A new deal between the owner of Tacoma’s historic Freighthouse Square and the state will allow new Tacoma rail passenger station to open on schedule next year.
The agreement between Freighthouse owner Brian Borgelt and the Washington Department of Transportation was announced Thursday afternoon.
The two had been at odds over the price and terms for the state’s purchase of a middle section of the 1,000-foot-long former rail warehouse. The new deal allows the state to take possession of that part of the warehouse needed for the station and begin construction on a new Amtrak station in June.
The state had sued the Freighthouse owner in Pierce County Superior Court to acquire the section of the building by condemnation. That case will continue in court, but the proceeding will determine only the price and the conditions of the building sale.
The state and the building owner had reportedly been several million dollars apart on the price of the building section. In addition to paying for the structure itself, Borgelt wanted the state to compensate him and the merchants in the building for business interruption and to improve the rest of the structure to take advantage of the station passenger traffic.
The building at East 25th and D streets now houses a large food court and a score of small businesses and merchants. The area where the station will be located has been vacated in anticipation of the start of construction.
The deal will keep the project on schedule and preserve construction funding granted by the federal government. If the project had been delayed further, the federal money would have been in jeopardy.
The new station is being built because Amtrak trains will be rerouted beginning in fall 2017 to a rehabilitated rail route through South Tacoma, Lakewood and Dupont.
The route will relieve congestion on the present route on the Tacoma waterfront and under Point Defiance in the Nelson Bennett Tunnel. The so-called Point Defiance Bypass will also help trim the schedule between Seattle and Portland by eight to 10 minutes and allow the addition of two more daily trains to Portland and Seattle.
The federal government has allocated $89.1 million for the bypass project to include the new station and rebuilt tracks between Lakewood and Nisqually, where the passenger route will rejoin the BNSF Railway main line.
“We are very excited to see this crucial project moving forward,” said Ron Pate, director of the transportation department’s rail division. “This station is a great addition to Tacoma’s Dome District and will help improve passenger rail service throughout the Amtrak Cascades corridor.”
Picking a site for the new station and an appropriate design took nearly two years of public hearings and study. The state initially had proposed a station in the west end of the Freighthouse. That location and the draft design drew heavy criticism from local civic activists and architects.
The modified design features large expanses of glass, beams that echo the structure of the former Milwaukee Road railroad warehouse and a location in the middle of the warehouse adjacent to the Sounder commuter rail station. To prepare for construction, the portion of the warehouse where the station will be built will be razed.
The project will go out to bid April 4.
WSDOT spokeswoman Janet Matkin said the new construction schedule will be tight, but she expects the job will be done in time to meet the fall 2017 deadline.
John Gillie: 253-597-8663