This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.
There’s been a battle brewing for some time now over the Sound Transit track being built (.pdf) between the Tacoma Dome and Lakeview. In order to avoid taking the long route around Tacoma along the BNSF corridor, ST has wisely decided to build its own track through the city. As best I can understand, some local business and residents want an elevated overpass, fearing that the grade-level crossing will cut off parts of the neighborhood.
The Tacoma City Council has scheduled a vote for December, although the vote will be largely symbolic. Sound Transit has the final say. The TNT’s David Seago sums up the debate here, including maps of some proposed alternatives.
My guess is that they’ll go for the cheaper option, which is to run the train at-grade. It would obviously be better to get the train out of traffic, but since we’re only talking about a few trains a day, it’s probably hard for ST to justify the added expense, even if it could come up with the money.
You have to wonder about the long-term cost/benefit, though. If Amtrak is going to start using those tracks, too, the grade-level crossing will start to become another bottleneck in the system (and forget about high-speed rail, of course!).
Where I grew up, we had heavy-rail commuter trains running every 30 minutes or so at grade-level, stopping traffic and roaring through leafy suburban backyards. No one complained, though, probably because no one could remember a time when the trains weren’t there. When you’re building new tracks, it’s a whole different story.