The expansion of the Tacoma Link lightrail system from its current terminus in the Theater District loop up to Martin Luther King Jr. Way is entering its final design phase.
The current Link route started in 2003 and runs 1.6 miles from the Tacoma Dome Station to the Theater District Station near the corner of Commerce and Ninth streets. The planned expansion will add 2.4 miles and include seven new stations between the Theater District and Hilltop, five new vehicles, and an expansion of the existing Operations and Maintenance facility on East 25th Street. The project currently is at the 60-percent design stage, with construction scheduled to begin in 2018.
The prject team is now focusing on station designs, signs, art and color schemes as well as station names, which people can comment on through an online survey through the end of the month after also providing their thoughts at a recent open house. The station names must be be brief and not include commerical names since businesses around a station could change over time.
Suggestions for station naming include swapping the Theater District name to the 11th and Commerce station since the current theater station will be relocated by about a block. That station could be renamed Old City Hall or Spanish Steps, to better articulate its location. Other stations could be named Wright Park or Stadium District as the light rail heads uphill to MLK, which will have four stops. They will be located at MLK and South 3rd, MLK and South Sixth, MLK and South 11 before ending at MLK and South 19th. Station will be in the center of the street rather than on the sides of the streets to preserve parking in the area, averagingbout eight parking spaces per station.
The next milestone will come in July, when the Sound Transit Board will have updated cost estimates and a more detailed construction schedule. Final design is expected this summer as well.
One issue yet to be resolved fully is how the system will be funded. City of Tacoma has allocated $40 million for the project, of which about $33 million is secured grants and other sources. Sound Transit has allocated $50 million from the voter-approved measure in 2008 and is set to receive $75 million in federal grants that were authorized under former President Barrack Obama’s administration. President Donald Trump, however, has put some of those grants at risk since the grants were authorized but not appropriated. Trump’s budget proposals would cut the Federal Transit Administration’s grant program. The extension is projected to cost $175 million.
Sound Transit officials are working with the state’s Congressional delegation to keep those grants in the federal budget.
While construction of the Hilltop expansion moves forward, the third extension starts its design process after voters approved South Transit 3, which included an extension of 3.5 miles from Hilltop to the Tacoma Community College campus at a cost of about $478 million. But that extension isn’t slated until 2041.
The survey about station names can be found at soundtransit.org/tacomalinkexpansion.