Tuesday, June 27, 2017 This Week's Paper

City Council Primes For MLK Routing Endorsement

// Members split over which route is best

Tacoma City Council members are preparing to endorse a Link light rail expansion plan that would run tracks along the “Medical Mile” of Martin Luther King Jr. Way.

The routing endorsement was a matter of discussion at a council study session on April 23 in preparation for a formal vote on April 30. The endorsement will then be added to the final routing discussion by the Sound Transit Board, which is set to vote in May.

The study session marked the first time several council members had publicly declared their support for particular routes. The MLK route gained the most support followed by the Portland Avenue option and a hybrid route that would reach from the Theater District to MLK on one side of the extension and to Portland Avenue and 25th Street from the Tacoma Dome station on the other.

Mayor Marilyn Strickland and Councilmembers Victoria Woodard, Lauren Walker, Anders Ibsen, Robert Thoms and Ryan Mello endorsed the MLK route.

Councilmembers David Boe, Marty Campbell and Joe Lonergan endorsed the route that would run to Portland Avenue and East 44th Street or its hybrid connection that would run to Portland Avenue and East 25th Street.

The main difference between the route camps is the projected economic development potential of the routes. MLK backers saw the Hilltop neighborhood as being prime for development that would be brought faster and bigger with the rail line running through it. Portland route backers say their route would potentially provide huge economic development because of its large collection of vacant land that is already zoned for commercial use and is complete with quick Interstate 5 access. Both routes serve minority and disadvantaged residents, a key factor in the Link routing decision that will soon go to the Sound Transit board for a final vote.

A stakeholders group of business and civil leaders, including the Puyallup Tribe, endorsed the route that was a second choice for many council members. The least expensive of the hybrid routes would be to MLK and 6th Avenue at $130 million, followed by MLK and South 11th Street at $160 million or all the way to South 19th Street for $171 million with the route to Portland Avenue and East 25th Street staying the same. The Portland Avenue route to East 44th Street would cost $119 million. Running rail from the Theater District Station to MLK would cost $133 million. The target budget for an expansion route is $150 million that would include $50 million in Sound Transit dollars, $50 million in federal grants and $50 million in “local partnership” funding.

Next Stops in Link Routing:

Tacoma City Council will likely formally endorse the MLK route on April 30.

Sound Transit's Capital Committee will review the routes on May 9.

The Sound Transit Board of Directors could make a decision or take other action on May 23.