Tacoma City Council favors Hilltop area for light rail extension

Apr 24, 2013

Tacoma is on the brink of more than doubling the length of its Sound Transit Link Light Rail line.

Under a plan just recommended by the Tacoma City Council, the current starter line between the Tacoma Dome and the city's downtown would extend north into the Hilltop neighborhood. 

A majority of the council supports a route known as E1, which will extend the current Tacoma Link line north from downtown along Stadium Way before looping back along MLK Way.  

Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland said the council felt this U-shaped route will serve more potential riders as it will reach densely populated neighborhoods where many residents don’t own cars.

And she said the proposed link line would support the recent growth seen in the Hilltop area near MLK, namely planned expansions at two large hospitals, a soon-to-open new community health care clinic and several new small businesses.

"So, there’s a bit of momentum happening on Hilltop right now," Strickland said, "and I think for those of us who really did support that alignment, it made the most sense, because we wanted to make sure we’re pushing something forward and gaining some serious momentum.”

This alternative leaves several other underserved neighborhoods without the promise of the new line. Last-ditch efforts by some council members aimed to include Tacoma's East Side by extending the line both north and south in two possible schemes. But these so-called hybrid plans lacked support due to steep operational costs and engineering issues.

The council will make its decision next week, then forward its choice to Sound Transit’s board for final approval.

The extension will be funded in part by a Sound Transit ballot measure approved by voters in 2008. But it still has to compete for a $50 million federal grant. And the source for up to another one-third of the line’s funding is yet to be determined.