Amtrak Cascades Station Relocation to Freighthouse Square, Point Defiance Bypass
Washington State Department of Transportation
Tacoma, WA

Completed: Station opened December 2017.  Substation completion in June 2017

Size: 9,875 SF, plus two platforms.

Cost: The new station is part of the $149.9 million Point Defiance Bypass high-speed rail project.

With this relocation, Amtrak service is now located in an emerging transit hub for multimodal, regional mobility.


Tacoma’s Amtrak Cascades station moved into a central portion of the historic Freighthouse Square building, a landmark built in 1909 that supported early rail freight activities in Tacoma. The new 9,875 SF station enables expanded services for the Amtrak Cascades and Coast Starlight lines, which are being rerouted on the Point Defiance Bypass that streamlines a 21.4-mile rail corridor through the Tacoma area. With this relocation, Amtrak service is now located adjacent to Sounder commuter rail, Tacoma Link streetcar, local and regional bus lines, transit center parking, and bike and pedestrian access. This supports an emerging transit hub for multimodal, regional mobility, and anchors new development and revitalization in the Tacoma Dome District.

Wood Harbinger provided mechanical and electrical engineering for the project. Our services included power distribution, lighting, HVAC, communications, security systems, fire alarm, and fire suppression systems. In addition to the new station, our team upgraded the existing North platform and designed a new second platform on the south side of the tracks. Both platforms will serve Sound Transit Sounder commuter rail trains as well as Amtrak trains.

Though the new station occupies the central segment of the existing Freighthouse Square building, by code it is considered a separate building with its own address. This meant that no services for the existing Sound Transit station and the other existing Freighthouse Square tenant spaces on either side could be routed through the Amtrak station. The existing power, communications, fire alarm, and other control wiring running through the existing building had to be rerouted. Wood Harbinger’s electrical team developed dozens of conduit routing scenarios to find the one that worked best within the limited available space to add and reroute utilities. Our solution used an underground conduit and vault system with chases running under the existing railroad tracks.

Our mechanical solution used radiant floor heating and ceiling fans in the passenger waiting area, where heavy foot-traffic and vaulted ceilings would have rendered other system options inefficient. We designed air curtains at the roll-up garage doors in the baggage room, minimize the infiltration of outdoor air pollutants and dirt/debris from the platform, and help maintain room temperature in this semi-open space.

Through detailed field investigation and phasing plans, the team successfully brought in the new station infrastructure while maintaining existing systems in operation and minimally impacting the existing tenants; in particular, the Sounder Commuter service was required to maintain its operating hours. We investigated crawl spaces, attics, and service areas that even the building maintenance personnel were unaware of. We ran calculations to validate assumptions made when field verification was insufficient. This uniquely thorough approach gave our team a full understanding of the systems in play and allowed staff to identify affected systems, equipment, and devices in the absence of accurate record documents. The team learned the ins and outs of the existing space to minimize assumptions, which ultimately minimized surprises in construction.