Controversy Over Tacoma's Amtrak Station

by: Kevin McCarty Updated:

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TACOMA, Wash. - When the State Department of Transportation showed some early ideas for a new Amtrak station at Tacoma’s Freighthouse Square, the response was not good. Pictures from an architect showed a huge portion of the square replaced with a steel and glass addition. Almost no one liked it.

“We heard very clearly from the public, they did not like that picture,” said WSDOT Rail Director Ron Pate.

Amtrak trains will soon be using new railroad tracks as part of an $87,000,000 plan to reroute the trains through south Tacoma and Lakewood, bypassing Point Defiance and the waterfront on Tacoma’s north and west sides.

The Amtrak Cascade line that runs between Vancouver, B.C., and Eugene, Oregon, is owned by WSDOT and the Oregon Department of Transportation. Trains are operated by Amtrak itself.

That makes the design of the new Freighthouse Square station a state project. The square is more than 100 years old, and was turned into a mall with shops and restaurants years ago while retaining the historic feel of an old railroad building. Patrons say they don’t want to see that character change.

“Yeah I love it,” said Michael Blanton, who works down the street from the square. “I eat there probably once a week.”

But because the square is so old, turning it into a modern railroad station won’t be easy. The concept plan to replace part of the square would have cost around $4.7 million. Retaining the character of the square’s history and modernizing it won’t be cheap.

“You could build a brand new building to look just like that building, so of course you could do that," said Pate. “But we want to get that community input, what does it look like for a train station in that community?”