The Federal Railroad Administration has approved the proposed rerouting of Amtrak passenger trains through DuPont, Lakewood and South Tacoma following a three-year review that determined the project would not result in significant adverse impacts on the environment.
The decision was announced Monday. The draft environmental study had been released for public review and comment in October.
With the most significant regulatory hurdle behind it, the Washington State Department of Transportation can now finish the design and complete construction using $89 million in federal stimulus funding. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2015 and the first trains are scheduled to run on the new route two years later.
State officials say rerouting the trains from the congested Point Defiance run would decrease travel times through the Nisqually-Tacoma corridor by up to 10 minutes, improve safety and permit more trains to run between Portland and Seattle.
“Incremental successes, like this one, are critical to helping states and regions achieve their long-term vision for higher performing passenger rail service,” Joseph Szabo, the federal agency’s administrator, said in a statement.
Lakewood and DuPont both have raised public safety and other concerns as a result of passenger trains speeding through their communities at up to 79 mph.
The decision is subject to appeal, and Lakewood Mayor Don Anderson said Monday the City Council will consider its options, including taking the project to court.
You’re invited to follow Christian Hill on Twitter @TNTchill.