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Tacoma Link Expansion: Fine Tuning Begins
After much discussion last spring a preferred corridor for the future expansion of Tacoma's Link Light Rail was selected. A corridor running from downtown Tacoma to the Stadium District, and continuing on to the MLK neighborhood was selected.
That was just the beginning of a lengthy process. That corridor identifies a general direction for the Link expansion, but does not identify the specific streets any future route would take. Since then, Sound Transit and City of Tacoma staff have been working to identify streets that could potentially serve as the specific alignment for the new route.
This preliminary evaluation of alignments will result in a short list to be moved forward for more in-depth evaluation of environmental and other impacts.
Possible alignments were presented to the City Council's Infrastructure, Planning, and Sustainability Committee yesterday.
The full corridor has been divided into two segments for the purposes of this phase of evaluations: Segment A connecting the existing Link to the Stadium District, and Segment B connecting Stadium to the MLK Mixed-Use Center. Staff have identified five possible alignments in Segment A, and two in Segment B.
The five options for Segment A force a conversation that was inevitible when the downtown to Stadium route was chosen: exactly how to get the Link out of downtown. Currently tracks dead end at 9th and Commerce.
- A1 - It appears that the most straightforward route would be what Sound Transit is calling A1 - a route that would continue those tracks straight up Stadium Way (coincidentally that route is also the least costly, although all routes push the cost over the $150 million budget).
- A2/A2a - The A2 options would both run up Broadway, with the distinction being that A2 would follow the first few blocks of the A1 option from the 9th and Commerce terminus, before cutting uphill to Broadway via the space currently occupied by the parking lots and garages just south of the Spanish Steps (ah well, no more graffiti there anymore anyway). A2a, on the other hand, would split off the existing Link tracks at the 10th and Commerce Street transit center and climb through Theater Square to meet up with Broadway.
- A3/A3a - Similar to A2a, the A3 options would split from the existing tracks at the transit center, but would continue past Broadway to St Helens, following that street all the way up the hill. A3 would wrap around the business district like the other routes, while A3a would turn the corner earlier, making a left on Division as it heads for MLK.
- A4 - This route would not actually connect to the existing Link route, but would start just uphill on 11th and follow Broadway to the Stadium District. This would mean passengers would have to get off and walk the block between the two routes.
- A5 - Again, passengers would be walking between the existing Link stop and this possible option, which would begin just uphill from the A4 option, at 11th and Market, following Market uphill to join up with the St Helens route.
All of the Segment A tracks reach the heart of the Stadium District in similar ways - they loop around the main commercial center, hooking back around and traveling up North 1st Street before continuing up Division to connect to Segment B.
The options for Segment B are a little more straightforward: either run an out-an-back along MLK, or create a short loop running up MLK to 19th, before doubling back along J Street.
These potential alignments are being evaluated based on five criteria, which were chosen for their relationship to the goals and objectives for the Link expansion, and the potential for highlighting differences between the potential alignments.
- Travel time (to Tacoma Dome station)
- Destinations served
- Economic development potential
- Potential community and environmental impacts
- Estimated capital costs.
Sound Transit will be looking for public involvement through meetings with neighborhood councils, business districts, and other stakeholders; online and print information; and an online survey. A community open house has also been scheduled for January 9 from 4 to 7 p.m. at Stadium High School.
Council will choose which of the potential alignments for both segments it wants to see move forward to the environmental review phase.
Which would you choose?
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