Tacoma pushes for Light Rail by 2026

Sound Transit's Draft ST3 Plan for Pierce County
Sound Transit’s Draft ST3 Plan for Pierce County

If you have been waiting to comment on Sound Transit 3, now is the time.  Public comment on the initial plan ends on April 30th.  To meet the November ballot, the Sound Transit Board must pass a finalized plan by the end of May, so please get your letters into Sound Transit ([email protected]) in the next day or two.  If you don’t want to write a letter, take a survey instead.

If you are going to send a letter to Sound Transit, please include following points:

  1. Deliver on regional light rail to Tacoma faster than 2033
  2. Move up bus rapid transit funding for Pacific Avenue by 2020
  3. Include a light rail EIS for Tacoma Mall from Tacoma Dome
  4. Include high capacity transit studies for rail in Tacoma
    1. Extension of Tacoma General Hospital to Lower 6th Avenue,
    2. and a Tacoma Link Extension from Hilltop to the Lincoln District and Tacoma Mall

The City of Tacoma’s Transportation Commission recently sent a letter to Sound Transit regarding ST3.  They are taking a strong stance that Tacoma should be connected to the region with light rail by 2026.  They are also calling for two additional high capacity transit studies to look at additional Tacoma Link extensions and a regional light rail connection between Downtown Tacoma and Tacoma Dome.  This resembles statements made by Seattle Subway concerning aspirational goals and contingency plans, if Sound Transit is able to secure additional funding to look beyond the present scope.

Environmental analysis, engineering, and right of way acquisition of the southern leg of light rail between Federal Way and Tacoma was approved by voters in Sound Transit 2 in 2008.  However, as Eric Chipps, Senior Planner at Sound Transit, described during the Commission’s last session, this part of the package was “resized” (aka postponed) after the recession.  It could be restarted by the Sound Transit Board with a single Board Motion.  While the Commission’s schedule is aggressive, it allocates 2 years for an EIS process, 4 to design, and 5 to construct the ten mile, four station extension.  By my count, if you start that process now, like right now, that would put us in 2027 when service testing could begin, with an actual service date potentially six years earlier than Sound Transit said they could offer.

The Tacoma Transportation Commission is led by by retired physician and Executive Director of the Coalition for Active Transportation of Pierce County, Dr. Jane Moore and Washington Transit Association Executive Director Justin Leighton.  They recently added two new members, one of which is former Transportation Choices Policy Director, Andrew Austin.