Traffic

Coming through your neighborhood at 79 mph, trains being tested for new route

Tunnel collapse forces cancellation of Coast Starlight's central Oregon route

The Coast Starlight, shown arriving at Tacoma Dome Station in May 2017, is not currently running all the way to Los Angeles. A tunnel collapse has forced Amtrak to cancel the route through the Oregon Cascades. Service is expected to resume June 25.
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The Coast Starlight, shown arriving at Tacoma Dome Station in May 2017, is not currently running all the way to Los Angeles. A tunnel collapse has forced Amtrak to cancel the route through the Oregon Cascades. Service is expected to resume June 25.

Trains could be zipping through South Sound communities at 79 mph as soon as Saturday when testing begins on the Point Defiance Bypass railroad tracks, the state Department of Transportation announced.

Testing will take place on the route from the Tacoma Dome Station through South Tacoma, Lakewood, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, and DuPont in advance of the Dec. 18 opening, said WSDOT spokeswoman Janet Matkin.

The route is currently used by slower moving trains. During testing, trains will move at a variety of speeds and could go as fast as 79 mph, Matkin said. Fourteen passenger trains per day traveling at speeds up to 79 mph are expected on the route when it opens.

The bypass is intended to deliver more frequent, faster and more reliable service by eliminating the curves and single-track tunnels of the current route. Six Amtrak Cascades and one Coast Starlight train is planned per day. Crossing times at intersections are expected to last 45 seconds.

WSDOT has been working for months to spread the word and promote safety around the tracks, even enlisting Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin for its “Get Back from the Tracks” campaign.

Most of the testing will take place at night, Matkin said, but when the route opens the trains will run 6:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m. “However, delays in schedules make it important to stay alert and expect trains at any time, day or night,” reads a WSDOT statement.

The agency advising taking the following steps:

▪  Do not walk on or near the tracks.

▪  Do not stop your vehicle on the railroad tracks while waiting for traffic.

▪  Obey all signals at all times — both pedestrians and drivers.

▪  Wait for crossing arms to go up and/or lights to stop flashing before entering a crossing.

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