Politics & Government

Tacoma council to mull moving Link’s Theater District station

The Tacoma City Council will decide Tuesday whether a future Link light rail extension should include the relocation of the existing system’s Theater District stop to a new location near Old City Hall.

The council is debating the move as part of its selection of preferred stops for the proposed light rail expansion through Tacoma’s Stadium District and Hilltop.

The proposed route begins where the current light rail track ends, north of Ninth and Commerce streets. The City Council will decide whether to lend its support for keeping the stop there, or moving it 400 feet to the north near Old City Hall when the expansion happens.

“If you move the stop 400 feet, it’s a little more centrally located, and that might spur some development in that area. But it’s going to cost,” said Kurtis Kingsolver, public works director for Tacoma.

Earlier this year the City Council recommended Link’s route through the Hilltop neighborhood, and Sound Transit approved the path. From the Theater District, the proposed route heads northwest along Stadium Way, turns left on North First Street, heads southwest along Division Avenue and then south along Martin Luther King Jr. Way, ending at South 19th Street.

The city of Tacoma held an open house in May, asking residents and riders to consider six proposed stations for the Link extension’s 2.4-mile route. Because of public feedback, the city is considering a seventh stop at Martin Luther King Jr. Way and Division Avenue.

Identifying potential stations will allow Sound Transit to apply for federal funding. A study will closely examine potential ridership at each stop, Kingsolver said, and other environmental factors. Station locations could change pending the outcome of the study. After the study is complete, final station approval rests with the Sound Transit board.

No timetable for construction has been set because Sound Transit has yet to find all the money it needs to build the project. The Link expansion’s total cost is estimated at around $165 million, said Kimberly Reason, spokeswoman for Sound Transit. The project could be awarded $75 million from a Federal Transit Administration Small Starts grant as early as mid-2015.

Another $50 million would come from money that Sound Transit taxpayers approved in 2008.

Reason said the city of Tacoma’s portion equals $40 million, which already includes several grants equaling $13 million. Kingsolver said the city is applying for more grants to pay for its share and that the city might eventually have to contribute around $5 million to $10 million.

“We have been and will continue to work very closely with the city of Tacoma in securing other funding to round out the project,” Reason said Monday.