Proposal to reroute Amtrak irks Pierce County cities

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by JAKE WHITTENBERG / KING 5 News

NWCN.com

Posted on November 26, 2012 at 7:22 AM

Updated Monday, Nov 26 at 4:52 PM

For years, the rail line through Lakewood and Dupont has been a route for the occasional freight train, maybe four or five per week.

Now, if federal railroad officials give the green light, south Pierce County cities could see that rail line become a busy thoroughfare for Amtrak, for five trains a day at 79 mph...that wouldn't stop.

“We are literally feeling railroaded,” says Don Anderson, Deputy Mayor for the City of Lakewood.

Lakewood is pushing back against the proposal from WSDOT, which would redirect passenger trains from scenic Point Defiance on the Puget Sound, to a rail line that runs along I-5.

Amtrak already runs between Seattle and Portland, but WSDOT proposes spending $89 million federal dollars to upgrade the rail and reroute the train to decrease travel times through the Nisqually-Tacoma corridor by up to 10 minutes.

There are no new stops planned in Lakewood or DuPont.

“If this was Seattle, it would be a tunnel,” says Anderson. “But because its Lakewood and it’s a disadvantaged area, its full speed ahead.”

Anderson also has concerns about noise, traffic congestion and a greater suicide risk with Lakewood being home to Western State Hospital. City officials have submitted letters to WSDOT and plan to oppose the environmental study for the project.

The proposal is also part of a larger $800 million project to add additional Amtrak trips between Portland and Vancouver B.C., and to improve safety and reliability along the route.

WSDOT is doing a final review of the environmental study and federal railroad officials are expected to make a final decision by Jan. 1st.

Trains would likely not start running the new route until 2017.

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