Final track section welded into place for Link light rail

Springtime drizzle couldn’t prevent sparks from flying Monday, as construction workers welded into place the final section of rail for Sound Transit’s 1.6-mile Tacoma Link Light Rail line.

Sound Transit officials and workers gathered in and around a tent set up at the intersection of Pacific Avenue and 17th Street to witness the milestone in Link construction.

“The days of driving a ‘Golden Spike’ are history, but this is historic nonetheless,” said Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg, who also serves as Sound Transit Board Vice Chair.

Ladenburg pointed out the historic location of the day’s ceremony celebrating the final track of Link light rail.

“This is where rail first came to Tacoma in 1873,” he explained.

Officials of the Northern Pacific Railroad designated Tacoma as the company’s western terminus in September 1873, with the building of the terminus at the end of Commencement Bay.

Taking note of the day’s precipitation, Ladenburg quipped, “I’m going to promise you good weather when you ride in September.”

Tacoma Link Light rail service is set to start in fall 2003.

“Tacoma Link is an important piece of the Sound Transit network,” said Tacoma City Councilman Kevin Phelps, who is also a member of the Sound Transit Board.

He added: “Not only is this the first new light rail line in Western Washington in more than 60 years, but riders will be able to board Tacoma Link in downtown and connect at Tacoma Dome Station with ST Express regional bus service, Sounder commuter rail, local Pierce Transit bus service along with Greyhound and nearby Amtrack.”

Construction on Tacoma Link began in spring 2001. The first section of rail was placed on Dec. 11, 2001.

In 1996, voters approved funding for Sound Transit to provide regional system of transit improvements.

In addition to Link light rail, those improvements include Sounder commuter rail, ST Express regional bus service and numerous capital improvements – including park-and-ride lots, transit centers and direct access ramps.

Workers finalize the last weld connecting all the track for Sound Transit’s 1.6-mile Tacoma Link Light Rail. Service is set to begin in September. (Photo by Brett Davis)