Dozens of pieces of email and many comments later, I’d like to follow up on what I’ve learned since yesterday’s post, and what I missed that makes me even more sure that this “post and beam” structure is not a good idea.

First, an apology to those of you from Tacoma. I was unnecessarily dismissive of the Dome District as a place for future development, and I didn’t mean for that to overshadow my argument – but that it did. Let’s say for the sake of argument that in thirty years, this area will be like the Pearl District, or at least in the process of changing, like South Lake Union. Maybe that will happen!

Next, my reasoning. As I mentioned yesterday, this is a project I’ve been well acquainted with for years. It’s not just extending Sounder to Lakewood that’s important here – as part of the state’s Point Defiance Bypass project,  Amtrak Cascades will also move to this track to cut six minutes from trips in the corridor. For now, that means a total of 18 trains daily – ten Sounder, eight Amtrak – but not only might some of the Sound Transit 2 Sounder improvements add to this service, but more Amtrak Cascades service is very likely in the next few years.

And this gets us into the reason I think the berm should stay.

When post and beam proponents talk about the cost difference between the berm and their posts, they’re talking about the difference for a single track – some $1 million. They bring up the narrower profile – but that profile comes at the cost of space for a second track. In the Amtrak Cascades long range plan, a second phase exists for Point Defiance Bypass, adding a second track and increasing train speed along Interstate 5 in South Tacoma. That part of the plan would qualify for high speed rail funds, and it’s been on the books for a decade – but it’s been ignored by post and beam supporters, even though their own web site shows a graphic of two tracks on the berm. Building a second post and beam structure next to the first would be necessary in the long term, and cost nearly as much as today’s project, rather than simply being some earthwork and two new bridges.

The TOD impacts claimed by post and beam proponents also don’t hold up under scrutiny. Their web site shows images of shops and space underneath a railway, which I believe is the High Line in New York. This did happen a hundred years ago – but in the US, it’s very difficult for a public agency to incorporate (or even allow) private use or modification of their facilities. Tacoma isn’t really Manhattan, either, the demand for this kind of development wouldn’t really exist for a very, very long time even if it were possible.

What really, really rubs me the wrong way here is that this opposition group seems to be only a couple of months old, but they’re acting like they’ve been wronged. I knew about this berm in 2005. Where were they then?

141 Replies to “Followup On Sounder To Lakewood”

  1. I have no clue, but i can’t seem to find a working person in Tacoma, from mothers to mechanics to mortgage brokers, who’s got beef with this. I don’t really understand where this allegedly huge opposition is coming from given that this moves a lot of people past an awful bottleneck on I-5 and moves more people closer to the point of origin of their trip. Hell, i know more than a couple of die-hard anti-everything types from Lakewood who want this.

    I guess four years of planning and discussion wasn’t enough. Hate to say it, but as someone who’s done some serious time in Tacoma, we have to get over the “Tacoma is always getting s**ewed!!!” complex in cases like this, stop looking for money that isn’t there (or source it locally, good luck with that these days), and get things done. Most of us remember the early 90s when the solution to crime was a lot like this, i.e. point fingers, blame, avoid the issue… and most of us remember the early 90s when it sucked beyond words. Yes, Tacomans, we deserve better, but we can create solutions now or spend another 10 years doing nothing.

    1. Tacoma often does get screwed – but the Sounder bypass is NOT one of those times. The anger of a few recently PO’d citizens is the blind rage built up by years of being passed over – not always without good reason. It really isn’t rational. And, there is some political opportunism mixed in.

      The people in Tacoma need to be taken seriously, there issues assessed, to some extent mollified, and then the Point Defiance bypass needs to move forward. This is a lot like the Save our Valley campaign – basically unreasonable, but not without understandable foundation. Some modifications to the design or special programs may be necessary, but wholesale revision is out of the question.

      1. Tacoma likes to think it is getting screwed, when in reality the city has been making out like a bandit lately when it comes to public amenities. New UW campus, the Museum of Glass, Washington State History Museum, Tacoma Art Museum, light rail, Sounder, new convention center, the new SR509 bridge, the new Narrows bridge. Even with all of this the city still can’t seem to get it’s act together. Oh, and don’t forget, Seattle was passed over in favor of Tacoma for the terminus of the transcontinental railway.

      2. And us Seattlites are still bitter about that. Screw you, Northern Pacific Railroad.

      3. Ya, but when we got passed over by the NP we didn’t just give up — we went to work and eventually reveresed the situation.

        But that is ancient history now.

      4. As I recall we got to work in the “seamstress business”…and the drinking business. Besides that particular railway head wasn’t connected to anything for a long long time.

      5. I think you might be interested in the book “Orphan Road”. Like anything else, it’s not simple.

      6. Tacoma has done a great job of “making Lemonade”. Tacoma has always been a blue collar city as opposed to Seattle with it’s doctor and lawyers (even Indian Chiefs). The change to a service sector economy and a realization that the environment matters hit Tacoma hard (ASARCO, the pulp mills, the aluminum smelters, all the machinist and other jobs those supported). I think they’ve done a great job of keeping the city vibrant and viable. It would be easy to see Tacoma as another Detroit. The last time my mom was up visiting and we went to downtown Seattle I was all gaga over the trains in the tunnel. Her comment was “We’ve had those for years in Tacoma, you need to get out more.” Of course she grew up in London. Subways make a great place to stay when you’re getting bombed :=

      7. Washington State History Museum,… Seattle was passed over in favor of Tacoma for the terminus of the transcontinental railway.

        Yeah, and Tacoma likes to flaunt it with the HO train layout there. Very cool if you have a chance to visit.

  2. I’ll try and chime in since I have family in Pierce County

    I’ve been on the 574 through the Dome district many times and I’ve known about the Berm for ages. Until just now, I’ve honestly never heard of this opposition.

    It would be so much easier to visit my dad after work for a weekend if the Lakewood extension was opened sooner rather than later. I could hop on a 545 (I’d put up with the 520 bridge) to King Street and get picked up in Lakewood.

    It’s bad enough that each time I have to transfer, it costs time with the wheelchair lift if it’s a high-floor which is what I like most about the Sounder: put the bridge plate down and roll on/roll off the train.

    Sure, PT runs the 599 on ST’s behalf, but unlike my Old Trusty, my new power chair is a pain to get on/off the bus.

    1. Has anyone heard the rumor that once the Sounder to Lakewood starts running Sound Tranist is going to cut back on 590 and 594 service?

    1. Thought so. It sounds like I’ll be in Manhattan in November, I’m going to check it out.

    2. And the Highline has few or no businesses beneath its structure, only across the streets/avenues. Some of the approaches to several of the London termini, Watrerloo and London Bridge most especially, have arches beneath which there are some businesses.

      1. Oh, Grand Central has a couple of restaurants under approaches too, I think. But it’s all very old.

      2. Under the Waiting Room there’s a ton of commerce, but the approaches to GCT are through the Park Avenue tunnels, under which there is only the bed rock of Manhattan. In northern Manhattan the line is elevated, but I do not recall any businesses under the viaduct.

      3. I was just there last week, at one point it goes through an old warehouse that’s been converted into a Pike Place-ish thing called Chelsea Market, so I guess part of it has businesses underneath. It also had some ice cream and food stands on it. It’s really very cool, just so short right now.

      4. I’ve seen “business under” in Victorian arch structures repeatedly in London. Although a lot of the arches are vacant and boarded up. But there used to be a great mass behind St. Pancras railway station.

        But thick brick-and-stone Victorian arch structures seem to have some significant advantages over post-and-beam when it comes to stuffing retail underneath it. It essentially has a built-in proper ceiling, some distance below the floor which the trackbed is on, and built-in walls on two sides. The only necessary maintenance is occasional tuckpointing which can be done while the business is operating.

