News Releases

Senator Murray Announces Grant to Help Build New Rail Connection in Tacoma

Sep 30 2008

Project will reduce commuter times, ease congestion, and allow expanded Amtrak Cascade service, Sound Transit to extend to Lakewood, and passenger trains to avoid more freight trains

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Murray (D-WA) announced that the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) will be awarding $6 million for the Point Defiance Bypass: D to M Street project, which will enable the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) to operate two additional round trip Cascades trains and Sound Transit to extend commuter rail service to Lakewood. The project will also reduce travel time between Portland and Seattle and allow passenger trains to avoid freight traffic interference experienced along the current route.

“With gas prices driving transit ridership up in Pierce County and throughout our state, this funding is a real victory, “said Senator Murray. “This project will provide rail capacity necessary to grow Amtrak Cascades service and will allow commuters to continue to leave the car in the driveway, knowing that there is a safe and efficient transit route through Tacoma. Whether you’re traveling from Vancouver or Lakewood, this project will offer added service and access while reducing travel time. I’m proud to have worked to fund this grant program in the Senate and to have brought partners to the table to ensure that this project received the support it deserved.”

“This funding offers great news for the many regional commuters and intercity rail travelers in our region who will benefit from this new connection,” said Sound Transit Board Vice Chair and Lakewood City Councilmember Claudia Thomas. “Our dream of extending Sounder to Lakewood is now one step closer to reality, thanks to Senator Murray.”

The funding that will be awarded to the Point Defiance Bypass Project is part of the Federal Railroad Administration’s Capital Assistance to States – Intercity passenger Rail Service Program. As Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, which oversees DOT’s budget, Senator Murray approved funding for this grant program for the very first time this year. The $6 million award to the Point Defiance Bypass Project is the single largest grant awarded under the program for 2008. Senator Murray also played a critical role in bringing various project partners to the table to participate in this federal and state multi-agency effort. In addition to working with WSDOT and Sound Transit, Senator Murray worked to include Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway which contributed $250,000. BNSF will benefit from this project with reduced congestion on existing rail along the Point Defiance segment.

Washington State DOT will use this funding in partnership with Sound Transit to provide a passenger rail connection between Tacoma and Nisqually.  The funds will be used for design, engineering, and right of way acquisition in the D-M Street Segment of the 19.5 mile Pt. Defiance Project.  When completed, this project will allow AMTRAK trains to shift off the heavily used Pt Defiance water level route and on to the Tacoma to Nisqually route, freeing up capacity for freight and improving passenger rail performance.  

View a map of the area of this project.