Friday, January 31, 2014

Tacoma LRT extension options weighed

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

The choice, 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.

Sound Transit officials presented an analysis of citizen comments about possible alignments to the City Council earlier this week, local media report. Residents tended to favor an LRT route along Stadium Way instead of via Broadway or St. Helens, largely due to potential cost savings of $20 million and the avoidance of any diruption in theater Square Plaza.

Several council members noted the Stadium Way option had its own problems, including hilly terrain. None appears to be opposed outright to the mode, however, unlike in some other U.S. cities.

If the line traversed Stadium Way, it would then travel south along North First Street, then to Division Avenue and south along Martin Luther King Jr. Way. Little disagreement among council members was voice on an alignment in the Hilltop, local media said.

The City Council could vote on a resolution next week to recommend the alignment, which would extend Link by 2.3 miles, to the Sound Transit board. The council could decide to also forward an a second route as an alternative. Sound Transit, if it approves the alignment, must complete further studies, but has $50 million on hand to advance the project, projected to cost $150 million.

Tacoma's Link Light Rail began revenue operations in August 2003, almost six years before any counterpart Link Light Rail segment opened in Seattle.