        In contrast, modern post-and-beam viaducts would require construction of, in essence, an entire building underneath the viaduct, which would interfere with maintenance of the underside of the structure and the posts. They’re simply not *designed* for putting shops under, in the way that the brick Victorian arches, being fully finished on the underside, pretty much are suited for putting shops under. While one could build a viaduct specifically designed for putting shops under, it would be rather different from an off-the-shelf viaduct. And much more expensive.

      1. Not that I’ve seen. There also aren’t really businesses NEXT to it, either.

  3. The only real downfall with the plan is the lowering of pacific avenue, quite steeply to go under the lakeview line extension. It will help to keep some of the bad traffic moving through by not blocking the line at importaint times of the day. I hope ST chooses to add some “flare” to the bridge instead of just ploping a cor-ten steel bridge in there and call it good.

    As for the property value(s), they are already low mostly sparked by the freeway, which poses a formitable barrier to the south, and by the mission/homeless shelter on S. Tacoma way. While the shelter is a nice enough facility, the transient population of tacoma often loiter in the neighborhood (a lot of them board LINK at 25/pacific and go downtown), and live in the nearby gully’s. The other mix of properties include mostly light industrial, and a nightclub which could stand to close anyway as it attracts a fair amount of trouble.

    The one thing that has been pointed out by some, is that Amtrak dosent seem to have any real plan for installation of a proper station in Freighthouse Square to facilitate the movement of Amtrak services off the main line and onto the lakeview line. The Station facilities at everett were no where near adiquate when built (small baggage room, shared counter with greyhound), and there seems to be no money in project to build something suitable in freighthouse square (not to mention address the issue of Long term parking for amtrak customers).

    1. I think ST will spend 1% for art.

      I don’t think there’s any way around lowering Pacific. The rail line is climbing slowly – I think both the berm and the ‘post and beam’ thing have the same level of lowering.

      WSDOT will eventually feel pressure about Freighthouse and have to improve the building, but yeah, I think you’re right that there isn’t much plan. Amtrak certainly doesn’t have the money. Sound Transit might do such a thing in ST3. :)

    2. The only real downfall with the plan is the lowering of pacific avenue,

      So, I’ll ask again. Why not ditch the berm and use an over pass to get the cars over the track? That could be gas tax money for roads. Alternately, since there’s a ditch to be dug anyway, why not just make it a little deeper; possibly saving enough money to install a lid and make it “cut and cover”. Sounds an awful lot like the “decision” was made based on contributions by the firms that are going to be building the berm. The berm that is twice as wide as it needs to be. 18 trains a day. Again, building for the future (maybe) when that money could be used today.

      1. It doesn’t make sense to depress the tracks in an area where the tracks need to gain elevation in order to connect to the existing line to Lakewood.

        If you wanted to put the rail line under the street, it would require a significant elevation of Pacific Avenue to get it over the tracks. This would probably be an even worse impact on the neighborhood than the current berm proposal.

      2. Bernie, what Paul says is right. The track is climbing there – you can’t put it below the road. And we’ve wanted to add more trains to Cascades for a couple of years, but can’t because we don’t have this project yet!

      3. Actually the track needs to be climbing there to keep the average grade passable, but it was city of Tacoma that wanted Pacific lowered to avoid a grade crossing. Your assertion that it was contributions from construction firms is simply baseless.

      4. There’d be no point in making it a cut-and-cover tunnel, the depression is only a couple hundred feet long.

    3. I think a grander bridge over Pacific Avenue is the way to go. How about a two-span, with a wide, lit, artistic pedestrian underpass on one side, which doesn’t sink as deep? Hey, make the sidewalk wide enough and you can even let street vendors into it. ;-)

      If development is ever needed adjacent to the railway berm elsewhere, retaining wall is the way to go.

  4. Fascinating discussion. Thanks for starting it Ben and thanks for recognizing that your initial comments could be taken as dismissive and demeaning. I’ve also enjoyed the opinions of several others who I can tell don’t really know Tacoma at all even though they think they do because they drove through once or came down to see the state’s first modern light rail line.

    Let me clearly state my positon on the underlying issue before I go any further. The anti-berm argument is phony. The berm vs post and beam argument is really driven by two groups of believers. There are certainly anti-transit/anti-tax types who sense an opportunity and there are those who sincerely believe Tacoma’s needs are regularly not addressed by Sound Transit and want to extract additional dollars out of the agency. Post and beam construction is just the latest subject. In all, and being generous, these folks total about 100 people. That’s it. And as one of the commenters said, many of this 100 are property owners and not necessarily city residents.

    Someone else also pointed this out, but it is worth repeating. The City itself has not been a problem for Sound Transit and took the position that the agency should use whatever construction method made the most sense from an engineering point of view. The City’s only demand of Sound Transit has been that the bridge over Pacific Avenue can’t be some ugly piece of crap.

    A couple of other points: Lazarus, the population of Tacoma is 203,000 not 130,000. We’re not Seattle, but we’re not insignificant either.

    Link ridership has been flat for a while. Want to know why: loss of jobs in the downtown area since the line opened.

    For those who bitched that the City hasn’t upzoned the Tacoma Dome area and cite that as proof the city does give a shit about TOC, you are wrong. The city just completed a two year process to upzone ALL of its neighborhood business districts, including the Dome area. This stuff takes time: messy old public processes and all. Maybe it shouldn’t take two years, but we did it.

    And speaking of TOC, I recall during the 2009 legislative session that Tacoma was strongly supporting Rep. Sharon Nelson’s TOC bill. The City of Seattle seemed to change its mind about that bill from week to week, but Tacoma was always there.

    There is also legitimate reason for some officials in Tacoma to think Sound Transit takes the community for granted. Maybe this is trivial stuff, but the agency hasn’t helped itself with the way some of its rail staff have treated local citizens. Some examples: ST built a light rail system in Tacoma that cannot be expanded to meet increased demand. It is a good thing ridership on Link is flat. If it were increasing Sound Transit couldn’t do anything about it. The configuration of the tracks prevents trains from running any more frequently than they do at present. The design of the cars prevents them from pulling an added car during peak periods and the design of the stations also limits such additions.

    Why would this be needed? Special events. They don’t happen too often but when transit agencies can’t accommodate big crowds, transit skeptics are born. And why would you not allow for potential expansion of service? When Sound Transit 2 was being planned, the City asked the agency to include funds to address these issues. The agency recommended against this to the Board.

    The original crossing by Sounder of Pacific Avenue at grade was another issue. This was a safety question as much as it was about appearance. The grade climbing to South Tacoma is quite formidable but it was very late in the design process before Sound Transit seemed to notice that.

    Tacoma did get commuter rail first and express bus service first and the first light rail line, so yes we have done well by the agency too. I acknowledge that. I also support the Point Defiance bypass proposal and so does the City. It does save time but we can’t pretend there aren’t safety issues and ignore those just because it may delay the project. The beauty of the current Amtrak route (besides the views) is that there are two street crossings (Old Town Tacoma and Steilacoom). With the Point Defiance bypass not only do you lose the view but you gain several at grade street crossings. And Ben, before you say something dismissive about these neighborhoods, these streets are in a very important jobs and tax producing industrial/commercial area of the city. I am not concerned about the relatively short street closures caused by passenger trains, but signals and gates are going to be needed and shouldn’t be the city’s responsibility to provide and maintain.

    This has been an interesting thread and, as a regular reader of STB, I hope you will pay more attention to us in the future.

    1. Regarding Tacoma Link capacity, would it be possible for Sound Transit to use five-segmented Inekon trams? I’d assume that they have more or less the same requirements as the current (three-segmented) trams, and would be simple to add into service.

