Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Is There Light at the End of This Tunnel?

Earlier posts here have examined the continuing controversy around Sound Transit's plans to route Sounder through the south end of downtown Tacoma. The route through the Dome District is part of a larger plan, approved by the region's voters in 1996, to extend commuter rail service to South Tacoma and Lakewood. This extension was originally scheduled to be finished in 2001 but has been delayed now to debut no sooner than 2011 or early 2012. Construction is already under way on the Lakewood Sounder station, and construction will begin early next year on the South Tacoma station.

Despite the delay, Sound Transit continues to face controversy over the 1.2-mile segment between the Tacoma Dome Station and 'M' St. where the agency must build new track. The route decision has struggled through numerous community meetings and various proposals and counter-proposals, culminating in the two latest proposals
  • Crossing Pacific Avenue on an overpass, displacing six businesses, lowering Pacific and several lesser streets;
  • Crossing Pacific at street level, displacing seven businesses, and raise Pacific and several other streets.

Both options would involve closing part of 'A' St. between 25th and 26th.

Sound Transit’s board is due to select a final route through downtown Tacoma on December 13th, and pressure is mounting to move ahead with the decison. Continued delay not only impedes the onset of service to Lakewood but further tarnishes the agency's reputation for delivering projects on time--arguably, a lack of public confidence in the agency may have contributed to the recent failure of the Roads & Transit proposal.

Timing is not the only factor at risk. Track and signal work on the Tacoma Dome to Lakewood extension originally was estimated to cost $148 million; however, because of the debate over the route and construction delays, the cost is expected to rise $65 million to $75 million.

Those opposing the recommended options believe that an extenuated public process will bring out better ideas for what will be a "once in our lifetimes" decision.

Sound Transit will hold an open house Thursday to answer questions about the Sounder route and other proposed service changes. The open house will run from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. in the Phoenix Room at Freighthouse Square (440 E. 26th St.).


  1. There seems to be a consensus in Tacoma Planning Commission, architects, some neighborhoood councils and others that bisecting the Dome District by a raised railroad track would be very detrimental to the area.

    In fact, I do know of a single architect in Tacoma that supports the current options.

    Most of the Tacoma stakeholders I have heard from want to have an independent urban designer hired by the city to look at the various options. Probably necessary if the Dome District is going to be commercially viable in the future.

  2. The stakeholders on the West side of Pacific Avenue extending through Nalley Valley have endorsed Sound Transit's Alternative 3, Modified. This group includes the owner of Star Ice and Fuel one of the displaced businesses.

  3. Anonymous10:52 AM

    I think it should be stated that the delay has been caused by a lack of planning and community involvement on Sound Transit's part. This is what caused citizens and stakeholders to become concerned in the first place.