The selection of a “preferred option” and an alternative route for the expanded Link light rail line in Tacoma has gotten bit easier with the roster of six all but being officially cut down to three routes set for a vote this spring.
Tacoma City Council was briefed on the options at a study session this afternoon.
A top choice and a fallback route are expected to face a Sound Transit Commission vote this spring after transit officials do further research of each of the six routes under initial consideration.
The options have been studied for the last two years and once included 24 routes or variations. The routes on the short list are:
* B1 that is a route along Stadium Way and Division Street to 6th Avenue and ending at Union Avenue. The 2.9-mile route along 6th Avenue is projected to cost $163 million.
* Another option would be C1 that would expand the current line from the Dome District to 48th and Portland Avenue at a cost of $119 million to run 2.3 miles.
* The last “top option” so far is E1 and runs along Stadium and Division before running to 19th Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Way at a cost of $133 million to go 2.3 miles.
Routes to Fife, the Tacoma Mall and a downtown loops are still under review, but the top options are ranking highest in the research so far in terms of economic development potential, ridership, grant funding options and impacts to disadvantaged communities.
Once a top choice is selected in April, the funding dance begins. Sound Transit has projected about $150 million in funding for the route expansion, with about $50 million coming from the regional transportation agency, $50 million through federal grants and the remainder coming from partnerships and other sources, including options for a Local Improvement District and private investments that could include talks with the Puyallup Tribe to contribute to the route heading into Fife if that route makes the cut this spring.
The current 1.6-mile light rail line serves six stations from the Theater District to the Tacoma Dome Station, with trains running every 12 minutes during the day. The 10-year-old service cost $77 million to construct. It served a million riders last year and marks its 10th anniversary this summer. Voters in 2008 approved an expansion of Tacoma Link as part of the Sound Transit 2 ballot measure. Routes have been talked about ever since, with formal study starting in 2010.