      1. I’m thinking we expand Tacoma Link as the Tacoma Streetcar and when we extend Central Link down to Tacoma, we put it in a tunnel downtown.

      2. Tacoma Link probably won’t ever be converted to Central Link standards. It doesn’t make sense, too many destinations in Tacoma need rail service, Big Link will probably just keep going. Maybe on a berm…

      3. Sound Transit says no. They told the City in the Sound Transit 2 discussions that there is a way they could add a coupler to the train and drag a dead car (one without power) but the stations were not built for any additional cars. This wouldn’t be too much of an issue if they could run trains more frequently to make up the difference, but they screwed that up too.

      4. Nothing’s ‘screwed up’. Tacoma Link is fine how it is – maybe in thirty years we’ll extend platforms and get longer cars, but ridership in that corridor isn’t going to be any different for a very long time.

      5. Do you think it would be possible for them to double track the whole line in the future to accommodate higher frequencies after Tacoma Link is extended around the city? And one thing that they did screw up is stop placement; the Convention Center stop is one block past the convention center and Tacoma Link goes right through the Commerce St transfer area but stops a block past that.

      6. The convention center stop is RIGHT across the street. Have a look:,+Tacoma&ie=UTF8&split=0&gl=us&ei=h057SszUKobisQO3pJzuCg&ll=47.249137,-122.438665&spn=0.00177,0.00515&t=h&z=19

        And yeah, double tracking will probably happen with the ST2 extensions.

        The Commerce St. transfer area is again, just across the street. Walking from one bus bay to another is longer than that in some places.

      7. Ben, Tacoma Link is not “fine how it is.” It’s a 1.5-mile-long light rail line that connects downtown to downtown. How useful is that for an expensive transit system? Light rail needs to connect neighborhoods to employment centers so that people can leave their cars at home. But we can’t easily expand Link into neighborhoods because of how it was built. I’m proud to have a light rail line in Tacoma but over the years its been in operation I’ve observed how useless it really is.

      8. They still need an additional stop at 11th and Commerce. If you’re in the heart of the newly created International Financial Services Area trying to get to UWT you have to walk way out of your way to get to the Theater District stop at the end of the line. You might as well just walk to UWT in the time it takes to get the the stop.

      9. I love Tacoma Link for the few times I go to Tacoma, but the text in the ST timetable booklet still cracks me up: “Getting around downtown Tacoma–and the region–is a lot easier with Tacoma Link.” For a line that doesn’t go around the region. Haha.

      10. But why have it across the street when it could be right in front? I shouldn’t of said they screwed up; I’m sure there was a reason for it, anyone know why they chose those stop locations?

    2. Randall,

      I am fully aware of the population of Tacoma, and I actually do spend time down there. My point is that if Tacoma wants to be treated like a big city, they should give up the “woe is me” attitude and start acting like a big city.

      Think of it this way; Bellevue is contemplating potentially contributing local funds to get a tunnel that would cost several $100M more than the surface route that is currently planned, but Tacoma – at roughly 1.5 times the population of Bellevue – recoils at the prospect of adding a few tens of $M to get their post and beam choice? Instead it is all “woe is me” and Dangerfieldesque “We don’t get no respect” comments.

      It’s not a very productive tact to tack for the city to take.

      But hey, I wish Tacoma luck in the quest to overtake Spokane as the number two city in the State. But I wouldn’t count Bellevue out as a competitor down the road either.

      1. Great lazaus, I am glad you come visit and hope you will continue to do so. Please don’t confuse “the city” with the 100 or so people involved in this silly berm/post and beam issue. The City- as represented by the City Council, Mayor and city staff- has been supportive of Sound Transit. Here are the only points of conflict I am aware of: the City didn’t want the ugly ass bridge over Pacific Avenue that ST first proposed; the City pushed during the ST 2 discussions for money to improve the existing capacity of Link which ST refused to do; and the City has pushed for ST to build a second track adjacent to the current Tacoma Rail track approaching Freighthouse Square as ST is obligated to do in its track use agreement with the City and which to date ST has managed to avoid building. In case you didn’t know the track Sounder uses from about the Puyallup River to Freighthouse Square is owned by the City’s own shortline railroad Tacoma Rail.

      2. ST put $80 million into Tacoma Link for ST2. I’m not sure where you’re getting that ST refused to do anything.

        And the second track comes with D to M street, unless I’m mistaken.

        What *exactly* are you complaining about?

      3. That’s $80 million in matching funds, Ben. We have to pony up that much money just to get our $80 million in tax dollars back.

      4. Seems like a good plan. By the way, you realize that’s what the Pierce County representatives asked for?

  5. As I noted in the other thread, I have no personal stake in this, my family hasn’t lived in Tacoma since before the Great Depression.

    With that said, it’s disingenuous to suggest opposition to the design is only a few months old, after having been a settled issue. Design disputes have been public for years, it’s been in the Tacoma papers in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, again this January, and now the current ruckus. Maybe nobody in Seattle reads the TNT, but that doesn’t mean Tacomans have been silent on the issue.

    “Train route plans a knife in heart of burgeoning Dome District” — TNT, 2/8/07

    Hysterical fear-mongering? Sure, but it’s in the city’s biggest newspaper, so even if you disagree with it, don’t pretend it didn’t happen.

    1. Each complaint has been different. Some were about building the line at all, some where about alignment.

      This group has nothing on their website older than mid-June of this year. They’re new people every time.

      1. Just because the Do It Right Tacoma group is newly formed doesn’t mean the opposition is new, or that the same people haven’t been opposing the berm ever since it was announced. Maybe they should have organized earlier but that’s hindsight for ya. I have a feeling no one really expected how disinterested Sound Transit is in listening to the communities they supposedly serve.

      2. Okay, you’re going to have to answer a couple of questions to continue this discussion with me.

        1) How do you propose Sound Transit get rails built to Lakewood?

        2) If you support the post and beam, what SPECIFIC difference will improve the ability of the area to build TOD? Because post and beam people haven’t demonstrated a single one yet.

  6. Ben – I think you can draw a comparison between this project and the California High Speed Rail project running along the peninsula to San Francisco. The wealthy residents that live along this proposed route said nothing while all of the engineering studies and alternatives analysis were being done. Then, last November, the unthinkable happened and *gasp* the bond measure to fund part of the line passed. So now that the thing has more than a snowball’s chance in hell of being built the cities along the line are filing lawsuits demanding that a multi billion dollar tunnel through their towns be built, when what they should have done was been more involved at the outset. Interesting similarities, seems like people don’t give a damn until the shovels hit the dirt and then everyone’s up in arms.

    1. Yeah, this kind of thing happens a lot during public projects. Sometimes there’s really action to be taken, additions to be made. Sometimes there really isn’t.

    2. You actually hit an important point there — people pay attention when it looks like something might actually happen.

      Until then, there are simply too many public processes going on every day, too many speculative investigations of possible future projects. Ordinary citizens with jobs and families simply can’t keep up with them all.

      Unless you have a pre-existing interest in a particular proposal, or there’s some extraordinary level of outreach and publicity, it’s easy not to know about something that all the group-thinking insiders assume is a done deal. It’s even easier to know just enough to assume it’s never going to happen.

      Silence is not consent, it’s not even safe to assume silence is apathy. Silence may just mean they don’t take you seriously enough to comment.

      1. If people aren’t taking them seriously when they send a flyer in the mail saying they’re building a project and want your input, I want to know EXACTLY what they should do differently.

      2. If you really want input, you need to give them a wake-up call that something is coming that could be big and ugly without their help.

        Years ago, my grandfather was on a committee attempting to site a new garbage dump. You could have scooped up the apathy in buckets. Nobody cared, nobody had input, but the committee knew that when they actually selected a site, it would generate a huge firestorm of controversy and all sorts of NIMBY reactions. They needed public input in advance or it would surely fail.

