Thursday, February 06, 2014

Tacoma OKs LRT extension plan

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Tacoma, Wash.'s City Council has formally endorsed its preferred route for extending the city's existing 1.6-mile Link Light Rail (often defined by some as a streetcar) operated by Sound Transit.

The Council officially ratified what it had already informally backed earlier, an extension along Stadium Way, mirrors that preferred by a plurality of city residents weighing in on the matter. Voters approved an extension in November 2008.

The recommendation now goes before Sound Transit's Board of Directors, also evaluating the planned 2.3-mile LRT extension up Stadium Way and down Martin Luther King Jr. Way into Hilltop. City Council members said they want Sound Transit to build a station on Stadium Way to give residents of the St. Helens neighborhood access to light rail. But the hilly terrain has prompted some to express concern over LRT's ability to handle steep grades, and the ability of some citizens with mobility problems to do the same.

Local media reported that Sue Comis, a project engineer with Sound Transit, told the council she is confident the situation can be addressed adequately.

The projected $150 million project would receive $50 million from Sound Transit, with $50 million hoped for from federal grants, such as the Federal Transit Administrations Small Starts program. Another $50 million would be generated from an undesignated "funding partner," according to transit officials.