scheduled to start running in 2017.
In the last two years, Washington state has received nearly $800 million in federal rail grants, part of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act high-speed-rail program administered by the FRA. The Point Defiance Bypass project is one of nearly 20 rail-improvement projects that will generate hundreds of jobs and improve Amtrak Cascades service between Portland, Ore., and Vancouver, B.C.
For more information about the Point Defiance Bypass project, visit the project website. For more information about Amtrak Cascades service, visit http://www.amtrakcascades.com/.
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