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Hilltop street car’s 2.4 mile route extension breaks ground Monday

A Tacoma Link light rail vehicle stops at the current downtown terminus on Pacific Avenue, a couple blocks from Old City Hall. A planned extension would route the system through the Stadium District, then up Division Street into the Hilltop. Photo taken in Tacoma on Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017.
A Tacoma Link light rail vehicle stops at the current downtown terminus on Pacific Avenue, a couple blocks from Old City Hall. A planned extension would route the system through the Stadium District, then up Division Street into the Hilltop. Photo taken in Tacoma on Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017. drew.perine@thenewstribune.com

Link — Tacoma’s street car system — opened its 1.6 mile long line in 2003. Since then, it hasn’t grown one foot.

That changes on Monday when officials in dress shoes and construction workers in boots both break ground on a 2.4 mile-long extension.

Hilltop Tacoma Link will open in 2022 if construction proceeds on schedule, according to Sound Transit.

Officials will gather at noon in People’s Park, 900 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, for speeches and a ceremonial ground breaking.

Meanwhile, crews will begin replacing underground utilities along Stadium Way.

The construction means that the southbound lane of Stadium Way and the adjacent bike lane will close to traffic just north of Division Avenue to just north of South 4th Street.

The northbound lane on Stadium Way will remain open.

Drivers can expect traffic delays. Signs will indicate alternate routes during the closure.

The Stadium Way work is expected to last through December 28.

Work has already begun to expand Sound Transit’s street car operations-and-maintenance facility on East 25th Street near Freighthouse Square.

The New Route

The extension will remove the current end-of-the-line station in the Theater District.

The new route will continue from its current terminus on Commerce Street and follow Stadium Way uphill.

The route will follow the turn at Stadium High School onto North 1st Street and then onto Division Ave.

Finally, it will turn on to Martin Luther King Jr. Way and travel on that street to Saint Joseph Hospital near South 19th Street.

Seven new stations will be added:

  • Old City Hall, Commerce Street at South 7th Street.

  • South 4th Street, at South Stadium Way.

  • Stadium District, North 1st Street at North Tacoma Avenue.

  • Tacoma General, Martin Luther King Jr. Way at Tacoma General Hospital.

  • 6th Avenue, at Martin Luther King Jr. Way.

  • Hilltop District, Martin Luther King Jr. Way at South 11th Street.

  • Saint Joseph, Martin Luther King Jr. Way at South 18th Street.

The Seattle-centric Central Link system should reach the southern end of the Tacoma Link system at the Tacoma Dome Station in 2030, according to Sound Transit’s time line.

A further extension of Tacoma Link is planned to open in 2039. It will reach Tacoma Community College.

For more information on the Hilltop Tacoma Link extension see: soundtransit.org/htlink

Craig Sailor has worked for The News Tribune for 20 years as a reporter, editor and photographer. He previously worked at The Olympian and at other newspapers in Nevada and California.
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