The Federal Transit Administration has approved $75 million dollars for expansion of Tacoma’s Link Light Rail line.
The money will be used to more than double the line, which currently runs from the Tacoma Dome to the Theater District downtown. The extension will connect it to a U-shaped route that heads first north to the Stadium District then back south into the Hilltop neighborhood.
Sound Transit spokesman Scott Thompson says the line will help reduce congestion as Tacoma faces steady population growth in the coming years.
“We’re talking about Tacoma growing more than 60 percent in population in the next 20 years. There’s going to be a need for more transportation infrastructure,” Thompson said.
The money will be used to add six stations with improved bicycle and pedestrian access. It will also connect to the city’s so-called “Medical Mile” and five educational facilities, serving nearly 17,000 students.
Thompson says population growth in the Puget Sound region and especially Tacoma was their strongest argument as they advocated for this expansion money.
“It’s going to hit some really key areas there in downtown Tacoma,” Thompson said. “There’s a lot of developments that are planned along that corridor that we’re going to have accessible transit to now, through the downtown area.”
Sound Transit says 25 percent of the residents in the Hilltop and Stadium Districts that the extended line will serve are low income. And 30 percent of the households there have no vehicle.
The agency first applied for this federal funding several years ago, during the Obama Administration, and it was on hold in March. Thompson says the work of Washington State’s congressional delegation was crucial in making sure it came through.
Sound Transit expects to begin operations of the expanded Tacoma Link service about four years from now, in 2022.