Friday, November 21, 2008

Extending the Sounder to Lakewood…Why You Should Care

Although there isn’t much for Pierce County in Sound Transit’s recently passed Proposition 1, Sound Transit construction is headed our way. The proposed extension of the Sounder Commuter line through the Dome District and on to Lakewood will define how the Dome District develops in the years to come.

Although it may not be readily evident, the underutilized Dome District has great potential to redevelop into an active, exciting urban neighborhood on par with Portland’s Pearl District and Vancouver’s Yaletown. Our Dome District is at the nexus of multiple transportation corridors linking the north and south Puget Sound. Amtrak, Sounder, Link light rail, freight rail, Tacoma Dome station park and ride for local and commuter buses, ramps for the I-705 and I-5 freeways and the connection point to the long awaited Water Ditch and Prairie Line pedestrian and bike trails all connect through the District.

Currently, hundreds of people pass through and nearby the Dome District daily, creating a great transit oriented development opportunity; if only we create an urban environment that attracts these would-be customers and residents to stay, shop, live and play. The decisions made in the near future about the Sound Transit extension will set the path for how the Dome District can and will develop in the future.

The D to M street track and signal improvement alignment designed by Sound Transit will send the Sounder through the heart of the Dome District at-grade, with the exception of a raised grade-separated crossing at Pacific Ave. According to Sound Transit, the challenging topography of the Dome District combined with the grade limitations and sightline line requirements for both vehicles and trains restrict the design of the route. Consequently, the proposed $6 million project will bi-sect existing parcels, close South ‘C’ and ‘A’ Streets, define the route by which the Water Ditch Trail enters downtown Tacoma, and create at grade railroad crossings at East ‘D’ and East ‘C’ Streets.

Ultimately, project will redirect intercity passenger trains between Tacoma and Nisqually from the circuitous BNSF freight line along the coast to a passenger oriented inland route. The new routing will enable WSDOT to operate two additional round trip Cascades trains from Portland to Seattle and Sound Transit’s Sounder to extend service to Lakewood. The project will reduce travel time by 6 minutes between Portland and Seattle as well as avoid freight traffic interference through two single-track tunnels and port activities along the current route. Ultimately, Amtrak services will relocate to the newly constructed Freighthouse Square station in Tacoma providing direct access to Sound Transit’s Sounder commuter rail, and Link light rail to downtown Tacoma.

Given these benefits, is the proposed design of this project really worth sacrificing the potential transit orient development of the Dome District into an active urban environment?

1 comment:

  1. Given those benefits? Duh, of course it's worth it!

    But, of course, it wouldn't sacrifice anything. It's a good design which is very suitable for TOD. Would be better with some retaining walls, I guess.