For the next four weeks, Sound Transit will be taking public comments on the Tacoma Dome Link Extension, which will bring actual high-capacity light rail service to Tacoma via Federal Way in 2030. Comments will be accepted via an online survey or at one of three public open houses in Tacoma, Fife and Federal Way.
Like the West Seattle/Ballard online open house earlier this year, the public is able to add comments directly onto a map of the representative alignment and vote them up/down. This time around, however, the project is a bit simpler in design: a largely elevated alignment along the southbound lanes of I-5 between Federal Way Transit Center and Tacoma Dome Station. The extension would have intermediate stops in South Federal Way, Fife, and East Tacoma, all with park-and-ride facilities. The only real hurdles facing the project is the crossing of the Puyallup River and integrating with the already cramped quarters of Tacoma Dome Station, as well as cooperating with whatever WSDOT is planning for the Puget Sound Gateway interchange in eastern Fife.
Some of the early comments have expressed a desire to move the alignment from I-5 to SR 99, in a case of déjà vu for transit watchers. Unlike the previous debate over Federal Way Link, this stretch of I-5 follows SR 99 quite closely and would be able to weave its way to and from SR 99 without much added length. Other comments highlight the difficulty in crossing the Puyallup River, which has one bridge with a mediocre sidewalk and several freeway and rail bridges with no such facility. They cite Portland’s transit-and-pedestrian/bike Tillikum Crossing bridge as an inspiration, and unlike calls to integrate the Ballard crossing, it would be fairly feasible at a low clearance of around 40 feet (similar to the I-5 bridges built in 1962 and 2017). Another good idea comes in the form of an extension past Tacoma Dome Station to the Brewery District, which is being targeted for redevelopment and is not served by Tacoma Link.
Sound Transit expects to present Level 1 concepts in June of this year, followed by Level 2 alternatives in November and the selection of a preferred alternative in mid-2019. During the alternatives screening process, various meetings will be held by the Sound Transit Board, an elected leadership group, a stakeholder advisory group, interagency groups, and representatives from local Salish tribes and city councils. Further environmental review is expected to last until 2022 and construction is scheduled to begin 2025, a whopping nine years after ST3 was passed (and a year after Federal Way Link should open).
Public comment is open online until May 3. The three open houses are listed below:
Tacoma: Tuesday, April 17, 6-8 p.m. at Best Western Plus Tacoma Dome Hotel, 2611 E. E Street (just uphill from Tacoma Dome Station)
Federal Way: Wednesday, April 18, 6-8 p.m. at Todd Beamer High School, 35999 16th Ave. S. (use Pierce Transit Route 402)
Fife: Tuesday, April 24, 6-8 p.m. at Fife Community Center, 2111 54th Ave. East (use Pierce Transit Route 501)