Testing will begin along a portion of the Port Defiance Bypass project in Washington state in mid January.
While Sound Transit owns the tracks where testing will take place, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) will conduct the testing between Tacoma and DuPont along a section of track running parallel to Interstate 5. Trains will travel at speeds up to 40 mph in January and increase to 70 mph in February and March. The testing is to support the effort to begin Amtrak Cascades passenger trains on the route in the fall of 2017.
Starting this fall, Amtrak Cascades and Amtrak long-distance trains will use the Point Defiance Bypass, including a stop at the new Tacoma station at Freighthouse Square. The bypass is one of 20 passenger rail improvement projects administered by WSDOT and paid for with nearly $800 million in federal funds. Once complete, the 20 projects will add two additional daily Amtrak Cascades roundtrips between Seattle and Portland, cut travel time between the cities by 10 minutes and improve on-time reliability. Amtrak had been using BNSF-owned track and was required to slow speeds around curves and in single-track tunnels along Puget Sound.
The tracks where testing is taking place are used by Sound Transit Sounder commuter trains and freight trains. WSDOT has partnered with Seattle Seahawk wide receiver Doug Baldwin on a series of rail safety messages as part of the Stay Back from the Tracks campaign for the new passenger rail route.