Lakewood wants ruling on train routes, not a trial

Staff writerJanuary 8, 2014 

The city of Lakewood has filed a motion asking a judge to make a decision in the lawsuit the city filed against the state last year over Amtrak trains being rerouted through local neighborhoods.

The city sued the state Department of Transportation last March to stop the Point Defiance Bypass project.

The city’s motion for summary judgment, filed last week, asks Pierce County Superior Court Judge Katherine M. Stolz to rule on the matter before the suit makes it to trial, said Lakewood City Attorney Heidi Ann Wachter.

“Nothing is going to change if you go to trial, so we’re asking for a judgment now,” Wachter said.

The State Attorney General’s Office represents the transportation department. The office had no comment on the city’s motion, said spokeswoman Alison Dempsey-Hall. The office does not comment on open cases, she said.

The state has until Feb. 7 to file its own motion and will file a rebuttal. The city will also file a rebuttal before a scheduled March 21 hearing date in Superior Court.

Lakewood claims the state ignored the city’s comprehensive plan as well as a plan for its Tillicum neighborhood when it reviewed the environmental impacts of the railway project. The Tillicum community would be directly impacted by the rerouted trains.

The state has proposed moving trains from a waterfront rail line around Point Defiance to an inland route passing through DuPont, Lakewood and South Tacoma. The move would mean trains traveling as fast as 79 mph would cross urban and residential neighborhoods in Lakewood. Trains would not make passenger stops in the city.

Transportation officials say seven at-grade rail crossings in Lakewood would be improved with the addition of stationary horns and other warnings such as gates, traffic signals and sidewalks.

In the Jan. 3 legal brief, Lakewood assistant city attorney Matthew S. Kaser outlined why the city wants the project stopped. The city has “little confidence” the state would conduct a more thorough environmental review if required by the courts, Kaser wrote.

The state already had to complete an environmental assessment to determine what impacts would come from the rerouting. After a three-year review, the state determined there would be no significant harm. Federal officials approved the determination March 1, 2013, not long after the city filed its lawsuit.

Brynn Grimley: 253-597-8467

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