Link light rail train exiting tunnel
A Link light rail train exits a tunnel, entering the Capitol Hill Station (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

Thanks­giv­ing is only a few hours away, and this year, Sound Tran­sit cer­tain­ly has a lot to be thank­ful for. The agency, for­mal­ly known as Puget Sound’s Region­al Tran­sit Author­i­ty, had a stel­lar day. Not only did ST break ground on the Taco­ma Link Hill­top Street­car exten­sion just as the fog lift­ed, but it got word that fed­er­al fund­ing for Lyn­nwood Link — a vital­ly impor­tant ST2 project — is on the way.

Let’s start with the lat­ter news, which was tri­umphant­ly announced by Sen­a­tor Mur­ray’s office this after­noon. Sound Tran­sit is slat­ed to receive $1.2 bil­lion in grants as well as $650 mil­lion in low-inter­est, deferred-pay­ment fed­er­al loans from the Fed­er­al Tran­sit Admin­is­tra­tion. This is a real­ly big deal.

The Trump admin­is­tra­tion is final­ly giv­ing our region — and specif­i­cal­ly the com­mu­ni­ties of Shore­line and Lyn­nwood — the light rail expan­sion mon­ey we were allot­ted months ago, after Sen­a­tors Pat­ty Mur­ray and Maria Cantwell suc­cess­ful­ly demand­ed that the U.S. Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion stop hold­ing it hostage.

“This is fan­tas­tic news for North Sound res­i­dents who are one step clos­er to see­ing our shared goal of expand­ing pub­lic tran­sit options in their com­mu­ni­ties become real­i­ty,” said Mur­ray, the dean of the state’s D.C. del­e­ga­tion, in a statement.

“Com­plet­ing the Lyn­nwood Link light rail exten­sion will help com­muters and con­sumers con­nect with employ­ment and edu­ca­tion cen­ters, local busi­ness­es, as well as address con­ges­tion con­cerns, and I am grate­ful to Sec­re­tary Chao and the Fed­er­al Tran­sit Admin­is­tra­tion for fol­low­ing through on their com­mit­ment to move for­ward with this grant agree­ment and get this crit­i­cal project under­way soon.”

“As a voice for our state on the Sen­ate Appro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee, I will con­tin­ue doing my part to ensure the nec­es­sary fed­er­al invest­ments con­tin­ue to flow to Lyn­nwood Link to see this impor­tant project through to its completion.”

“Christ­mas came ear­ly to Puget Sound with a major invest­ment in light rail going to Sno­homish Coun­ty,” agreed Sen­a­tor Maria Cantwell.

“This agree­ment will link com­muters and busi­ness­es through­out the region, build more park­ing for com­muters and ease traf­fic con­ges­tion. I appre­ci­ate the hard work of Sec­re­tary Chao and the Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion giv­en the com­plex­i­ty of this project and the impor­tance of this next phase.”

“This is great news for every­one in the Puget Sound region who wants to see more com­mut­ing options and our free­way con­ges­tion eased,” said Dave Somers, Sound Tran­sit Board Chair and Sno­homish Coun­ty Executive.

“Lyn­nwood Link is the first major invest­ment in light rail for Sno­homish Coun­ty, and we appre­ci­ate the hard work of our con­gres­sion­al del­e­ga­tion and the Fed­er­al Tran­sit Admin­is­tra­tion. Sound Tran­sit has an ambi­tious plan to deliv­er for the peo­ple of our region, and Lyn­nwood Link is a key part of that plan.”

As Exec­u­tive Somers empha­sized in his state­ment, Lyn­nwood Link brings light rail across the bor­der from King Coun­ty into Sno­homish Coun­ty. It is a project of tremen­dous impor­tance to res­i­dents liv­ing in and around the com­mu­ni­ties of Edmonds, Lyn­nwood, Mount­lake Ter­race, Brier, Muk­il­teo, and beyond, because it will pro­vide a des­per­ate­ly-need­ed way of bypass­ing Inter­state 5 gridlock.

Sound Tran­sit is cur­rent­ly mid­way through the con­struc­tion phase for North­gate Link, which will add three sta­tions to Link’s trunk line begin­ning in 2021. Lyn­nwood Link will take light rail eight and a half miles fur­ther north from there, through Shore­line and into the home coun­ty of Exec­u­tive Somers.

