Construction on the 3.9km Tacoma link started in November 2018. Credit: Puget Sound Regional Council.
The Tacoma rail extension will have six new stations and one relocated station. Credit: Steve Morgan.
Tacoma railway line extension project is anticipated to become operational in 2022. Credit: Steve Morgan.

The Tacoma link extension is a 3.9km extension of the existing 2.5km Tacoma link light rail line that runs between Theater District / South 9th Street and Tacoma Dome in Tacoma, Washington, US.

The new route will extend along Commerce Street to the Hilltop District through Stadium Way, North 1st Street, Division Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr Way. The line extension will increase the length of the Tacoma link to 6.4km.

Planning and evaluation of the expansion project was carried out during 2010-15. The project received approvals from the Tacoma City Council and the Sound Transit Board in 2015. The environmental review was completed in 2015, while design work began in the third quarter of 2016 and completed within a year.

Construction of the Tacoma link extension began following the ground breaking ceremony in November 2018 and is scheduled to be completed in 2022. An extension to Tacoma Community College by 2039 is also being proposed.

Tacoma link extension details

The proposed rail line extension will include six new light rail stations at S 4th street, Stadium District, Tacoma General, 6th Avenue, Hilltop District, and St Joseph. The existing Theater District station will be relocated to Old City Hall.

The project will also include the expansion of the operations and maintenance facility, which is situated on East 25th Street. The expansion will add up to 10,000ft² of space in order to accommodate and maintain the new light rail vehicles.

Trains on the Tacoma link extension will run every ten minutes during peak hours and 20 minutes during non-peak service.

Construction of Tacoma line expansion

The new light rail section will be built in three segments along the line. Pre-construction activities include replacement and / or relocation of utilities under the existing roadway, as well as the creation of new utility connections.

Replacement of underground utilities at Commerce Street, 7th Street and Martin Luther King Jr Way commenced in November 2018 and lasted for two months.

“The extension project is expected to increase average daily ridership from the current 3,000 to 10,800 by 2035.”

Underground utility works on North 1st Street between North Tacoma Avenue and Division Avenue in the Stadium District commenced in January 2019. It will include digging deep trenches and is expected to last for more than four months.

Utility relocation works will be followed by track slab construction, roadway improvements and overhead catenary system pole foundation work.

The final stage of construction covers installation of overhead span wire, traffic signal work, construction of ADA ramp, as well as improvement of sidewalks, lighting, benches, trees and landscaping.

Design artwork for all the stations will be provided by local artist Kenji Hamai Stoll.

Rolling stock operating on the Tacoma line extension

The extension will require five Liberty light rail vehicles (LRV), which will supplement the existing fleet of three vehicles.

The five LRVs will be produced by Brookville Equipment Corporation under a $26.5m contract signed with Sound Transit in November 2017. The deal also includes an option for up to five additional Liberty LRVs. The new cars will be delivered between 2020 and 2021.

Each Liberty LRV will have a 2.4m-wide body with a seating capacity of up to 34 passengers and will be able to carry more than 100 passengers.

Compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the vehicles will feature deployable bridge plates, which allow easy boarding for passengers. More than 70% of the floor area will be available for standing passengers.

Financing of the extension project

The Tacoma link extension is being funded through a partnership between its operator Sound Transit and the City of Tacoma.

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) granted $2m for the design of the expansion, while the City of Tacoma provided $500,000. The project also received a $75m grant from the FTA’s Small Starts programme for the construction work in May 2018.

Project funding also includes $50m in Sound Transit 2 revenues and $33m in other federal and state grants, including a $15m TIGER grant from the US Department of Transportation and a $5m Regional Mobility Grant from the State of Washington.

Benefits of Tacoma link extension

The Tacoma link extension aims to provide enhanced transportation and improved mobility for local people and visitors. It will also increase transit ridership in the city of Tacoma.

The project will save between 10 and 15 minutes travel time compared to the existing bus service. Further, the project will bring economic benefits to the regions through the creation of 54,000 jobs.

The extension project is expected to increase average daily ridership from the current 3,000 to 10,800 by 2035.

Contractors involved

Walsh Construction was awarded a $108m contract for the construction of the extension, as well as seven new platform stations, in July 2018.

Sound Transit selected Shannon & Wilson to provide the final design services for the line expansion and maintenance facility.

Waterleaf is the architect for the seven new stations and the operations and maintenance facility, while Concord Engineering was engaged for providing the traffic signal design.