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June 28, 2018

Sound Transit gets on board with more tracks

  • Two big rail extension projects are coming: one connecting to the regional system and the other to Hilltop.
    Sound Transit


    Tacoma, the “City of Destiny,” is experiencing unprecedented growth: $1 billion in investment in the downtown corridor; redevelopment of the Brewery District with housing, restaurants, office space and a new convention center hotel; and a major remodel of the Tacoma Dome, which may bring new businesses to the Dome District.

    Tacoma is also experiencing a population boom. The Puget Sound Regional Council estimates that by 2050 there will be 1.8 million new residents in Central Puget Sound.

    But all this growth and prosperity presents challenges. One of the biggest: How does everyone get to, from and around? Many will get in their cars and drive. If you think traffic congestion around Tacoma is bad now, wait until we see thousands of new cars on the highway.

    Images from Sound Transit [enlarge]
    The 2.4-mile extension of Tacoma Link will link six medical facilities along the “Medical Mile.”

    As freeways grow more congested, transit can efficiently move thousands of people every hour by light rail, commuter rail and bus.

    Sound Transit is bringing mobility to Pierce County with several transit projects. The first, Hilltop Tacoma Link Extension, will enter construction this fall.

    This 2.4-mile extension of the Tacoma Link light rail line will travel north along Commerce Street, then run along Stadium Way and Martin Luther King Jr. Way to the Hilltop District, with six new stations along the way. The new route will connect six medical facilities in downtown Tacoma along the “Medical Mile.”

    Within one-half mile of the new stations there are 28,000 jobs, and growth is expected to push that to 54,000 jobs by 2035.

    The city of Tacoma estimates there are $250 million in development opportunities along this new corridor that will bring housing, retail and office space to downtown.

    Tacoma residents will see utility relocation work taking place this summer along the new Hilltop Tacoma Link route. In 2022 when this project is complete, plans call for Tacoma Link to further extend along 19th Street all the way to Tacoma Community College by 2039.

    Regional connection

    Planning is underway for a second major transit project to come to Tacoma, connecting the city to the expanding regional light rail system. The 9.7-mile Tacoma Dome Link Extension Project will bring light rail from Federal Way, with new stations at the Tacoma Dome, East Tacoma, Fife and South Federal Way.

    Learn more about the track projects
    Hilltop Tacoma Link Extension: www.soundtransit.org/htlink

    Tacoma Dome Link Extension: www.soundtransit.org/tdlink

    All projects: www.soundtransit.org
    (click on the Project & Plans link at the top)

    Another light rail project scheduled to enter construction next year and open in 2024 will extend light rail from Angle Lake to Federal Way.

    Imagine being able to get on a light rail train at Tacoma Dome Station and be at Sea-Tac Airport in 35 minutes. Or how about getting to Federal Way in 20 minutes.

    Heading to a Mariners or Seahawks game? Take the Link light rail from Tacoma and be there in 45 minutes!

    When the project is complete in 2030, the Tacoma Dome area will be an important major multi-modal transit hub in the region. Tacoma residents will be able to ride Sounder commuter rail, ST Express buses, Tacoma Link and regional Link light rail.

    The Tacoma-Lakewood area is one of the 10 fastest growing metro areas in the country, and Sound Transit is poised to provide transit options that will promote growth, accessibility and mobility in the region.

    The 9.7-mile Tacoma Dome Link Extension will connect light rail from Federal Way.

    Longer trains

    Sound Transit also has plans to improve commuter rail service in Pierce and South King County. Sounder trains have been serving the Tacoma area since 2000 and ridership continues to grow, up 21 percent in just two years from 2015 through 2017.

    Sound Transit recognizes this growing need and is planning several capital investments to expand Sounder capacity, including expansion of platforms to accommodate 10-car trains, which will serve 40 percent more passengers than today. Sound Transit is also negotiating with BNSF Railway (owner of the railroad tracks between Tacoma and Seattle) to allow more daily trips.

    Beyond transit investments in Tacoma and the South Sound, Sound Transit is expanding its regional network north, east and west. Once these voter-approved projects are completed over the next several years, the Sound Transit network will provide:

    • A 116-mile regional light rail network with more than 80 stations serving 16 cities.

    • An expanded and more frequent Sounder commuter rail service.

    • Bus Rapid Transit and ST Express buses serving 30 cities.

    Tacoma has always been and will continue to be an important urban center in Pierce County. With so many opportunities in the making, we are excited about what the future holds for the City of Destiny. Expanding transit services in Tacoma and Pierce County will dramatically expand the capacity of the region’s transportation system.

    A city with a vibrant transit system can also promote long-term economic growth. Increasingly, businesses are looking for close transit access for their workers and customers. Transit provides greater mobility and accessibility, and contributes to quality of life.

    Scott Thompson is a public information officer at Sound Transit.

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