Tacoma Link extension utility relocations to start soon

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This locator map indicates in Tacoma where CenturyLink, Puget Sound Energy, and Tacoma Public Utilities will conduct its work. Map courtesy of Sound Transit

Sound Transit is on target to begin construction this fall on the 2.4-mile extension of Tacoma Link to the Hilltop neighborhood, which will include the development of six new stations and the relocation of the Theater District station, and the expansion of the operation and maintenance facility on East 25th Street.

Scott Thompson, Sound Transit spokesman, said the regional transit organization plans to award a construction contract in July. On May 14, financing for the Hilltop Link Extension project was made complete with a $75 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration Small Starts program, thanks in large part to the advocacy of Washington’s congressional delegation, including key proponents Senator Patty Murray and House Representative Derek Kilmer.

Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards expressed her gratitude for representation by Murray and Kilmer, and the strong relationship they forged with the FTA to make the grant possible. 

“Expanding Tacoma Link to the Hilltop will provide our current residents and commuters from other areas with more ways to get to and from downtown and fuel our continuing economic growth,” said Woodards in a written statement, who also serves as a Sound Transit board member. “Tacoma will continue to attract more and more people and jobs in the coming years. The expanded Tacoma Link system will improve transportation around the city and connect riders with regional light rail, Sounder trains and bus service at the Tacoma Dome.”

Before construction begins in the fall, Sound Transit will be working closely with third-party utility contractors through October to relocate utilities located on the street and underground. The three utilities involved comprise CenturyLink, Puget Sound Energy, and Tacoma Public Utilities. CenturyLink will be moving underground duct bank and conduit; PSE will relocate underground gas lines; TPU will be moving power poles and, in some areas, replacing existing power poles with a taller design and installing new distribution lines overhead. TPU promises communication and coordination will occur to prepare residents for planned outages.

Sound Transit officials report work will be done in the city right-of-way. Should utilities foresee any impact on residents, utilities will make timely notifications. Utility companies are reporting that work will likely start in June with the first utility doing work being CenturyLink.

Sonja Bert, a spokeswoman for Tacoma Public Utilities, said the three utilities won’t be doing work concurrently so to avoid crossover and a significant disturbance to streets. Bert said TPU’s start date for work is completely conditional on when CenturyLink and Puget Sound Energy starts and complete their work.

Bert said TPU is funding $1 million in-kind in engineering for the project and is preparing its system for Sound Transit’s overhead wire system.

“We’re replacing wood poles and stringing new wire so Sound Transit can install its facilities,” said Bert.

According to Bert, utility work must be completed by October 1. TPU’s portion will be carried out over the course of approximately 60 days. In total, TPU will replace 32 poles and touch a total of 40, which includes the relocation of poles. The new poles will be about 10 feet taller than the original, in order to accommodate the height of Sound Transit’s line.

Todd Briner, spokesman for CenturyLink, said the project-scope set of drawings is in for permit to City of Tacoma, and once the permit is approved, a notice announcing specific dates, times, and locations for the work will be distributed to the public.

CenturyLink will be moving underground ducts and will be reconstructing underground utility vaults, as well as placing additional ducts for pathways to provide future services once Sound Transit’s line is fully built out.

Briner said he anticipates CenturyLink’s work will start sometime in June.

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