Council hears update on light rail extension

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Sound Transit is busy with two projects in Tacoma. One will extend the current Tacoma Link light rail from downtown to Hilltop. Farther down the road will be light rail connecting Tacoma Dome Station to Federal Way. Updates on both projects were presented to Tacoma City Council on Sept. 11.

Madeleine Greathouse is project director for the Hilltop extension. The first segment is from Commerce Street up Stadium Way. This will include two cutovers at South 9th and Commerce streets, the northern terminus of the current system. It will be a two-phase project of five days each.

Segment two is at Stadium High School. Work here is being done in the summer, to avoid interfering with busses entering and leaving campus. Doing such work during the school year “would be unfair to the students, faculty and families at Stadium,” Greathouse remarked.

Segment three is along Division Avenue, while the fourth segment is on Martin Luther King, Jr. Way. There is a moratorium on construction during the holidays for both areas. Another constraint is maintaining access to emergency rooms at the two MultiCare hospitals.

“We are doing a significant amount of utility work,” Greathouse said. All of it is underground. “There are a lot of unknowns when you do anything underground.”

Goals in the project labor agreement call for 12 of the work to be done by women and 21 percent by people of color. Mayor Victoria Woodards said people in the neighborhood do not want to see all the work on the project done by people living elsewhere. “That community should be able to benefit.”

Sound Transit has been busy with community outreach, including a meeting this week with representatives of MultiCare and one in late August with Stadium District residents and workers. Every three months there are meetings with Tacoma Police Department and Tacoma Fire Department. Outreach includes a monthly electronic newsletter sent to 4,000 subscribers, monthly meetings with key stakeholders, booths at Cheney Stadium during baseball and soccer games as well as at Ethnic Fest, Tacoma Pride Festival and the Stadium District Art, Wine and Beer Walk.

Project Director Curvie Hawkins gave an update on the Tacoma Dome Link extension. This 9.7-mile section is scheduled for completion in 2030. It is projected to carry between 27,000 and 37,000 riders a day between Tacoma and Federal Way. It will have four stations, located in Federal Way and Fife. It will have an operations and maintenance facility. The route and location of stations on the Tacoma side of the Puyallup River is under deliberation.

Hawkins said Puyallup Tribe would have to grant permission for the crossing of the Puyallup River, as this is on reservation land. It is likely the crossing would be north of Interstate 5. South of the freeway the tribe is building a new version of its Emerald Queen Casino. Hawkins was asked about a station near the casino. He noted that planning for the casino was underway prior to passage of the ballot measure that funded this rail extension.

Councilmember Lillian Hunter said outreach has been done to the owner of Freighthouse Station, a building with small shops, office space and a food court next to Tacoma Dome Station. She would like more outreach to operators of these businesses.

Several years ago, a decision was made to extend Tacoma Link to Hilltop instead of the East Side. Councilmember Ryan Mello wants Sound Transit to consider how best to serve the East Side, such as a line running south on Portland Avenue.

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