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Tag: Amtrak


Lawmakers should intervene in rail dispute

Map shows Point Defiance Bypass route adjacent to I-5. (WSDOT)
Map shows Point Defiance Bypass route adjacent to I-5. (WSDOT)

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

A decision by the Federal Railroad Administration on the controversial Point Defiance Bypass is great for Amtrak. But it could be an economic blow to the future of several South Sound communities and add to the transportation nightmare thousands of commuters already face every day.

And it’s all to shave a few minutes off of Amtrak trains’ time between Seattle and Portland, and run a few more trains on that route. That’s an unacceptable tradeoff.

On Monday, the FRA gave the go-ahead to the $89 million bypass project that would reroute Amtrak trains from along the Puget Sound shoreline through South Tacoma, Lakewood and DuPont. A three-year study found that the project – which would extend by 3.5 miles the rail line now used by the Sounder train to Lakewood – would not adversely affect the environment.

Perhaps, but sending high-speed trains down tracks that cross at-grade intersections would certainly lead to accidents, huge traffic disruptions and economic impacts, especially to Read more »


South Sound commuters finally get what they’re paying for

A Sounder train pulls into the Lakewood station during a test run. (Staff file photo)

This editorial will appear in Monday’s print edition.

If all went as it was supposed to as of this writing, the first commuters to catch the Sounder train in Lakewood and South Tacoma in the wee hours this morning are already at work up north.

This is a day that Pierce County has long awaited – and paid for. The region’s citizens voted back in the mid-1990s to tax themselves to extend Sound Transit rail service extending to Lakewood. Now, 11 years after that service was originally supposed to begin, it finally has. The 8.5-mile, $325 million extension from Tacoma’s Dome District was scheduled to begin operating with a 4:42 train this morning.

If the recent testing period is any indication, there will be bumps along the way. Drivers will have to get used to trains briefly shutting down 17 at-grade street crossings between the Lakewood Sounder Station and the Dome District in downtown Tacoma. And pedestrians will have to restrain themselves from trying to beat the trains by scurrying across the tracks. That does not always end well.

Inconvenience is a price drivers should be willing to pay. Someday they, too, might want the option of taking the train instead of battling freeway traffic. And offering one more way to commute helps lighten that traffic and moves people in a more environmentally friendly way. Read more »


Cities have valid concerns about rail bypass

This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.

It’s understandable that state officials are hot to get their hands on a share of the $8 billion in federal stimulus money available for rail projects.

The quest for federal dollars is why a plan to separate freight and passenger trains through the South Sound – one that originally wasn’t going to be funded until about 2019 – is being fast-tracked, so to speak.

That’s a serious concern for the cities that will bear the brunt of the impacts when 14 Amtrak trains a day start traveling at 79 mph through several busy intersections.

The plan is for those trains, which now take the Point Defiance route, to be rerouted through South Tacoma, Lakewood and DuPont, chopping all of six minutes off the Seattle-to-Portland trip and leaving the scenic route to freight trains. The state, which will get nearly $600 million for its Seattle-to-Vancouver corridor, could begin construction on the bypass this fall.

Lakewood stands to get the worst of the impacts, with seven different intersections affected – most of them paralleling the busy South Tacoma Way/Pacific Highway South corridor. That city’s officials have been vocal in trying to get the state to at least modify the rail plan to increase safety measures with overpasses, and now DuPont has joined the fight. It only has one crossing, near Fort Lewis, but it’s already a busy one even without the holdups involved with 14 trains barreling through. Read more »


Much ado about nothing in Lakewood, transit blogger says

Ben Schiendelman of the Seattle Transit Blog (which does a great job of tracking transit issues up and down I-5 despite its name) has a counterpoint to our Wednesday editorial about Amtrak trains running through Lakewood.

Schiendelman laments that the state Department of Transportation’s outreach efforts have done little to stem opposition that has emerged in Lakewood. He says calling these trains “high-speed” is a misnomer and notes that passenger trains already run up to 79 mph through Sumner, Puyallup, Kent and Auburn without incident. Schiendelman points out that the crossings will be much quicker with shorter

Read more »


Where are bypass benefits for Lakewood?

This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.

Lakewood officials are absolutely right to challenge the state’s proposed Point Defiance bypass project that would send Amtrak passenger trains hurtling through the city at 79 mph. They would be seriously remiss if they didn’t.

At first glance, at least, Lakewood stands to shoulder all the negatives of the project – noise, traffic disruptions, safety threats – while reaping few if any discernible benefits. The Amtrak trains are not currently scheduled to stop in Lakewood, so residents who want to ride to Portland and points south would actually have to go north to Tacoma to board and backtrack through Lakewood on their trip.

It’s easy to see the appeal of the bypass for the state, Amtrak and the Port of Tacoma. It would separate passenger and freight trains that currently share tracks that wind around Point Defiance and along the shores of Puget Sound.

With the passenger trains shifted to the inland route through South Tacoma, Lakewood and DuPont, more freight service could be added on the Point Defiance tracks. And Amtrak trains that wouldn’t have to slow down around the Point Defiance curves would get from Seattle to Portland six minutes faster. Read more »