        Their solution? They announced a preliminary selection that was a beautiful parcel near the center of town with lots of development potential. Of course they didn’t expect to build a garbage dump there — they knew they needed public input, and the easiest way to get public input is to show what the public might get stuck with if they don’t provide input.

        So, if you’re putting a rail line or a freeway through a neighborhood, and you really want people to provide design input, generate a rendering that looks like a pure engineering solution with no attention to the urban environment. Don’t spend too much on the rendering, you’ll have no intention of actually building that design. It’s a trial balloon designed to provoke public response.

        And, since you have no institutional commitment to that trial design, your staff won’t be invested in defending that design rather than genuinely listening to public input. You’ll be able to come back with changes that you would have done anyway, plus incorporate public comment you hadn’t previously considered. You’ll come up with a better design, and you’ll appear far more responsive than if you’d presented the better design as your first proposal.

      3. I think the last few things Sound Transit has built are a good wake-up call that they’re going to build what they send flyers out saying they’re building.

  7. Interesting discussion! As Sounder and High Speed Rail continue to provide mobility options desperately needed in the future for all Washitonians, including Tacoma and Lakewood, compromise and common sense need to remain in the forefront of our policy decisions. In short, we don’t need another Tukwila ‘Hostage Negotiation’ over this berm issue.
    This has been ‘public processed’ nearly to death. How many years should it take, and how many millions of extra dollars spent should the region and state throw at this issue? Enough already!
    In a democracy, everyone gets a say so. The post and beam supporters have had their say too! Then the common good prevails. The berm is a product of extensive public input, best engineering planning, and good decision making on the part of Tacoma, Sound Transit, and WSDOT.
    Its shovel ready, and the trains are ready to leave the station. IT’S TIME TO DIG!

  8. I’m thinking which I’d rather live next to if I was in a hypothetical condo or apartment project next to the right of way. The berm wins hands down, especially if it is nicely landscaped. A post and beam trestle isn’t going to have anything under it really. ST might do something to keep it from just being weeds but even so the area under the trestle will probably end up being fenced off. Even with a fence it is likely to be a crime and transient magnet.

    Given all the noise over a rather picayune berm through what is currently an industrial area in Tacoma I shudder to thing what kind of nonsense East Link is going to face as it gets closer to construction. At least the groups complaining about the design and siting of East Link are currently doing so at an appropriate stage of the process. However we’ve already seen a lawsuit over using I-90. Hopefully they lose and the loss takes the wind out of the sails of other groups who might go to court to stop East Link.

  9. Oh man, this just needs to get done. I don’t know much of the Dome District, but whenever I head over there to catch the 594 or Sounder, it looks pretty clean. There are some possibilities for Puyallup Avenue, but I think the key lies in the consolidation of the Amtrak and Sounder stations up to Freighthouse square. (Two sources of passenger traffic through Freighthouse, 14-second walk to T-Link, Greyhound and ST/PT bus stations, undeniable if morally questionable benefits provided by huge free park & ride garage; but I digress.)

    There’s an easy comparison here, as we already have a post and beam monstrosity — the Alaskan Way viaduct. 1: It’s ugly. 2: It’s falling down. 3: No one wants to walk under it, ever. I realize that it’s a road as opposed to a train track, but exactly what’s up there isn’t the key point.

    There’s also one other distinction many fail to make: that very little of the route goes through what’s accepted as the “dome district”. Once you’re on the west side of Pacific avenue, that’s south downtown, which is a rundown industrial part of town.

    The most compelling argument, as written above, is definitely for two tracks instead of one. Tacoma HSR hub, anyone? It’s true that it’s ugly and politically divisive, but since when were train tracks anything else, especially in Tacoma? And the new track is passenger only – the constant din of freight trains through Tacoma stays on the Pt Defiance tracks. Everyone has to make compromises, and the people in the Dome District are no exception.

  10. Definitely double tracking – HSR and Commuter rail should almost never have just a single track – it only costs more to put it in later, so di it right from the start.
    Would Kemper have a one lane section of I-405?

    1. Wow. How incredibly asinine. You failed to include the 50 foot high freeway overpass in your view of Tacoma, by the way.

      Oh, and I’m curious – who exactly has this view? I didn’t see any residential there.

    1. It’s this kind of rhetoric that pisses people off and makes them take the side of Sound Transit in this argument. Maybe if you’d present some facts that people could understand instead of a lot of baseless rhetoric you’d get more support.

      Oh and thanks for insulting an entire generation of Jewish people.

  11. Ben,
    First off, as someone who was born in Tacoma, and lives in Tacoma, thanks for the apology after insulting my home town. We can be just a little bit sensitive down here.

    Second, I have to agree with your assesment of the berm/post and beam alternative. The berm should stay.

    Lastly, the view in that obnoxious and misleading cartoon would have to be from that 50 foot concrete freeway that is already dividing Tacoma in two.

    1. You’re welcome. I’m just frustrated with all this, I know that eventually Tacoma’s downtown will grow and a lot of that one story development will get bigger, I just don’t see it happening for a long time. And I keep noting that other cities build around rail lines in their urban core pretty effectively! Most of the big cities have rails through them.

  12. with my art form I try to capture the obnoxiousness in the idea that since our fine city is already suffering the effects of a highway bisection we can’t complain about yet another bisection leaving us with a city cut in 4ths.

    I love trains. I have a t-shirt with a train on it. I just don’t like this particular plan. It’s already late. It’s already been modified. So whats the big deal taking a little tiny extra time to come to a nicer solution for the people of Tacoma?

    You think Tacoma sucks? You should see lakewood. They Really really suck.

    You knobs get a tunnel. Now that is obnoxious!

    1. We don’t “get” a tunnel. We built a tunnel beforehand, separately, with our own money. We paid for our own tunnel, Sound Transit just retrofitted it.

      As far as I know, Tacoma hasn’t offered a dime for a better plan.

  13. i’m not the best person to explain things. One of my friends does a better job: “The original Sound Transit Sounder extension that went to the voters stated that the Sounder Connection was going to use ‘existing rail track’ So when a new rail line connection has to be developed because this original assumptions on ST’s part is no longer possible given the changes in the negotiations with BNSF – then the new extension should be an improvement to the urban environment beyond the existing condition (and not an improvement just because it is providing additional transit options).”

    1. There is existing rail track south of South M St. The D-to-M-Street project is to construct a link between the existing track at Freighthouse Square and the existing track south of M.

    2. Actually, the original extension was always going to go here. In fact, that reconnection was planned all the way back to the very early 90s, nearly twenty years ago. You have to understand you’re talking to people who actually do pay attention.

  14. Tacoma has plans to revitalize its neighborhoods downtown – while that may suprise some in Seattle there is a great deal of potential there, from historic buildings, to an expanded university and its cleaned up waterfront. the D to M adds another piece of poorly integrated infrastructure that negatively impacts the downtown. Citizen concerns make sense and they HAVE been voicing them for over a year in public meeting with very unreceptive ST staff. A double track and a maintenance road with a berm construction is a suburban land use mentality which has no place in an urban environment. Those of you in the Rainier Valley – noticed any of those nice gravel lined fenced off areas of residual land along the LRT alignment? Well imagine if that was the attitude ST took in Seattle’s downtown.

    Pacific Ave is Tacoma’s main street, they are focusing a lot of efforts on it to act as a catalyst for redevelopment – it is the city’s primary gateway and the residual land should be coordinated for development and treated as valuable. This is also the walking path to the Dome Transit station one of the major transit centers for the region. Sound Transit has CONSISTENTLY ignored urban design considerations of the project, particularly by this concept of wide berms through the district and the closure of several north south streets.

