Planning process launched for Tacoma Dome light rail extension

Puyallup Tribe Councilmember Annette Bryan expresses excitement for the light rail extension to Tacoma and the new jobs it will create for tribal members. With her (from left) are Fife Mayor Kim Roscoe, Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff, Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards and Federal Way Mayor Jim Ferrell.

On Monday, April 16, at the transit plaza on East 25th Street across from the Tacoma Sounder station under a torrent of rain, Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff, along with the mayors of Tacoma, Federal Way and Fife and Puyallup Tribe Councilmember Annette Bryan, made official statements signifying the start of planning efforts that will eventually lead to completion of the Tacoma Dome Link Extension light rail project in 2030.

By 2030, 9.7 miles of new light rail track will extend from Federal Way to Tacoma Dome station. The project will include the build-out of four new light rail stations: South Federal Way, Fife, East Tacoma, and Tacoma Dome. Rogoff said the average daily ridership on the new line will be upwards of 37,000 by the year 2040.

Rogoff reflected on how the new station would be transformational for thousands living in Pierce County, both in terms of economy and mobility. A trip on link light rail, for example, from Tacoma Dome Station to Sea-Tac Airport will take a mere 35 minutes.

“This will be a generational change for the region,” said Rogoff, while admitting that some may argue it will take a generation to build the extension.

He said the long period of time it will take for completion is due to necessary time for careful planning and deliberation with constituents and partner agencies, as well as the time constraints to do the physical construction. For example, much of the work will have to be done ideally during late night hours, during non-peak traffic.

Rogoff also said Sound Transit will be focused on ensuring there are multiple opportunities for public engagement and that partnerships with multiple agencies are leaned on to inform the planning process.

“We’re changing the way we do business as we plan for projects,” Rogoff said.

One partner agency that is very important to the process is the Puyallup Tribe of Indians. Annette Bryan, Puyallup Tribe councilmember, remarked how the Tribe is the only tribe in the U.S. whose reservation is home to a multi-modal transit station. She said the Tribe is looking forward to collaborating with Sound Transit to develop a link light rail system that respects the Puyallup Tribe’s fish, land and people, and ensures the sustainability of its natural resources. For example, Councilmember Bryan said the link rail will cross over the Puyallup River, which is a significant resource for the Tribe.

In terms of economic impacts that a link light rail will have on the Tribe, Councilmember Bryan said the new line will be a real jobs creator. Already, the Tribe is the sixth largest employer in Pierce County.

“This station will provide new jobs to tribal members,” Councilmember Bryan said. “Hundreds of tribal members are ready to work on this project.”

Finally, Councilmember Bryan said the Tribe plans to consider the link light rail extension and its impacts as it plans the ongoing expansion of its entertainment properties.

Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards, in her remarks, said the arrival of link light rail to Tacoma could be part of the solution to improving affordability to city residents. No longer, she said, will residents have to commute long distances for work and waste time and money on congested roadways. Woodards said link light rail will also attract new employers to the area, providing living-wage jobs to individuals who need it most. She urged all Tacoma residents to be involved in the planning process by attending open houses or commenting online.

The first two open houses were held Tuesday at the Best Western Plus Tacoma Dome Hotel and Wednesday in Federal Way at Todd Beamer High School, respectively. A third will be held from 6-8 p.m. Tuesday, April 24 at Fife Community Center, 2111 54th Avenue East. Those who cannot attend may comment online at tdlink.participate.online.

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