Work begins to replace Tacoma’s old Milwaukee Road trestle

WATCH: Sound Transit breaks ground on Tacoma Trestle Signal project

Sound Transit on Wednesday broke ground on its Tacoma Trestle Signal project.
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Sound Transit on Wednesday broke ground on its Tacoma Trestle Signal project.

A piece of Tacoma’s railroad history has reached the end of the line.

Crews hired by Sound Transit have begun work to replace the 1,500-foot-long timber trestle that for more than 100 years has carried trains above parts of the Dome District.

Known as the S-Turn Trestle or Tacoma Trestle, the single-track span was first built for the Milwaukee Road railroad in 1908 and rebuilt in 1937. It was part of a passenger and freight line that ran from Western Washington to Chicago, according to a essay by John Caldbick.

The trestle, which roughly runs from East K to East G streets, eventually was purchased by Tacoma Public Works for use by Tacoma Rail. Sound Transit began to use the trestle in 2000 for its Sounder commuter rail service, Caldbick wrote.

It will be replaced with a concrete double-track bridge that Sound Transit and other officials say eventually will allow expanded Sounder commuter rail service from Lakewood to Seattle and will help eliminate a bottleneck that can cause delays.

“More than a century ago, this timber trestle helped establish Tacoma’s regional significance in commerce and transportation,” Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland, who is vice chairwoman of the Sound Transit board, said at the project’s ceremonial groundbreaking Wednesday. “Replacing it with a modern, double-track bridge will improve efficiency and decrease delays as more trains and people move through this busy rail corridor.”

The project is expected to cost $120.5 million and will include demolition of the existing trestle, construction of new tracks, signal upgrades, roadway improvements, utility relocation and erosion control.

Money for most of the project was approved by voters as part of the Sound Transit 2 ballot measure in 2008. The federal government has chipped in about $27 million over the past few years to speed up completion.

The new span will be built in steps, with the south tracks constructed first followed by the north tracks, said Melissa Flores Saxe, senior project engineer for Sound Transit.

The 10 Sounder trains that run between Lakewood and Seattle will continue to operate during construction, at first on the existing wooden trestle, then on the new south tracks and then on both sets of new tracks.

The new span is expected to be finished in 2018.

The old trestle was determined to be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places in 2012, but it was never nominated nor listed, according to Caldbick’s essay.

Adam Lynn: 253-597-8644, @TNTAdam