Placement ceremony heralds Tacoma Link rail project

Yesterday’s ceremonial rail-laying for Tacoma’s Link project was another step in what officials hope will be part of a regional transportation system that also includes express buses and commuter trains.
Held underneath the Interstate 705 overpass between Puyallup Avenue and South 25th Street, the event gave local and state officials a chance to have their say about Sound Transit’s $80.4 million, 1.6-mile Link project.
“We’re going to have the first light rail system in the state,” Pierce County Executive and Sound Transit board member John Ladenburg said, adding citizens will have options not found in other parts of Washington.
“I’m thrilled to just be a small part of it in the last few months,” he noted.
The Tacoma Link light rail project, which has been under construction for months, is just one part of a regional transportation plan with Tacoma at its center.
Along with the link light rail system, Sound Transit’s 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 good news for area businesses.
“Construction is always more fun than deconstruction,” said Phyllis Harrison, president of the Downtown Merchants Group, a coalition of about 200 businesses.
“This is about people,” she stated, saying the light rail line will help businesses and the community in general.
“This is a good day for Sound Transit and a great day for Tacoma,” Dome District Development Group President Keith Stone said.
“We’ve come up with something so wonderful for all of us,” he added, dismissing concerns that some have expressed about the light rail system.
Some of those concerns include Sound Transit reaching an agreement with Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway for permission to cross its downtown Tacoma track and Tim Eyman’s proposed Initiative 776, which would repeal Sound Transit’s voter-approved sales tax funding.
Stone said those who have doubts about the light rail system have never had to try and park in Tacoma’s often congested downtown area, and that light rail will make it easier for people to come and go without having to worry about parking.
“I believe Sound Transit is now positioned for success. I don’t believe regionalism is dead, because it can’t be dead,” Sound Transit Board Chair Dave Earling said. “We are a region, and we must solve our problems as a region.”