Washington’s Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority (Sound Transit) on Sept. 16 opened the 2.4-mile, $282.7 million Hilltop Tacoma light rail extension. The new alignment more than doubles the length of the T Line and runs parallel to former streetcar lines that were shuttered in the 1930s.
The extension, for which testing began in July, includes one relocated station (Old City Hall), six new stations (the new terminus, St. Joseph; Hilltop District; 6th Avenue; Tacoma General, Stadium District; and South 4th), and an expansion of the Operations and Maintenance Facility in Tacoma to accommodate five new Brookville Equipment Corporation light rail vehicles (LRVs), doubling the previous fleet (see map, left). Sound Transit awarded the $26.5 million Brookville contract in 2017 and took delivery of the last Liberty® NXT LRV in late 2022. Each LRV is designed to carry more than 100 riders and to offer seating for up to 26 people, with accessibility seating for those using wheelchairs or other mobility devices plus space for bikes.
Trains are running at approximately 12-minute intervals during peak periods Monday through Saturday and 20 minutes off peak and Sundays. Sound Transit projects ridership of 2,000-4,000 daily passengers by 2026.
The expansion was approved by voters in 2008 and construction began in 2018. Among the project partners: Hatch (project management and construction), Jacobs (urban planning, safety assessments and environmental compliance support), HDR Inc. (alternatives analysis, preliminary engineering, final design), Evergreen and University of Puget Sound.
The transit agency had anticipated a late March 2023 launch, but announced in December 2022 the opening would be pushed back due to trackwork concerns.
The initial T Line segment began serving riders in 2003. It was the first modern electric light rail service in the state.
“Sound Transit thanks all the federal, state, regional, and local project partners that put in so much hard work and dedicated effort to plan, construct, and open the T Line,” said Sound Transit CEO Julie Timm, who took over agency leadership nearly a year ago.
“Connecting our historic Stadium District, Wright Park, medical facilities, downtown and the Tacoma Dome to the rest of our city and the broader region, these light rail stations represent our ongoing commitment to sustainability, equity, access and mobility for all,” Sound Transit Board Member and Tacoma Deputy Mayor Kristina Walker added.
Commented Sound Transit Board Chair and King County Executive Dow Constantine: “The Hilltop extension is a major step toward creating a more connected Tacoma and region as we continue expanding our transit network.”
Sound Transit plans to take Tacoma Link from the Hilltop neighborhood terminus 3.5 miles to Tacoma Community College by 2039.
In May, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced that its Build America Bureau provided three new low-interest loans totaling $327 million to Sound Transit, including $93.3 million for the Hilltop Tacoma Link Extension. “Sound Transit is our largest borrower, now at $4.17 billion,” Bureau Executive Director Morteza Farajian said at that time. “They are leveraging low-interest financing to build critical projects that will benefit passengers for years to come.”