Another milestone in Tacoma Link construction

With the delivery and placement of a power substation yesterday afternoon, the Tacoma Link light rail system was another step closer to reality.

Sound Transit officials and construction crews were on site at South 25th Street adjacent to the Interstate 705 overpass for the delicate operation, which involved a 105-foot crane hoisting the 70,000-pound substation into the air and easing it into position.

The substation building will house two independent power units supplying direct current for the light rail vehicles.

Each unit will supply 300,000 watts of power.

The massive substation – 12 feet high, 53.6 feet long and 13.6 feet in width – arrived from manufacturer Impulse NC in Mount Olive, N.C. via a semi-trailer truck.

Although successfully installed, the day was not without its trials for construction workers.

Scheduled to arrive from North Carolina and to be put into position some time after 9 a.m., the substation was delayed in arriving due to construction in central Washington..

Installation was then scheduled for early afternoon.

Placement was further delayed by an equipment problem with the crane – requiring a part from Kent.

In the end, however, everything was taken care of and the substation was installed.

A ceremonial rail-laying ceremony was held at the same location in December.

The $80.4 million, 1.6-mile Tacoma Link light rail project, which has been under construction since last year, is one part of a regional transportation plan with Tacoma at its center.

Along with the link light rail system, Sound Transit regional ST Express buses (as well as local Pierce Transit buses) and Sounder commuter trains will make their first connection in Tacoma, including the free Downtown Connector bus service between the Tacoma Dome Station and downtown.

Bus and commuter train services have been operating since September 2000, with expanded service planned over the next few years.

Tacoma Link light rail is scheduled to begin service in 2003, providing free rides from the Tacoma Dome Station into downtown for a projected 2,000 passengers per day by 2010.

The light rail line will give Tacoma residents and visitors a new way to come to downtown, which is meant to help businesses.

In 1996 voters approved a plan and funding for Sound Transit to provide a regional system of transit improvements, including Sounder commuter rail, ST Express regional bus service, numerous capital improvements (including park-and-ride lots, transit centers and direct access ramps) and Link light rail.

Cost of the substation is $517,201.

Workers prepare the Link's substation before a giant crane hoists it from the semi-trailer truck and positions it in place. (Photo by Brett Davis)