The envelope, please.
After studying possible extensions to the Tacoma Link light rail system since 2004, Sound Transit says it’s now just two months away from selecting a preferred route.
“The goal is to identify a preferred corridor to present to the Sound Transit Board as early as April,” Sound Transit spokeswoman Kimberly Reason said Friday.
The current two-year round of studies and public meetings narrowed a field of 24 possible routes down to six favorites unveiled in December.
Since then, Sound Transit has assembled further analysis and comparisons, coming up with a list of pros and cons for each of the possibilities.
At a pair of public meetings this week, Tacoma residents once again will have a chance to weigh in on the choices, this time with more hard data to go by.
“Participants will be asked to weigh evaluation criteria and provide feedback on each alternative based on these advantages and disadvantages,” Reason said.
The first public meeting will take place from 4-7 p.m. Tuesday at Sound Transit’s Tacoma Dome Station Plaza, 424 E. 25th St.
The second meeting will take place at the same time the following day, Wednesday, at the University of Washington Tacoma’s William Philip Hall Conference Center, 1918 Pacific Ave.
The six alternatives now have estimated price tags, which range from $119 million to $292 million.
The lowest-cost alternative is a 2.3-mile extension that heads east from the current Tacoma Link terminus on 25th Street, then south on Portland Avenue to Salishan.
The most expensive is a 5.4-mile route that also begins at 25th Street and heads south on Portland. It heads west on 38th Street, short of Salishan, then zigzags its way to the Tacoma Mall on Thompson Avenue and 48th Street.
The detailed analysis of the six alternatives was accomplished in part to satisfy requirements for a federal grant, Reason said.
Sound Transit intends to compete for a “Small Starts” grant from the Federal Transit Administration to pay for a portion of the cost of the extension. To qualify, grant requests need to be less than $75 million and total project costs must be under $250 million.
For rough planning purposes, Sound Transit used an average cost of $150 million, with $50 million coming from the federal grant, $50 million from local Sound Transit taxes, and $50 million from as yet unspecified “partners.”
Voters in 2008 approved an expansion of Tacoma Link as part of the Sound Transit 2 ballot measure. The stated purpose of the expansion was to improve mobility and access to the regional transit system by connecting the existing Tacoma Link system with the city’s major employment, residential and activity centers.
Sound Transit, in partnership with a variety of others, conducted six studies between 2004 and 2008 that evaluated the feasibility of potential extensions of the Tacoma Link system.
From July 2010 through January 2011, Sound Transit, the City of Tacoma and Pierce Transit assembled a group of community stakeholders, including neighborhood and business leaders, to begin looking at possible routes and station locations to expand the system.
Tacoma Link currently travels 1.6 miles through downtown Tacoma, making five stops along the way. Link trains run every 12-24 minutes, depending on the time of day. The light rail system opened in 2003 and cost approximately $77 million.
Citizens unable to attend this week’s open houses can complete an online survey through Feb. 28 at https://www.surveygizmo.com/s3/1152431/Tacoma-Link-Expansion-Survey-February2013.
Rob Carson: 253-597-8693