Friday, November 10, 2006

Sounding Out Sounder Options

Members and guests of the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber on Monday explored design issues related to future development of the Tacoma Dome District and the growth of downtown's transportation infrastructure.

Earlier this year, two community groups--the Hillside Development Council and the Dome District Development Group--invited the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Southwest Washington to study the impacts of Sound Transit's projected extension of Sounder service with a focus on the segment from Freighthouse Square to “M” St. The architects organized into design teams to work, independently, on various alternative solutions.

The current alternative proposed by Sound Transit goes directly west from Freighthouse Square, curving at grade across Pacific Ave., aligning with the north side of Wakefield Dr., then connecting to existing rail between Tacoma Ave. and Yakima Ave. Architects and the community groups have concluded that this alternative would close businesses, isolate the Tacoma Rescue Mission, create dead-end streets in an area targeted for a multimillion-dollar redevelopment, box in Brown & Haley’s planned expansion, block off and reroute historic Highway 99 and drop Pacific Avenue into a 14-foot-deep gully underneath a railroad overpass.

The AIA teams developed new project alternatives that would, in their view, better support the following goals:
  • Improve arterial traffic flow and linkages
  • Preserve historic Highway 99 as a community asset
  • Minimize business closures and relocations
  • Minimize train and vehicle conflicts
  • Create new commercial development opportunities

One alternative developed by the architects curves south behind Brown & Haley headquarters, drops into a covered trench along S. 27th St. as it crosses under Pacific Ave. and reappears across South Tacoma Way from the Tacoma Rescue Mission, preserving South Tacoma Way as well as access to the mission and neighboring businesses.

That alternative and one other are part of a high-level analysis now being conducted by Sound Transit and to be reported to the agency's finance committee at its December 7th meeting.

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