The Tacoma Dome Link Extension (TDLE) delivers rail from Federal Way to the Tacoma Dome, not to be confused with the “Tacoma Link” streetcar running today. It will offer a 35 minute ride from the Tacoma Dome to Seatac in 2030, compared to 37 to 74 minutes, less frequently and reliably, scheduled on ST 574 in 2020.
Last week’s board meeting provided a progress update (video, at the 2:00:00 mark). The last glimpse was a July 2019 motion to reduce the options under consideration. As the Draft EIS grinds on, ST has revised and refined these options.
The track is all elevated  except for a few sections along I-5. While track alignments are often what cities care about, because of “impacts,” I’ll focus on the station locations, as that’s what will affect riders most. Moving south from the Federal Way TC:
The track finds its way back to I-5 before reaching South Federal Way. The preferred alignment comes a block off the freeway and has a station just north of S 352nd St. A minor variant straddles the street instead, which would, of course, ease access for pedestrians from all directions. The area is currently a sea of big box parking, and to honor that heritage ST will provide 500 parking spaces on site.
An alternative alignment stays on I-5 and has a station slightly further south on the current site of Jet Chevrolet .
Then it’s back on I-5 to Fife. No decisions here; it will definitely be off both I-5 and SR-99, and indeed 15th St, in a spot currently occupied by small motels, a handful of single-family homes, and trucking yards. Once again, ST will provide 500 parking spaces. At least the land is cheap — and one would hope, upzonable. Not a bad spot for Fife to get a downtown!
They’re looking at both SR99 and I-5 to get to Portland Avenue, the other Emerald Queen Casino stop. There’s no way to describe this as anything but light industrial, unfortunately hemmed in by the Sounder tracks, the freeway, another set of tracks, and the Puyallup River. At least there’s no parking planned there!
The alternative that spans Portland Ave is clearly better here, as the only hope to get any riders is a great bus transfer for people heading south on Portland Ave. But hey, it’s a rail transit station on an Indian Reservation, which might make it and Fife unique in the world.
Roughly 1km west, we arrive at the Tacoma Dome. There are four options here: one directly over the Tacoma Link terminus (preferred), one built directly over Freighthouse Square (!), another further east, and one that straddles D St to the West.
The last one would bring it a bit closer to Pacific Avenue BRT, but probably not enough to make a difference. It also distances it from Tacoma Link, Sounder, Amtrak, and Greyhound, and pulls it closer to I-5, I-705, and the Tacoma Dome parking desert.
In what is becoming a theme with ST3, future riders would be best off if they just stuck with the preferred alternative, except where a minor tweak would allow riders to enter from either side of the street. There is nothing vaguely approaching density or a pedestrian-oriented landscape at any of these sites, but then neither are they fertile ground for NIMBYs. It will certainly be a test of what urban planners can deliver on greenfields that have transit infrastructure, but nothing else broadly recognized as an ingredient of a vibrant neighborhood.
 Elevated track might come in handy in Fife if the sea comes in a few decades. I hope those pylons don’t corrode easily.
 This would also put it about 1000 feet from Wild Waves, if the park could be persuaded to put another entrance on the opposite end from the parking lot.