    So I don’t think anyone is arguing that the line shouldn’t be built but ST is spending a lot of money in eyewash public outreach with no intention of ever compromising to create a better designed and well integrated system.

    1. Only one north-south street will be even partly closed, although it will still be open to pedestrians and bicycles. A viaduct would be much worse in terms of urban design, so the berm will have much less of a negative effect on business. The residual land around the berm will be sold for development, and the only area whose development potential could possibly be damaged by the berm would be the area on the south side of it, which is already separated from downtown Tacoma by a steep hill. The walking path to the Tacoma Dome Transit Center is along 25th, on the north side of the berm, so no one will have to cross under the berm to get from downtown Tacoma to the transit center.

    2. kate, where were you five years ago when Sounder opened and Sound Transit was open to suggestions on design changes? There has been more opportunity for public comment on this project than any other I’m aware of.

      Double track has no place in an urban environment? Do you simply expect to move your train station? Maybe this would have been a good idea to bring up a decade ago when Sounder was being designed. And frankly, no, train stations belong in urban areas, where their users are. You have highways through downtown Tacoma!

      The residual land along the ST alignment is being returned to the original owners. I saw fence coming down from one of those sites yesterday. Those aren’t permanent, they were for construction staging.

      They haven’t focused any efforts on redeveloping in that corridor in the last decade they’ve known this project was coming. It’s YEARS too late to start treating this like a big deal.

      1. Argh – come on. I don’t think that train stations are anti-urban I design light rail stations for gods sake — I am concerned about the huge right of way that results from this alignment, did you notice the maintenance road they insist upon– in addition to the double track. Its funny that you won’t give an inch about this point. What folks are asking for is an efficient use of space.

        I really don’t care if its post beam, berm or retaining wall- it can be a a hybridized and landscaped form as long as its integrated. What we all have a problem with in tacoma is that we simply don’t trust sound transit to do a good job in that. And I think alot of that feeling has to do with their attitude — and their public relations on the project. Whether or not ST was out there five years ago; the fall out is apparent today. And I did attend enough meetings to understand that their posture was defensive and obfuscating rather than at all collaborative.

        I mean the thing that angered me in this project was ST inability to treat affected/residual properties in anyway other than as liability. Do you really think that they have a viable land use strategy?? I mean come on- Joni Earl is getting an earful from the State and even the Feds precisely because ST treats land use issues like pariah, the failure in ST participation in TOD planning in the Rainier Valley should be clear to you. Lets take a look at some of their bus circulation strategies. I am not sure if I think that is an ok attitude- when their own ridership is impacted by the poor quality of the walking environment around the station.

        Clearly for the D to M there are lots of excellent design ideas that could still be incorporated- they are only at some 3% design or something. So why show off those terrible renderings just to make everybody upset?! Hire somebody. Show the art. Show the integration that they intend to do even if its only illustrative. Prove to us that they actually care. Its a strictly engineered project in a highly scrutinized area. Not a smart plan.

      2. Okay, first red flag here… Sound Transit isn’t building double track, as far as I’m aware. It concerns me that you believe you’re engaged in this and don’t know that. If there’s a maintenance road, perhaps that’s to reserve space for a future second track.

        The fall out probably has to do with, you know, the endless complaints about things that had public comment periods years ago. Frankly, I don’t blame ST.

        And what did ST do wrong in the Rainier Valley? I’ve spoken with ST’s TOD staff, it doesn’t seem like there’s anything else they can do within the bounds of the agency’s jurisdiction. They can’t just start building apartments, you know.

        Bus circulation strategies? You mean… Metro?

      3. Thank you Kate. What you’ve discussed is the root of this issue. It’s not the berm vs. the posts, it’s how people will experience their urban environment once the extension is complete and for decades after.

        Whatever the final design, good landscaping and other efforts to soften the infiltration of the track through the Dome District will largely impact our experiences there.

        I am terribly concerned that when everything is said and done Tacoma will be left with a chain link fence dividing the road and sidewalk from the tracks. My understanding is the bermmed right of way (up to 40 feet) between the fence and the tracks will be covered with rocks and sprayed regularly with pesticides to keep weeds from growing. I can only imagine the old newspapers, empty chip bags and cigarette butts that will cover this slope until sometime in the distant future the parcels adjacent to the tracks are developed.

        I don’t think this is a vision anyone wants for the Dome District, but without attention paid to the details of the final design, this is what we will get.

      4. Chelsea – In the graphics presented, the berm was landscaped.

        This is really the problem – instead of addressing the real problems, detractors create new ones. Because it’s so easy to point out that these new problems are simply misunderstandings, you lose your ability to address the real issues.

        And if you don’t want a fence between the road and the tracks, I’d love to know how you’re going to keep people from being hit.

      5. I know it was landscaped in the pictures, but I’ve talked to Sound Transit and unless the City or another entity comes to the table with more money we’ll be geting rocks and a chain link fence.

        I’m not advocating no barrier, I am advocating for better design and details than rocks and chain link.

      6. Ben, there is no misunderstanding about landscaping here. Joni made it very clear. All they’ll do is hydro seed and then fence. Your usage of words is continuously insulting and belies your tepid apology. The real issues are that we don’t want a weedy berm fenced and full of garbage running through the middle of the Dome District, or any other district. You have not come up with a decent middle ground and call people not of your exact opinion detractors. Ever considered that you have lost sight of the real issue? You yourself said that post and beam would be the better solution for the future, just that now you don’t give a fck.
        All Tacoma Neighborhood Councils wrote a letter supporting post and beam. Tax and transit hating fringe?

        Post and beam: Movement of people, especially during events
        Conservation of developable land and green gulches
        Conservation of parking
        Visually less dividing
        Allowing developments close up to and underneath post and beam in areas
        Wildlife corridors (as spelled out in comprehensive plan)
        Berm: Cheaper (one to two million?)
        Faster (by how much?)
        Unmaintained and fenced (according to ST)
        Seismic issues
        Utility problems
        Safety issues for large crowds during Dome/Museum events
        Watershed issues
        Loss of taxable land

        Why don’t I believe for one second that you have community in mind?

      7. Who is going to pay to maintain the post-and-beam structure? Who is going to clean up the trash that collects underneath of it and paint over the graffiti? How are they going to keep vagrants and drug dealers from congregating underneath of it. These are issue that other Tacoma residents have brought up about the post-and-beam plan. How do you address those concerns? It seems that neither plan addresses every issue, but you insist that ST should be the one to compromise while you remain steadfast. How is that fair? Don’t forget that ST has to consider not only citizen input, but they also have obligations to the City of Tacoma, the State of Washington, and citizens of Pierce and King counties.

        “Ever considered that you have lost sight of the real issue? ”

        The real issue is getting trains running from Tacoma to the south and finishing the Point Defiance Bypass, the real issue is providing transportation alternatives so people can leave their cars behind. Everything else related to this project is secondary to that, yet everyone would rather argue about how pretty it is.

      8. My post was a direct reply to Ben. He said it would be landscaped, spreading misinformation.
        In order to cross the gulch, the berm will be supported but an up to 20 foot tall wall. Graffity proof? 705 is bridged over next to the gulch as well. All the concerns you address are an issue now. Covering everything with a berm should and can not be the solution for urban issues. Berming against the homeless??
        We are not against the trains running. I don’t know why you are not hearing that.
        Some berming will occur no matter what. We are against a berm cutting the entire neighborhood in half. It appears ST has not designed the area under 705 and over the gulch yet. And there are soil as well as watershed issues, and problems with violating the comprehensive plan. Post and beam there might be cheaper , and since they have yet to do design work for that part, delays would also not be an issue. Hurry seems to be your strongest argument for berming the entire stretch.
        We are not arguing about how pretty it should be, don’t be silly! We are saying it needs to protect the integrity of the neighborhood. And allow movement of people.

