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Link Expansion: Choosing an Alignment
At a public meeting next Thursday, Sound Transit and the City of Tacoma will begin the public process portion of selecting an alignment for the future expansion of Tacoma's Link light rail system.
In 2013 the City of Tacoma chose a preferred "corridor" for the future expansion of the Link. That corridor identifies a general route north up the hill from downtown Tacoma to the Stadium District, turning up Division, and then again heading south to the MLK Business District. The next task in planning for the not yet funded expansion is to identify the specific "alignment" of that path - the streets and intersections through which the plan would have the Link travel.
The full route has been divided into two segments for evaluation. Segment A, the portion of the route between downtown Tacoma and Stadium Way; and Segment B, the portion of the route that runs from Division to South 19th through the Hilltop. Potential Segment A routes climb the hill out of downtown via one of three streets: Stadium Way, Broadway, or St. Helens, with variations on how those routes would get out of the downtown core. Two early options that involved passengers getting off and walking a block or two to transfer were nixed as impractical. Potential Segment B options are more straightforward: B1 would send the line out and back along MLK, while B2 would loop back at 19th along J Street. Read more about the proposed alignments previously from Exit133.
For each potential route, Sound Transit considered a few key questions. Would the route...
- Improve travel time to the Tacoma Dome Station?
- Avoid major environmental and community impacts?
- Serve community destinations?
- Spur economic development and other types of investment?
- Ensure the project is affordable and cost-effective to construct?
At the January 9 meeting Sound Transit will share information with the public on how specific route alignments meet (or not) evaluation criteria, and on next steps for the project. They will also answer questions and take public comment on the alternatives.
None of the options quite meet the $150 million projected budget for the expansion, though option A1 comes the closest at an early estimated cost of $165 million. Sound Transit presentation materials show possible cost-saving options including an "interim terminus" at either 6th or 11th, and an increase in headway times from the planned 10 minutes to 20 minutes. Option B1 would also offer a $5 million savings over B2.
A4 and A5 options have already been eliminated. Some of the remaining alternatives have obvious issues - A2a and both A3 options, for example, would disrupt Theater Square to get from Commerce to Broadway or St. Helens. A3 options would require the elimination of four times as many parking spots as A1 and A2 options, and all the options except A1 pose potentially significant conflicts with existing utilities.
Any guesses how this selection process will end?
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