New era of rail service rolling into Tacoma Dome Station set to begin

TACOMA, Wash. — A 14 ½ mile stretch of track, some new, some upgraded, is the new route for the Amtrak Cascades. And as it name implies it bypasses the old route along Tacoma's waterfront.

The Point Defiance bypass takes 12 daily runs by the Amtrak Cascades and two Coast Starlight trains off the busy waterfront route that already sees heavy traffic from freight and oil trains every day. The route was also the site of two fatalities in two years when pedestrians were hit by Amtrak trains.

There are street level grade crossings along the bypass as well, and the Washington Department of Transportation, which operates the Cascades along with Oregon officials, has been aggressively warning people to be on the lookout for Amtrak trains traveling at nearly 80 miles per hour between Tacoma and DuPont.

“Tracks are unsafe if you’re on the tracks when you’re not supposed to be,” said WSDOT’s Ron Pate. “So the message there is stay back from the tracks.”

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Friday’s ceremonial debut of the bypass also marked the grand opening of the new Tacoma Dome train station. It's part of an $800 million upgrade of rail lines stretching from Blaine in the north state to Vancouver in the south.

“This is about getting to Tacoma, “ said Mayor Marilyn Strickland. “We want to talk about the fact that we want to make it easier for people who live in the region to travel to Tacoma.”

The new station also serves Sounder riders and is across the street from the Tacoma Dome transit center where passengers can catch Link light rail, Sounder buses and Greyhound.

Amtrak service along the Point Defiance Bypass officially begins Monday Dec. 18th.