Imagine Tacoma – El-evate Sounder

What do you get if you cross the new ‘D’ Street Overpass, Kunstler’s ‘Long Emergency’, BSNF Prairie Line Deal, Burden’s Walkability and the Angelou Economics/Via Architecture Study – all with the Sounder Rail Expansion through the Dome District?

How about an elevated Sounder/Amtrak railway structure? Having originally imagined an enlightened route at a ‘lower level’ cut for the new train expansion through the District below the street level (alas the engineers cannot exceed the limitations of a 2.85% grade slope) – Imagine Tacoma now looks at bringing the trains in ABOVE the street grid. Let the rail line structure be a ‘comb’ instead of current Sound Transit thinking of it as a ‘wall’ or a ‘dam.’

Such a design elevation would:

  • Allows for A, C and D streets to remain safe for pedestrians and vehicles from on-grade crossings of the trains. Circulation from I-705 to the Foss Waterway is not constricted by train movements (and if you want a Whole Foods or similar downtown, the best place is in the Dome District due to topography and access to I-5).


  • The space under this elevated train structure could be occupied by all sorts of possibilities. The South Bank in London has trains coming into the city in an elevated condition and all sorts of variety of uses are located under the ‘arches.’ Maybe even the Elephant Car Wash is located within the arches?
  • Elevating the rail along the whole route allows for Pacific Avenue to remain un-violated.
  • Structural Options: Elevating the line would allow for the railway design to react easier to soil conditions, existing infrastructure and more convenient for maintaining the existing business during construction of the line.

And why not expand the number of rail lines while we are at it? Rail is our past and future folks. Lets have Sound Transit work with all of the government agencies to upgrade this project as a show piece of the new investment in our local, regional and national railways. Let’s not settle for half the project no matter how much public art we get to cover the walls of the current proposition.

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We as a city gave into ST’s insistence on building this rail line through downtown, so it seems like we as a city should be able to demand that it be built as we want. Do we as a city have the guts?

A metal trellis structure not only makes it easier to “turn lemons into lemonade” by doing something unique with the structure as David has shown here, and it not only keeps roads open and safe. It’s also stylistically more in line with Tacoma’s industrial past than an earthen dam would be. Metal latticing is all over the Murray Morgan Bridge, for example, and it’s cool! I love this idea. A big ridge of dirt? That’s just weird.

June 26, 2008 at 11:06 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Huh?  “We gave in to ST’s insistence”???  It was intended to run on existing line all along.  ST is where they are because that’s where the tracks are.

Not that I don’t like David’s thinking — his concerns about the impending bisection of the Dome district are highly prescient — but this looks spendy.

June 27, 2008 at 3:16 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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David Boe

Spendy is as Spendy does – what is the cost of lowering all of the infrastructure to/from Pacific Avenue with the current design?  What is the cost to all of the business in the area when construction shuts down the district to accomplish this?  What is the cost of removing all the un-suitable soils along the route to build the wall as the ravine at B is an old stream bed?  What are the potential costs to review and excavate historical items along this route as this was approximately the site of the old Delin Mill – Native American artificats?  What are the long-term economic costs to building a wall separating a district? Seems that a modular concrete component system that would allow for uses below and through the structure that is on pier columns to concentrate foundation requirements that can span existing infrastructure and that can also be expanded as additional rail lines are added might not be so expensive when taking into account total development ‘costs.’

June 30, 2008 at 4:55 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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