Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg talked about a trip to New Orleans Tuesday to help sell the Tacoma City Council on Sound Transit’s commuter rail plans. I asked him afterward to repeat the tale. You’ll see his point.
My wife, Jake Fey, Rick Talbert and Spiro Manthou (all four are Tacoma City Council members) went to the National League of Cities convention in New Orleans November 12-17. I tagged along for a vacation. We were sitting in a cafe by the waterfront and remarking what a beautiful Riverwalk they have.
Along the river is a great pedestrian walkway, several parks, a huge shopping mall and their convention center. These stretch several miles from the French Quarter, past the Business District, to the Warehouse district (now converted to
hotels and restaurants). As we ate, I noticed something and asked if anyone else noticed anything unusual right then. No one could think of anything. I then pointed out that a huge freight train full of containers was making it’s way right through downtown less than one block away. This was probably a 100-car train.
The fact is that the Riverwalk, the mall, and parks are separated from
the main city by three train tracks that travel at grade all the way
throught New Orleans. Pedestrian and auto traffic crosses mostly
at-grade crossings. Both sides of the tracks are busy and vibrant. It
apparently has not hurt New Orleans at all to have long freight trains
“cutting their city in half.” I think the “danger” that the one Sound
Transit set of tracks will have on Tacoma and the Dome District is
At Tuesday’s City Council study session, Fey was the most vocal in worrying about the potential impact of Sounder trains on the Dome business district. Talbert spoke strongly in favor of Sound Transit’s plans, and Manthou, as usual, said nothing. Connie Ladenburg, of course, backed the Sounder extension, noting that South Tacoma has been waiting a long time for the service.