Transportation Commission Picks Favorite Link Alignment

At tomorrow's study session the Tacoma City Council will discuss which specific route or routes it prefers for the future expansion of Tacoma's Link Light Rail.

We already know the preferred corridor for the expansion connects the existing 1.6 miles of Link tracks to the Stadium District, before looping around to the Hilltop. Tacoma must now identify which alignment, including specific streets and intersections, it would like to see the Link travel along to get there. The preferred alignment(s) will be sent to Sound Transit, for consideration; Sound Transit will then send its top choice(s) to the next phase for state and federal environmental review.

Recommendation from Tacoma's Planning Commission and Transportation Commission were included in last week's City Manager's report to Council. The Planning Commission refrained from choosing a specific route, instead giving Council a short list of factors it views as critical to the selection of an alignment.

  • The best opportunity to maximize economic development, stimulate urban revitalization, and incentivize transit-oriented development along the corridor
  • The least amount of disruption to the urban fabric (land use, urban design, infrastructure), urban lifestyles (commercial, educational, cultrual, and recreational activities), and capital investments already made for the Link
  • Be consistent with the Hilltop Subarea Plan, and a genuine reflection of the community's vision and development goals for the Hilltop area. This includes the Subarea Plan vision of a multi-modal transportation system, including the Link on a two-way alignment on MLK, reaching the entire district.
  • Practicality and ease of accessibility to transit stations, as a key influencer of ridership.

The Transportation Commission was more decisive in its recommendation, placing its support squarely behind the A1 Stadium Way and B1 MLK (without the J Street couplet) alignments.

The relatively new commission notes in its recommendation of the A1 alignment that, while it views that route as meeting most of the community's needs, pedestrian accessibility challenges inherent in this alignment will need to be addressed, and urges Sound Transit and the City to work to mitigate those challenges. In selecting the B1 MLK alignment, the commission notes that it sees this choice as the most cost-effective, and having the best potential for future expansion. The commission further emphasizes the importance of extending the MLK portion of the expansion all the way to South 19th, in order to fully serve the full community, and reach the 19th Street transportation corridor.

Both commissions call the Link expansion "one of the most significant transportation projects" in the area. These aren't final decisions, and we'll have a better idea of what the Council thinks coming out of tomorrow's study session, but what do you think?

Does A1/B1 work for you? Are there other factors you'd like the Council to consider?

Previously from Exit133: Link Expansion: Choosing an Alignment

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A lot of this decision comes down to money.  There is a $50+m delta between Stadium Way and St. Helens Ave, which would be the other serious option.  There might have been a time to explore St. Helens Avenue, and there will be a time to look at it again in the future in a future phase, but for now, it appears that without a major financial contributor in the area, a St. Helens alignment just isn’t going to happen.  Would have been an opportunity for more urban infill, but there is still plenty of opportunity in Stadium and on Hilltop.

In order to have a chance at seeing S. 19th St, the Transportation Commission made the smart choice of recommending B1-MLK exclusively.  That both narrows how wide the environmental analysis study area should be (helping to speed analysis) and makes possible options like single track with passing lanes, which could save a little money to get us to S. 19th St, while retaining 10-12 minute service frequency.

There isn’t more time to argue about this.  Seattle is working on a project to connect their two existing streetcar lines through their downtown core.  We will be in league with that very competitive project for limited federal funds.

January 27, 2014 at 12:40 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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I agree with Chris - A1 and B1 make the most sense.  Cost matters if the extension is to be more than a dream.

January 28, 2014 at 10:43 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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