New Link light rail stations open Thursday

After a two-month delay, the new Link light rail stations near South 11th Street and Commerce Street will open on Thursday, according to City of Tacoma officials.

“In late June, the Public Works Department provided an update on the construction of the new Link stop along Commerce Street,” noted Public Works Director Dick McKinley in a Sept. 1 memo to interim City Manager Rey Arellano. “The update indicated that the station would be completed and opened in mid-August. Unfortunately, the opening of the station has been delayed until September 15, 2011. While the station will be operational on September 15th, some additional work will be needed to complete the station. Final completion is scheduled for October 31, 2011.”

In June, city officials noted construction would be completed by the end of June with operations beginning in July. That deadline was pushed back to this week, however, due to a variety of factors:

— Continued delays in obtaining new electronic equipment that connects the Link signal system with the City of Tacoma’s, according to McKinley. To meet the opening of September 15, Sound Transit has agreed to loan the City electronic equipment that connects the Link’s signal system with the City’s signal system;

— The coordination and timing of the equipment involved in three separate signal systems managed by Pierce Transit, Sound Transit, and the City of Tacoma, according to McKinley;

— The decorative lighting and signage systems that meet Sound Transit’s requirements is taking longer to deliver than anticipated, according to McKinley. To address this issue, temporary signs and lighting will be used to allow the station to open on September 15.

Currently, there are no stops between South Ninth Street and South 15th Street. Adding stations northbound and southbound, however, will increase the amount of time it takes for Link to travel between Tacoma Dome Station and Theater District Station from 10 minutes to 12 minutes.

The $350,000 project includes 40-foot-long, seven-feet wide platforms, security cameras, and shelter for waiting passengers.

Several downtown stakeholders have pushed for a long time for the City and Sound Transit to add another station along the 1.6-mile line. Tacoma Link began service in August 2003 and currently serves five stops between Tacoma Dome Station and the Theatre District. Last year, the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber wrote a letter to councilmembers urging them to build the new stations. “This stop is extremely important to nearby office building tenants and to the overall objective of achieving and maintaining density in the core of the downtown,” wrote Chamber officials in the letter. “It is a project . . . that has merit in our strategies for development and the convenience and availability of transportation options.”

On Sept. 14, 2010, Tacoma City Council approved a resolution that directed the City of Tacoma to collaborate with Sound Transit to finalize a proposal and seek approval from the Sound Transit Board, and to move forward to secure funds for the project once the design is completed and approved. On Sept. 23, 2010, the Sound Transit Board of Directors directed staff to negotiate a term sheet with the City to build the new stations. On April 21, nighttime construction of the stations began.

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For earlier Tacoma Daily Index coverage of the new Link light rail station, click on the following links:

New Link station artwork honors Tacoma’s rail history (09/01/11) —

Downtown Tacoma’s new link light rail stations could open in July (06/16/11) —

Artists sought for new downtown Tacoma Link light rail station (02/22/11) —

Sound Transit board approves new downtown Link station proposal (09/27/10) —

City Council approves plan for Link light rail station (09/20/10) —

Plan adds new downtown Link light rail stop by next spring (08/31/10) —

City Hall presentation Tuesday on new downtown Tacoma Link light rail stop (08/30/10) —

City envisions Link light rail station near 11th Street (01/08/10) —