      9. Claudia:

        Post and beam: Movement of people, especially during events
        Conservation of developable land and green gulches
        Conservation of parking

        Even if post and beam is chosen the area under the trestle will most likely be fenced off except at street crossings. Parking most likely won’t be allowed.

        Visually less dividing

        Only mildly so, besides there is a huge imposing freeway structure down the middle of the area in question and another a couple of blocks South of the ROW. if anything a berm would act as a bit of a screen.

        Allowing developments close up to and underneath post and beam in areas

        No matter what ST is going to take a ROW at least wide enough for at least two tracks so development won’t be allowed to encroach on that. The ROW will likely be on the order of 80′ even with post and beam. Furthermore there is no way in heck development will be allowed under the trestle.

        Wildlife corridors (as spelled out in comprehensive plan)

        Could be mostly solved with a bridge at the B street ROW.

        Berm: Cheaper (one to two million?)
        Faster (by how much?)
        Unmaintained and fenced (according to ST)

        This would likely be the case for a post and beam trestle as well. I suspect it would be a lot easier to get nice landscaping on the berm and a commitment to maintain it than to switch from a berm to post and beam at this late date.

        Seismic issues

        This is an issue for post and beam as well. In either case proper engineering will mitigate for earthquake hazard.

        Utility problems
        Safety issues for large crowds during Dome/Museum events

        Again it is unlikely pedestrians would be allowed under a trestle other than at the crossings that have already been proposed for the berm.

        Watershed issues
        Loss of taxable land

        This isn’t a lot of land to begin with, I suspect the difference wouldn’t be noticeable to the city of Tacoma.

      10. Even if post and beam is chosen the area under the trestle will most likely be fenced off except at street crossings. Parking most likely won’t be allowed.

        Why? The area under 705 isn’t blocked off. The area under the Seattle Monorail isn’t blocked off and the area under the Viaduct is used for parking.

        I’m having a hard time envisioning what this “post and beam” construction is supposed to look like. On one hand you’ve got something like the monorail or Link down by the airport (except capable of supporting more weight of course) and at the opposite extreme we’ve got something like the Wilburton Trestle (which I don’t believe is blocked off).

      11. Asking why is the best way to look at issues here. Don’t accept hurried and short sided planning. We are all working hard to get this done right – never mind folks chiming in from Suburbia.

      12. Claudia – I can’t accept calling the planning ‘hurried’ for a project that’s been in the works for ten years.

      13. Building more earthen berms after what happened in 2004 just east from there? Berms gave way and had to be shored up and repaired for a few million dollars. Delays, cost overruns and a derailment. I prefer to pay a bit more to do it right once, instead of going in and fixing a mess. Nice to see how much you trust ST thought. Would be endearing if not for your early insults.

    3. Kate, you make some good points and I wish that other people would articulate their ideas as well as you. It seems like a lot of the people in the “post and beam” camp use a lot of rhetoric in their websites and public commentaries, and it’s this rhetoric that turns logically thinking people away from them. Saying the “berm is going to ruin Tacoma” is a lot different than explaining what impact the berm will really have and makes it easy for people to dismiss their arguments. What people on both sides need to realize is that this is an extremely important project, not just for Sounder, but for future expansion of the Cascades service to Portland. Personally I think both solutions are silly, why can’t they just build a double-track arched viaduct like railroads have been building around the world for the last two centuries?

  15. I think that over the ravine there’s a good case to be made for a bridge and restoration of this area. Just because there’s a freeway there doesn’t mean it should be abandon and made worse. The Arboretum is next to a freeway too and look at the billions WSDOT is throwing at the west end of the 520 “Safer Bridge” project. Take a look sometime at what BBTC did with the Colonade in place of what used to be called “The Jungle”.

    South of the ravine the berm might make sense but what’s the big attraction of spending millions of dollars extra to be prepared for double tracks over a few hundred feet of ROW when the vast majority of the route is constricted by shared trackage with freight? There’s only 18 trains a day and since it’s commuter traffic they’re virtually all going to be going the same direction. If you really have a “get it done” attitude then close the gap in missing funds by not spending money now on something that isn’t needed, isn’t planned and certainly isn’t funded. If it’s a dirt berm how much does it cost to come back later and dump more dirt? Remember there would be railroad tracks in place so all you have to do is bring in a side dumping gondola car. Might even be cheaper, certainly cleaner and less disruptive than doing it all now with dump trucks.

    According to ST the reason for not following the original RR grade was because of the desire to elevate the line over Pacific Ave. Great, build a bridge to cross a road but fill in a natural ravine. Why not just dig deeper for the road or, like they do everywhere else put in a bridge for the road. That money could come 100% from gas taxes. Frankly I don’t see why waiting for a few trains to go by is such a big deal. It’s not like they’re mile long freight trains moving a 10mph and it’s not like Pacific is a limited access highway. Put the savings into an intelligent traffic control system.

      1. The ‘B’ street corridor, it’s the tail end of the ravine the Tacoma Rail Mountain Division climbs up to Fredrickson in.

    1. I think the ravine issue is something that needed to be sorted out in 2002 or 2003 if it needed to be sorted out.

      1. If a bad decision was made six years ago then it needs to be changed. It’s not like anyone is asking to change the alignment or put in a monorail;= Just build a bridge; something they’re already doing to cross roads. This is a regional line connecting not only Seattle and Tacoma but Seattle to Portland and beyond. There’s no reason to expect Tacoma to cover all of the cost of making this right.

        I can’t say that “post and beam” conjures up much of an image that is visually appealing. To me this site looks like a natural for an arched bridge. Maybe eliminate and replace the 26th St bridge with one that carries traffic and rail. When rail becomes dominant over automobile travel replace the traffic lanes with the second rail line.

        Maintenance road? Bike path?? I don’t get it. Millions for parallel tracks someday but no money to complete the project with amenities that are useful today. It just seems sometimes like a major goal of ST is to line up future projects.

      2. Bernie… you just created the bike path argument out of thin air.

        If you want an arched bridge, please let me know where the bank account with the additional $20m is.

        WSDOT and Sound Transit have been working together on this project for years. WSDOT wants to add a second track – that’s not a Sound Transit project, but Sound Transit can help with it by building the berm.

        This ‘rail becomes dominant’ argument is ridiculous.

      3. Part of the money, maybe all of the money for an additional bridge could come from reducing the berm to what’s actually required instead of twice as big because as you’re telling us “Sound Transit can help with it by building the berm”. When was the 26th St bridge built? My guess, I wouldn’t know where to find out for sure, is that it’s WWII vintage which means it’s nearing the end of it’s useful life. Perhaps some of the highway money the legislature is looking for excuses to spend could go into a combined rail and road span over the gulch? Do you think a lid over 520 for Medina residents is a better use of State funds? If they’re building a maintenance road I need zero dollars of additional improvements to use in as a bike path. Please tell us why you believe this area with the tracks at the top of a steep berm needs to be fenced off from the public yet you staunchly believe no sort of barrier at all should be installed on MLK where the train runs at grade and people are being hit.

        Tacoma and Lakewood constitute the second largest metro area in the state. This project is at the edge of the downtown core and adjacent to the largest indoor venue in the State. How can you dismiss any sort of investment in the project that would mitigate the impacts of the current design? I guess TOD is really all about who can afford to buy political influence.

      4. You mean, past identifying the type of crossing – a berm? In 2005, or earlier?

      5. The ravine section of the new track has not been designed as of July 2009. The point is that by changing what is done in that area, ST will not loose time or money by redesigning. Isn’t hurry your main argument?

  16. ST put $80 million into Tacoma Link for ST2. I’m not sure where you’re getting that ST refused to do anything.

    And the second track comes with D to M street, unless I’m mistaken.

    What *exactly* are you complaining about?

