Sounder commuter rail service to South Tacoma and Lakewood will begin Oct. 8, Sound Transit officials announced Wednesday.
The announcement put a definite end date on a transportation struggle that’s lasted more than 16 years.
“My thought today is, ‘Hallelujah,’” said Claudia Thomas, a longtime Lakewood City Council member who served for 10 years on Sound Transit’s board of directors.
“After all this time, it makes my heart fill up with joy that we are here,” Thomas said. “We had issues along the way, but we dealt with them. This will mean a lot to our city.”
Extending commuter train service to Lakewood has been in Sound Transit’s plans since 1996, when it was one of the projects for which voters in Pierce, King and Snohomish counties increased their taxes.
The transit authority initially promised the 8.5 mile extension by 2001, but delays in planning and trouble acquiring rights-of-way stalled the project. Meanwhile, construction of the $33 million Lakewood station went forward without the trains. The station, a hub for bus as well as train service, opened in September 2008.
“This is all about connectivity,” Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy, chairwoman of the Sound Transit Board of Directors, said Wednesday.
“This opens the door for people from cities in Pierce County to enjoy the whole region,” McCarthy said. “It will bring a new city – Lakewood – into the Sounder family and open commuter rail access to our servicemen and women and Joint Base Lewis-McChord.”
When service to Lakewood begins, Sound Transit will operate five peak-service trains that will start at the Lakewood Station, stop in South Tacoma and then proceed to the Tacoma Dome Station and on to Puyallup, Sumner, Auburn, Kent, Tukwila and Seattle.
The first northbound train will leave Lakewood at 4:42 a.m. The first afternoon train back to Lakewood will leave Seattle’s King Street Station at 4:20 p.m.
Morning and evening trains will leave every 25 minutes.
The most difficult part of the extension, both politically and from an engineering standpoint, was the 1.4 miles of track that extends from Tacoma’s Freighthouse Square to M Street. That section, which cost $162 million, has the steepest grade in the Sounder system and cuts through the heart of Tacoma’s transportation core.
Sound Transit has been running test trains on the Lakewood extension since Aug. 8, calibrating crossing equipment and preparing drivers and pedestrians for dealing with trains at 17 at-grade crossings along the route.
In the 24 days remaining until service starts, Sound Transit will continue testing, including simulated passenger runs in which trains will follow the projected schedule but not pick up passengers.
To celebrate the start of service, Sound Transit is planning public ribbon-cutting events Oct. 6 at the Lakewood, South Tacoma and Tacoma Dome stations.
Free rides on Sounder trains will be offered to the public, along with other activities, Sound Transit spokeswoman Kimberly Reason, said.
The Sounder Lakewood connection
Frequency: Five round-trips daily, Monday through Friday.
Morning departure times from Lakewood: Every 25 minutes between 4:42 a.m. and 6:37 a.m.
Evening arrivals in Lakewood: 5:32 p.m.-7:26 p.m.
Adult fare from Lakewood to Seattle: $5.25.
Adult fare from South Tacoma to Seattle: $5.
Game Day trains: There will be additional connections to certain Seattle Seahawks, Mariners, Sounders and University of Washington Huskies games.Source: Pierce Transit