This editorial will appear in Monday’s print edition.
Tacoma needs two outcomes from the dispute between Sound Transit and Tacoma Rescue Mission.
One: Sound Transit must get on with building its 8.2-mile Tacoma Dome-to-Lakewood commuter rail extension.
Two: The rescue mission must ensure that 140 homeless men can continue to sleep at the South Tacoma Way shelter that sits 55 feet from Sound Transit’s tracks.
Both can happen – and should – if Sound Transit is to fulfill its obligations to this community.
The three-county transit authority took the rescue mission to court this month to force the condemnation of land it needs to get Sounder trains to Lakewood.
The agency is rightly anxious to secure the land it needs to get Sounder trains to Lakewood. The agency initially promised to extend Sounder service to that city by 2001; Lakewood residents have been paying taxes for nearly 14 years on the promise of commuter rail service.
But the Tacoma Rescue Mission’s plight is similarly sympathetic.
The 4-foot-wide strip of shelter property at issue appears to be the only bargaining chip the rescue mission has to ensure that the ruckus from 44 passing Sounder and Amtrak trains won’t hobble shelter operations.
What’s more, the mission draws no reassurance from the experiences of Sound Transit’s neighbors up north. In Tukwila, Sound Transit has been struggling for the better part of a year to answer noise complaints from residents who live along the supposedly quieter light-rail line.
Sound Transit has had to keep trying in part because Tukwila made noise standards a condition of the permit for light rail. In Tacoma, trains are exempted from noise standards.
Sound Transit’s and the rescue’s mission experts differ on a fair price for the shelter’s land and what it will take to mitigate noise concerns. A court certainly can arbitrate those disputes, but a legal ruling risks creating a winner and a loser.
The public deserves better. It needs both Sound Transit and the mission to emerge winners. They should seek a speedy – and fair – resolution, preferably outside of court.