    Ben, “exactly” what I am complaining about is:

    1. Second track: I hope you are correct about that>

    2. Yes, there was money for Tacoma Link in ST2. That was a political decision after ST decided to end Central Link in Federal Way. The first “version” of ST 2 with Central Link to Tacoma, did not include that money. The Tacoma Link money is essentially “matching” funds for any extension of Tacoma Link in one or more directions. It is NOT available to fix the capacity issues with the current line.

    3. Tacoma Link IS screwed up in that it was built without the ability to accommodate special event crowds. You certainly don’t build a rail system around crowds drawn to special events, but you also certainly don’t build them without any capacity to deal with such crowds. I am certain ST will add trains or cars for Seahawks games or other events in Seattle. They did not design Central Link without that capacity. They did in Tacoma.

    4. It is possible to be a supporter of Sound Transit and still be critical of some of their decisions.

    1. ST didn’t “decide” to end Link in Federal Way. The Pierce County board members requested Sounder service instead of extending Link.

      Tacoma Link was a starter line. There’s nothing wrong with the design. It will handle more people when it’s extended, and can be run more often then. It would not at all be worth it to have built the system with twice the capacity when it can be expanded cheaply.

      Central Link has an order of magnitude more riders than Tacoma Link – in the first week.

    2. I’d also like to add to randall’s #2 that matching funds actually require a match. So not only are they not to be used to fix the existing capacity issues, they require Tacoma to come up with another $80 million just to be able to use the $80 million that Sound Transit is taxing out of us.

      Now, I’d rather us expand it than do work on the existing segment. I’d add to #3 that in addition to not being able to handle event crowds, it doesn’t effectively function as transit because it doesn’t connect to any neighborhoods. Andrew A nailed it — extending the Link into the Stadium District (a historic neighborhood on the edge of downtown) would actually turn it into a commuting option, not only for Tacoma-Seattle commuters but for intra-Tacoma commuters as well. Too bad the Link is light rail instead of a streetcar as that makes it much harder to extend up the hill to Stadium.

      1. “Too bad the Link is light rail instead of a streetcar as that makes it much harder to extend up the hill to Stadium.”

        Uh, what? It is a streetcar, the very same streetcars run in the street all over the world, including Seattle and Portland. And bigger light rail trains also run in the street all over the world. There’s nothing to preclude Tacoma Link from running in the street, other than citizen acceptance of it. The City of Tacoma did have a say in the alignment and design of Tacoma Link, Sound Transit didn’t just plop it down and say “Here you go, this is what you get.” Before it was built everyone was convinced that it was going to ruin Pacific Avenue and that not a soul would use it. If anything the real problem is it’s been too successful. I really hope that Tacoma can get it extended and solve the event capacity problem. It doesn’t seem like it should be a huge problem for the city to work with ST and come up with the matching funds, especially with all the stimulus money flying around, unless the city council is still as inept as they were in the 90’s.

  17. Wow, Ben you have stirred up quite the internal STB and public debate here.

    It is clear how politically sensitive this issue is. As a transit advocate and Downtown Tacoma resident I have conflicted feelings on this debate. Local property owners have been fighting the design of the walled off rail line for quite sometime, it is not like this is their first attempt to derail or reshape the project. I am not going to explain all of my beliefs on this controversial topic here but I will add a few comments to the fray:

    1-Andrew Smith was right in that the Dome district is incredibly ripe for TOD being connected to so much transit. Having Amtrak at freight house square co-located with Sounder will make it even more attractive. It’s also important to point out a new residential building that is a retrofit of the mattress factory has broken ground on the north side of the station. I do think property owners in this area genuinely want to pursue TOD opportunities.
    2-This project will cut off the street grid in 2 or 3 places. Also while the sidewalk may be in disrepair this is a well gridded historic area that is a prime candidate for urban infill and TOD.
    3-major zoning changes for the Dome district were done recently due to slow government process not because Tacoma doesn’t want development there. I’ll also point out that Tacoma’s bold step forward passing the Mixed-Use Centers upzoning plan includes more comprehensive upzoning than Seattle has done in years. Tacoma may be process heavy, but not nearly as process heavy as Seattle.
    4-Randall is right that Tacoma Link ridership has flat lined due to the economy. I would also argue that ridership has not been off the charts because it has yet to reach any compact residential neighborhoods. ST2 has 80 million dollars for Tacoma Link extension. If these funds combined with city, federal, LID, and pierce transit funds were used to fund a Link extension to the Stadium District and Tacoma General I think we would see a HUGE explosion of ridership. The City needs to take the lead on the expansion plans and using the 80 million.
    5-There is no doubt that Sounder extension will be good for Lakewood and South Tacoma commuters who commute to downtown Tacoma and Seattle. I also hope that the South Tacoma Station will open up some TOD opportunities on historic South Tacoma Way (which also just got up zoned). This project will also be great for Amtrak Cascades, without a doubt.
    6-I want to know how long would a post and beam delay the project? Another year?
    7-RR, your cartoons are always great political commentary and very funny, that said your Hitler comments may be a bit over the top. Can you post the Lady of Tacoma cartoon you did a year or so ago? I can’t find it.
    8-which ever side of the fence you sit on with this I do agree with Andrew that Ben’s first post plays directly into the Anti D to M argument of the Dome District folks. Even though we have sub-area equity, people in Pierce County see Sound Transit as building gold plated Seattle light rail (while the state builds gold plated Seattle tunnels). Saying they don’t deserve this because the neighborhood sucks is insulting no matter where you stand on the D to M issue.

    Lastly, for any friends of STB and Seattle Transit activists, I would love to host a Tacoma Land-Use, Transit, and neighborhood tour anytime! I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the progress that has been made and the potential for future success. Plus we have some great local restaurants, cultural amenities, and of course… bars!

    1. It will only cut off traffic at A Street, where there will still be pedestrian and bicycle connections. Also, there’s not much space on the other side of the berm for development anyways, so most potential for development won’t be affected.

    2. Andrew A, your logic is fair and balanced. Here is the obnoxious cartoon you requested:


      [Link deleted: extremely poor taste]

      enjoy. I will pray for all of you.

      1. OK, calling all moderators, if you don’t remove (almost) all of these comments, please at least remove the last one.

        The reason STB is being referenced, quoted and read by policymakers is because of the high standards that have been maintained here – now is time to do a little more maintenance.

    3. Andrew:

      1) If it’s so ripe for TOD, let’s see a plan. Look at Bel-Red, ten years before East Link. Where was this plan when Tacoma Link was under construction?

      2) Where, other than A street?

      3) Ten years later? Seriously?

      4) I agree! It’ll get there.

      6) It’s not a matter of delay – it’s a matter of the huge future cost to add the second track.

      8) People in Pierce County aren’t paying for Seattle light rail.

      1. 1- “Destination Downtown” is the development plan that was created to plan for growth in this the downtown core which included plans for the Dome District. Looking at its location and vicinity to transit the potential is huge.

        2-I need to look at maps again more closely, that said I am sure you have already done that and are right.

        4-Thank you, we’ll need your help to get the traction with the extension plans.

        6- Why do you think the dome district folks haven’t talked about this issue at all? Is ST building one track with the possibility of easily expanding to two?

        8-I know, but it is a matter of perception and your argument playing into that misconception.

  18. The people of Tacoma will be herd! How dare U delete my friendz comments!!!!

    I could carve a better blog administrator out of a banana.

    1. The editors of this blog are free to delete any comments they see fit to. They “own the press” here so to speak. If you don’t like it you are free to take your comments elsewhere or start your own forum.

  19. Ben, I wish you would stop being so defensive. I am a big supporter of ST and want the region to invest a lot more than it has. It makes no sense for you to keep arguing that there is nothing wrong with the design of Tacoma Link. Anyone who rides it often knows there is.

