$6 million given to Tacoma rail project; shortcut will shave 6 minutes off trips
The federal Department of Transportation said Tuesday it will contribute $6 million toward a new passenger-rail shortcut through Tacoma...
Seattle Times transportation reporter
The federal Department of Transportation said Tuesday it will contribute $6 million toward a new passenger-rail shortcut through Tacoma.
The project "will substantially improve transit between the Seattle and Portland areas," said Transportation Secretary Mary Peters, speaking Tuesday from a train in Virginia.
Passengers would save six minutes in each direction, she said, compared with the existing winding route around Point Defiance. Views of Puget Sound and the Narrows bridges along the water are spectacular, but freight traffic on those tracks cause delays, one reason listed for awarding the federal grant.
Sound Transit plans to build the new, partly elevated trackway for 1.2 miles between D and M streets near downtown, as part of a 20-mile passenger-train bypass from Tacoma to Nisqually.
Sound Transit owns nearly all the new corridor, but has raised only about half of the $140 million to $150 million it needs to build the Tacoma section, so the $6 million from the federal DOT will help close the gap, officials said. Another $4.2 million has been pledged by the Federal Highway Administration.
The new line would allow Sounder commuter-train service to reach Lakewood, south of Tacoma, by 2012. Once the new line is built, six daily Amtrak round-trip trains, and two future Amtrak trains, would shift to the new inland route, the DOT said.
The project is years late, in part because of flawed early planning by Sound Transit — an original surface alignment was too dangerous and steep for high-frequency rail service, so a new one is being designed.
Travelers need more rail options, said Peters, citing new data that showed 3.6 percent decline in driving and an 11 percent growth in transit ridership in July, compared with a year earlier.
Tacoma won the largest of 15 Federal Railroad Administration grants from a new $30 million national fund. U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., claimed partial credit for steering the $6 million to Tacoma.
Peters said that as gas-tax income shrinks, she wants to leverage federal dollars by spending them on locally funded projects.
Mike Lindblom: 206-515-5631 or email@example.com
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