Advisory committee wants more information about Amtrak station relocation

A Tacoma citizens committee Tuesday told the Washington State Department of Transportation it needs more information before it decides whether to endorse the department’s preferred location for a new Tacoma Amtrak station.

The committee, appointed by the city to provide input on the new station location and design, will meet with WSDOT representatives next week to receive more specifics about why the agency wants to locate the new station in the middle of the historic Freighthouse Square building near the Tacoma Dome, said Tacoma senior planner Ian Munce.

The department is tasked with building a new Tacoma rail station as part of an $89 million Point Defiance Bypass project. That project will improve roadbeds, rails, signals and crossings on a new passenger train route through Tacoma. That route will diverge from the BNSF Railway mainline near the Emerald Queen Casino on River Road, pass Freighthouse Square near the Tacoma Dome and cut through South Tacoma, Lakewood and Dupont before reuniting with the mainline near Nisqually.

The new route will bypass Tacoma’s existing Amtrak station on Puyallup Avenue and the rail route that borders Ruston Way before tunneling under Point Defiance and along the Tacoma Narrows. That route will become freight-only when the new route is opened in 2017. The new route will reduce congestion on the waterlevel route and cut six to eight minutes from the existing Seattle-Portland passenger train schedule.

The advisory committee had proposed in May that WSDOT build the new station at the east end of the historic, 1,000-foot-long former Milwaukee Road railroad warehouse. The department last month said the east end location would be too expensive to operate because it would be built on several levels requiring elevators and escalators, bridges to the tracks and more maintenance than a station sited in the middle of the warehouse. There the station would be a single story structure built between two sections of the existing building.

Sound Transit, which operates commuter train service to Seattle and Lakewood on the route, has its station in the middle of the former warehouse, now a mixed use retail and restaurant building.

Munce said the committee wants more specifics why the east end location will require $800,000 and $1 million more to operate annually than the central location. WSDOT promised more details.

The committee has scheduled another meeting for 4 p.m. July 29 in the Tacoma Room at the University of Washington Tacoma to consider the new information. That meeting room is in the UWT building that houses the University Bookstore.

Only nine members attended Tuesday’s advisory committee meeting perhaps because of an erroneous meeting notice that the city issued setting the meeting time for “Wednesday, July 15.” July 15 was Tuesday.