Do you want light rail from Federal Way to Tacoma? Here's your chance to have a say
TACOMA, Wash. -- Sound Transit is kicking off its public outreach Monday regarding extending light rail from Federal Way to Tacoma. But it won't be complete until 2030, and there is concern the fight to lower car tabs may get in the way.
"Yes, you jump on and jump off," said light-rail passenger Ray Jones. He is a big fan of riding the rails. "In the city like Chicago, Detroit, San Francisco you don't need a car in the cities. That's what I enjoy."
He said he is eager to see the extension of service even though it is 12 years away. "Well, it's worth it," said Jones. "People can commute. It's worth it because you can get around."
"That's a long time," said Marlee Dutli who is visiting from out of state and riding the Tacoma Link light-rail line. Her husband, Carl Dutl,i said, "You've got to get the money from somewhere."
That's exactly the issue facing Sound Transit, says CEO Peter Rogoff after voters approved Sound Transit 3 using car tabs to pay for light-rail extension. "When a ballot measure is adopted, we don't get a lump-sum check. We need to accumulate the dollars in order to pay off our contractors to build the projects incrementally."
Right now Tacoma Link light rail is limited to just a few miles from the Tacoma Dome to the Theater District with expansion to the Hilltop coming soon.
"This is going to be a generational change for this region," said Rogoff. "And some people may bemoan the fact that sometimes it takes a generation to complete."
Sound Transit says first they have to expand from south of Sea-Tac Airport down to Federal Way which is planned to open in 2024. "Now what feels like these move on a glacial pace, those dates do come," said Federal Way Mayor Jim Ferrell. Sound Transit said plans have to be drawn, routes firmed up, permits issued and the public's input sought.
But Sound Transit may also get an earful about the big jump in car tab calculations. Car tab buyer Dana Andrews on March 9 said, "The price keeps going up and they keep telling us it's going to go down."
The Legislature has failed the last two sessions to reach a compromise on lowering the car tabs. Sound Transit warns if no alternate source of money is provided, that 2030 date might have to be pushed farther out.
"If we are denied the revenues that we had anticipated, then we could struggle and obviously deliver it later, "Rofoff said.
"But at least you can see it," said Dutli. "It is coming." And that is what excites Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards as the Puget Sound region continues to grow in size and national stature. "Imagine the national powerhouse we will be," she said.
That is why Sound Transit is urging people in the community to have their voices heard at three open houses starting April 17.
"And what you're seeing here," said Rogoff, "This early kickoff in the public discussion is one of those efforts to see if we can speed things up."
Sound Transit open houses:
Tuesday, April 17, 6:00-8:00 p.m. at Best Western Plus Tacoma Dome Hotel, 2611 E. E St.
Wednesday, April 18, 6:00-8:00 p.m. at Todd Beamer High School, 35999 16th Ave. S.
Tuesday, April 24, 6:00-8:00 p.m. at Fife Community Center, 2111 54th Ave. E.
Members of the public unable to attend the open houses can comment online at https://tdlink.participate.online/.
Comments must be submitted by May 3.