Tacoma, Sound Transit plan transportation future

Representatives from Sound Transit visited Tacoma Wednesday evening to share ideas and solicit input from Pierce County residents regarding the second phase of its long-range transportation planning. The event was part of an aggressive effort by the agency to work with public officials and private residents in various parts of the Puget Sound region to promote discussion that will shape goals and objectives impacting transportation improvements.

““Pierce County is expected to add 10,000 people each year, which presents a greater challenge for solving our transportation needs,”” said Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg, who also chairs the Sound Transit Board.

The board approved a revised long-range plan — named Sound Transit 2 — July 7 that builds upon the existing transit system while establishing priorities for the next set of investments in regional transportation. Those priorities include extending light rail and commuter rail lines; adding more express bus transit facilities and centers, or adding new routes; increasing hours of operation for all services; and determining the best technologies for the next phase.

In Tacoma, second-phase project ideas include adding a double track section for the Sounder that runs from Tacoma Dome Station to Reservation Junction; improvements to the Sounder track that would increase train speeds in the corridor between Tacoma and Seattle; Tacoma Dome Station modifications in relation to Link light rail; adding service on the Federal Way / Bellevue Route 565 to include Tacoma; and new Link Light Rail service that would extend from Tacoma Dome Station to Federal Way.

Arguably, the two biggest concerns surrounding Sound Transit operations are increased Sounder service, and extending the Link light rail from downtown through other parts of the city. The train has been credited with contributing to Tacoma’’s revitalization, and many people would like to see it extended to Tacoma Community College, Federal Way, and Lakewood.

“”Link Light Rail has absolutely blown away our expectations,”” said Tacoma City Councilmember Julie Anderson, who also serves on the Sound Transit Board. ““Sound Transit has played a big role in the revitalization of our downtown.””

Still, there was some concern over current ST operations.

Sumner Mayor Barbara Skinner complained about parking at the Sounder station in her city. “”All we can see is gloom and doom as far as parking goes,”” she said. Mayor Skinner said that many Sumner residents warned Sound Transit that the park-and-ride lot would not be large enough to accommodate the passengers. “”The park-and-ride lot has been full since the station opened,”” she added. The mayor wants to see a park-and-ride station located to the south, between Sumner and Orting.

Tacoma resident Roche Scheuerman commented that focusing Tacoma’s transportation hub downtown was a mistake. “”Downtown is not the hub of Tacoma,”” said Scheuerman. “”Tacoma Mall is the hub. Focusing projects and people downtown is a waste of time.””

The event, which was held at the Washington State History Museum, followed a July 13 meeting with Sound Transit and the Tacoma City Council Environment and Public Works committee. At that meeting, Councilmember Anderson encouraged Sound Transit to host an open house and public meeting to discuss transportation issues in Pierce County.

The agency will continue to meet with regional jurisdictions to develop its second-phase planning with input from the public, local cities and counties, elected officials, civic groups, planning groups, and transit partners. Sound Transit hopes to draft a final project list and present a transportation package to its board next spring. If the package is approved by the board, a ballot measure to fund the plan would go to voters in November of next year.