Plan­ning for Lyn­nwood Link has been com­pli­cat­ed by ris­ing costs for real estate acqui­si­tion and com­mu­ni­ty requests for sta­tion designs.

Sound Tran­sit has been count­ing on get­ting fed­er­al sup­port to get Lyn­nwood Link going, but the Trump regime has been mak­ing it wait for the money.

Thank­ful­ly, it now appears the wait is over.

Sound Tran­sit CEO Peter Rogoff used to work at the Fed­er­al Tran­sit Admin­is­tra­tion, and is thus inti­mate­ly famil­iar with the process of dis­burs­ing fed­er­al mon­ey to agen­cies like the one he now runs. While the mon­ey is not in hand yet, it’s real­ly all down­hill from here. The last major stum­bling block has been overcome.

Sound Tran­sit plans to approve the first con­tracts for ini­tial con­struc­tion work on Lyn­nwood Link next month. Ground­break­ing will take place in ear­ly 2019.

NPI con­grat­u­lates Sound Tran­sit on today’s break­through. We salute the deter­mined work of our Unit­ed States Sen­a­tors Pat­ty Mur­ray and Maria Cantwell in mak­ing this hap­pen. They have deliv­ered for us, and we won’t for­get it.

Pri­or to announc­ing the Lyn­nwood Link news, Mur­ray joined Rogoff and U.S. Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Derek Kilmer at the ground­break­ing for Hill­top Link, a Sound Tran­sit 3 project that will extend the agen­cy’s Taco­ma street­car 2.4 miles.

Hill­top Link will add six new sta­tions to the exist­ing street­car line, built back in 2003 dur­ing ST Phase One, and relo­cate one exist­ing sta­tion. The new sta­tions will con­nect the Sta­di­um Dis­trict and Hill­top neigh­bor­hoods to the system.

Con­struc­tion will be per­formed by Walsh Con­struc­tion Com­pa­ny II, LLC, and is due to be fin­ished in 2022. The City of Taco­ma and the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment are joint­ly fund­ing the project in coop­er­a­tion with Sound Transit.

The new sta­tions will be as follows:

  • South 4th
  • Sta­di­um District
  • Taco­ma General
  • 6th Avenue
  • Hill­top District
  • St. Joseph

Taco­ma Link cur­rent­ly runs from the Taco­ma Dome tran­sit hub at Freight­house Square to the The­ater Dis­trict. The The­ater Dis­trict Sta­tion will close and its relo­cat­ed suc­ces­sor will be be known as the Old City Hall Station.

Hilltop Link Streetcar extension map
Click for a larg­er view (Map cour­tesy of Sound Transit)

Today’s ground­break­ing took place at Taco­ma’s Peo­ples Park and brought togeth­er civic lead­ers, union con­struc­tion work­ers, neigh­bor­hood activists, and agency offi­cials. Local busi­ness­es — includ­ing the famous John­son Can­dy Com­pa­ny — pro­vid­ed refresh­ments, and the Tra­cy Knoop Octet pro­vid­ed music.

Join­ing the elect­ed offi­cials for the speak­ing pro­gram were Pierce Coun­ty Build­ing and Con­struc­tion Trades Coun­cil Exec­u­tive Sec­re­tary Mark Mar­tinez, Hill­top Action Coali­tion’s Bren­dan Nel­son, and North Slope Cof­fee House own­er Den­ny Fak­er. They empha­sized the val­ue Hill­top Link would bring to neigh­bor­hoods that have been wait­ing a long time for an invest­ment like this street­car project.

I was pleased to rep­re­sent NPI at today’s Hill­top Link ground­break­ing. It’s nice to see a Sound Tran­sit 3 project get­ting on track so quick­ly in Pierce County.

Hope­ful­ly Pierce vot­ers beyond the bound­aries of Taco­ma (where ST3 did receive major­i­ty sup­port!) will see the con­struc­tion and real­ize Sound Tran­sit is seri­ous about lib­er­at­ing them from auto depen­dence and nev­er-end­ing gridlock.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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