    Tacoma Link has a serious design flaw. Dealing with it, as you demand, “when it is extended” is rather dismissive. Andrew has also noted another flaw with Link is that it doesn’t connect to any residential areas. I agree. That might happen with ST 2 funds, but as others have noted, that money is matching. Tacoma has to come with $80 million of its own to access those funds. How much match is required in any other ST sub area for an ST 2 project?

    If Tacoma Link is extended to the Stadium neighborhood/Tacoma General Hospital area (as is most often talked about), there would be no funds available to fix the flaws in the existing line.

    I am a regular rider of Tacoma Link. It serves its primary purpose of carrying employees to and from their remote parking areas and it serves other street car like duties as well as it can with its flaws. But it does have serious flaws. Just acknowledge it. It is the first step in helping to get it fixed. And scott, I hear your argument that you would rather extend Link than fix the existing problems. I would too, but it is kind of like adding a new room to the house rather than fixing the foundation. And I think we really ought to take care of the foundation first no matter how much we want that new media room.

    1. Extending Link will fix the existing problems. You can’t extend it very far without double-tracking.

      1. I doubt Link will ever go much further in Tacoma than 10th & Commerce. In any of the “way out there” plans I’ve seen Link only goes as far as the Dome Station and the rest of Tacoma is served with streetcars. I think a case can be made on merit for extending Link all the way to the Downtown Tacoma transit hub, but I just don’t see the case being there for taking it further into the city, especially considering the funds available.

        Maybe it makes sense for any further expansion of the current streetcar based Tacoma Link to be built to Central Link standards, but do realize that comes with greatly added costs and may very well make an extension to TCC unfordable.

  20. Only 100 people oppose this?

    Commenters have said that ONLY 100 ppl oppose this. This is not true. At the last public meeting the was about 120 ppl who were able to attend a 2 hour meeting at 9am on a Monday morning that had 7 days notification.

    More importantly it was who was there and who did they represent.

    About half of them represented larger groups: 5-6 Neighborhood Councils, Community Council, Cross District Association, Downtown Merchant’s Group, 6-7 neighborhood business districts, many environmental groups, (Cascade Land Conservancy, Sierra Club & more), another dozen neighborhood and community groups from all over Tacoma.
    All together they represent 1000’s of people.

    As one city council candidate told me, It was the largest gathering of community leadership Tacoma has seen in many years.

    1. It’s just too bad they didn’t get together during the public comment period!

      1. I am trying very hard to see beyond your snideness, but it’s a challenge.

        This conversation has been going on for years.

        A little quote from our mayor circa 2007:

        “How can we as a community say to Sound Transit, ‘Before you screw up our city – which this (commuter rail route) is aimed at screwing up our city big time – what can we do to mitigate that screw-up?’” Baarsma asked rhetorically last week at the council’s Environment and Public Works Committee meeting.

        “I don’t care what kind of a design or dance we do,” Baarsma continued, “… there’s no way (Sound Transit is) going to put in light rail, which would be the preferred mode of transit. There’s no way they’re going to do it.

        “It’s as frustrating as hell,” Baarsma said.

        There’s a lot more background in this piece, which is the source of that quote:

        I’m working on putting together a complete timeline of this project and community reaction, but it’s slow going. (There’s a lot to sift through)

  21. I can’t find any support for your assertion that you’ve known that the berm would be the final solution since 2005, when the Sound Transit board didn’t approve the grade separated option until December 13, 2007.

  22. I wrote a long timeline comment with lots of documentation, which is probably sitting in your spam filter. The gist of it is that the at-grade solution was not definite until December of 2007, public input on design was not sought until September 11, 2008, and community stakeholders have been quite vocal and visible at every meeting since.

    If Sound Transit is behind on their schedule it is not because of anything the community is doing.

    1. Actually the design for the at-grade solution was completed in 2002:

      “The project, including the Tacoma Section, is fully described in the Lakewood-to-Tacoma Commuter Rail and SR 512 Park-and-Ride Expansion Final Environmental Impact Statement, dated May 2002 (Final EIS), and follow-up environmental documentation.”

      The new design with an elevated crossing of Pacific, which was requested by the city, was proposed in December 2007. Most of the delay in this is due to having to redesign it to cross Pacific with a bridge. Whether it’s elevated or not, the alignment is the same, the design West of I-705 is the same, and the berm across the gulch was the same and public outreach for this project has been going on since at least 2000, so people shouldn’t be acting like this was sprung on them at the last minute. Most of the onus should be on the Tacoma City Council for causing the delay, not Sound Transit. The at-grade alignment could have been built 5 or 6 years ago, saved $100 million, and we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. But then I guess people would be griping about having to wait for trains to cross Pacific. You can’t please everybody! :-)

      1. I meant to say the design east of I-705, the part that’s in the Dome District, not west. I’m direction dyslexic.

      2. I meant grade separated and I think you can get that from the context of my comment. I would really love it if an administrator would please approve my long comment from this morning.

      3. Tacomamama,

        I recently approved a comment (I think of yours) that had too many links to be automatically accepted by our spam filter. I’m not showing any other comments awaiting approval, so if it’s not in this thread somewhere it’s not going to be. Did you post in the other Tacoma thread?

        Your comments have been well within the bounds of our comment policy (linked in the sidebar) and would not intentionally be deleted. Thanks for contributing to an intelligent discussion of the issues.

  23. I’ve seen the SEPA addendum before. I don’t see anything in either of those documents that provides the level of specificity necessary for meaningful design critique.

  24. I still don’t know why an overpass for Pacific wasn’t considered. It would be expensive but probably less than the $75M the berm has added. Redmond is building a super whoop overpass diagonally across SR-520 for $40M.

    It seems like for $75M a solution could be found that would greatly improve the S. Tacoma Way and Pacific intersection and do a lot more than save a few people having to stop and wait for the train to go by.

  25. sound transit has not come close to having completed their design for the section from E B street to Pacific.
    so any possibilities are still on the table. jAll without adding delay or additional cost.
    rick semple

  26. I have to say after some further consideration that Sound Transit only has themselves to blame for this mess. I’ve been going to the open houses and meetings for years on this very issue, and as contentious as it is, it needs to be addressed quickly so we can finish the sounder network. Now, back to why i say that ST is to blame for this. It has nothing to do with “not” listening to their constituents, far from it, i think they have done a wonderful job of listening to what people want and trying make a workable solution. It’s all about the perception of the project.

    First off, with names like “berm” and “Post and Beam”, Berm sounds so hideous, much like a levee or some such being built through the south end of downtown. “Post and Beam” sounds so homely, so inviting and warming, when really it’s a damn trestle. People know what the MILW trestle on the eastern approach to Freighthouse Sq is like, they would probably think twice about putting something like that on the other end by downtown. Especially with the homeless shelter nearby, it would become a very attractive nuisance very quickly. They should have never started to use such names, and corrected others when they came up. The “Berm” option is more like a Slope/Fill to raise the grade to cross pacific avenue and continue on. And they should always have addressed the “post and beam” option by its proper and technical name, a trestle.

    Also, Another issue i have mentioned for years is the fact you to go these public meetings, and see all sorts of diagrams, artists renditions, high level plans, and designs all printed and mounted for everyone to see. Yet you go to their website, it’s a blob of text for their projects with little other information. I would have hoped in the last nearly fifteen years of the agency they would have learned to make informative project websites, which are updated regularly and contain all matter of materials for the public perusal. Instead, it’s pathetic. They have tried in recent years such as with Lakewood station but still can’t seem to get over the one or two picture limitation that they seem to have. A picture says 1000 words, and I’ve seen a couple good pictures of the “berm” around (one not even on their website) and wondered why don’t they put this information on their website…

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