Pac Ave drivers prepare for Sounder expansion project

Drivers who travel along Pacific Avenue near South 26th Street and South Tacoma Way should prepare this summer for a...

Drivers who travel along Pacific Avenue near South 26th Street and South Tacoma Way should prepare this summer for a 20-month construction project that will extend Sounder service from Tacoma Dome Station to South Tacoma and Lakewood.

According to Sound Transit Rail Program Manager Eric Beckman, the transit agency will begin to advertise for bids in April. A contract is expected to be awarded in late-June, and ground would be broken in late-July or early-August. From there, construction would run through January 2012, and be split into three stages.

When completed, the $151 million project would re-route South Tacoma Way to meet Pacific Avenue at South 27th Street, close a portion of A Street and South C Street, and create a rail overpass on Pacific Avenue.

The first stage should last five months and focus on re-locating utilities such as stormwater and sewer systems. “During that first four-month segment, A Street will be closed for periods of time, but it won’t be a continuous closure,” said Beckman. This stage will also involve wall and track excavation, and early grading.

The second stage is expected to begin in January 2011 and last for 10 months. During that time, A Street will re-open, but Pacific Avenue near South 26th Street and South Tacoma Way will be closed in order to lower the intersection 15 feet to make way for a bridge that will carry a line from the Dome District to South Tacoma and Lakewood. Beckman said Sound Transit looked at ways to keep Pacific Avenue open during this phase by allowing traffic through one lane at a time, but “it became ghastly.” A slip ramp will be built off South Tacoma Way to keep traffic flow heading east and toward Interstate 5. “Right now we are looking at ways to incentivize this piece of work to even further minimize the amount of time Pacific Avenue is closed,” added Beckman.

Finally, stage three, which will last seven months, calls for the permanent closure of A Street, re-opening of Pacific Avenue, and off-street grid work from Freighthouse Square to Tacoma Avenue. Sound Transit will conduct train and signal system testing beginning in February 2012. It plans to begin Sounder service in summer 2012.

“This is where we believe the schedule is today,” said Beckman last week during a presentation to Tacoma City Council’s Environment and Public Works Committee.

Originally, the plan had called for a $76 million project that would include an at-grade crossing through busy Pacific Avenue. However, Sound Transit and Tacoma City Council moved to raise the tracks over Pacific Avenue, lower a section of Pacific Avenue to accommodate a bridge, and build berms for the rail line — nearly doubling the project to $151 million.

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For earlier Tacoma Daily Index coverage of the Sounder extension project, click on the following links:

One last pitch for alternative rail design through Dome District (07/28/09) —

PHOTOS / Sound Transit Dome District Walking Tour (07/27/09) —

Sound Transit, Dome District stakeholders will discuss D-to-M Street route today (07/27/09) —

Opposition won’t stop Sounder through Dome District (11/28/07) —

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