Tacoma rail trestle set for demolition; new bridge, platform to benefit Sounder and Amtrak passengers

A Sounder train traverses a railroad trestle heading east from Freighthouse Square on Monday at the Tacoma Dome station. The trestle is expected to be replaced.
A Sounder train traverses a railroad trestle heading east from Freighthouse Square on Monday at the Tacoma Dome station. The trestle is expected to be replaced. Staff photographer

After going sour on the tower, it’s time to wrestle with the trestle.

Sound Transit on Tuesday (Aug. 11) will host a public meeting to present plans describing the design concepts and architectural elements that will guide construction of a steel-and-concrete bridge that will replace the wooden railway trestle paralleling East 25th Street near Freighthouse Square in Tacoma’s Dome District.

The meeting — from 4-6 p.m. at the Tacoma Dome Station Plaza, 505 E. 25th St. — will provide an opportunity for public comment on the project.

The current, single-track wooden trestle will be replaced by a double-track concrete structure that officials say will ease congestion.

“The new bridge will support increased passenger and rail capacity along the corridor and improve reliability for Amtrak passenger service,” Sound Transit said in a recent release.

The century-old timber trestle, some 30 feet high and approximately one-third of a mile long, was constructed by the Milwaukee Road and served passenger traffic through what is now Freighthouse Square.

The trestle serves commuters on the Sounder line from Seattle to Lakewood. Amtrak will use the trestle for its trains when the current Amtrak station is closed and the Point Defiance-Narrows route abandoned in favor of new service through industrial neighborhoods of Nalley Valley and South Tacoma. Amtrak has stated it will begin using the tracks for seven round trips daily in 2017.

The replacement of the current trestle is part of a Sound Transit ballot measure passed by voters in 2008. The replacement project, including the bridge and extended passenger platform, is budgeted at $115 million, according to Sound Transit, and includes a $10 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation. The project is scheduled for completion next year and will accommodate three additional Sounder round trips by 2017.

The project includes upgrading signals and reinforcing retaining walls while also making minor street repairs and relocating some utilities.

The greatest technical challenge during construction, according to one Sound Transit official, will be keeping the rail line open. Early plans had the replacement tracks being built individually, thus allowing trains to continue traveling north and south on a single line.

The line also serves Tacoma Rail, which transports goods to and from the Port of Tacoma.

Tuesday’s meeting will allow citizens to review and comment on bridge and platform design, plus other architectural elements of the plan. Officials will also provide details concerning the construction process, including a timeline.

The proposed designs feature concrete columns supporting the rail line, plus a new steel girder overpass that will incorporate the Milwaukee Road logo. An artist will be selected later this month to design and produce a mural that will decorate part of the public space.

Contractors on the project will be required to keep the construction site clean; mitigate noise and nighttime lighting; and maintain access for bicycles, automobiles and pedestrians.

The final design, according to Sound Transit, will be ready this coming winter with construction beginning in 2016 and the site fully operational by early 2018.

Environmental concerns — with attention to archaeological and wetland matters as well as the State Environmental Policy Act and National Environmental Policy Act — were addressed beginning in 2014.

In a related matter, five “Positive Train Control” stations have been constructed over the past year along an eight-mile route between Sounder stations in Tacoma and Lakewood. The technology, according to Sound Transit, “is a fail-safe feature to override human error that could lead to train accidents.”

The system is federally required for passenger train lines nationwide. The PTC equipment will be modified during construction of the new bridge and platform at Freighthouse Square.

In addition, the city of Tacoma has scheduled an open house at Freighthouse Square’s Rainier Room from 4:30-6 p.m. Thursday (Aug. 13) to reveal the results of the East 25th Street traffic study, converting it to a one way between East D and East G streets, and to seek feedback from citizens on that proposal.

C.R. Roberts: 253-597-8535