Inside Opinion

What's on the minds of Tacoma News Tribune editorial writers

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Tag: Sounder


South Sound commuters finally get what they’re paying for

A Sounder train pulls into the Lakewood station during a test run. (Staff file photo)

This editorial will appear in Monday’s print edition.

If all went as it was supposed to as of this writing, the first commuters to catch the Sounder train in Lakewood and South Tacoma in the wee hours this morning are already at work up north.

This is a day that Pierce County has long awaited – and paid for. The region’s citizens voted back in the mid-1990s to tax themselves to extend Sound Transit rail service extending to Lakewood. Now, 11 years after that service was originally supposed to begin, it finally has. The 8.5-mile, $325 million extension from Tacoma’s Dome District was scheduled to begin operating with a 4:42 train this morning.

If the recent testing period is any indication, there will be bumps along the way. Drivers will have to get used to trains briefly shutting down 17 at-grade street crossings between the Lakewood Sounder Station and the Dome District in downtown Tacoma. And pedestrians will have to restrain themselves from trying to beat the trains by scurrying across the tracks. That does not always end well.

Inconvenience is a price drivers should be willing to pay. Someday they, too, might want the option of taking the train instead of battling freeway traffic. And offering one more way to commute helps lighten that traffic and moves people in a more environmentally friendly way. Read more »


‘We Can’t Wait’ for rail bypass? Job 1 is to make it safe

Red line shows new inland route for Amtrak trains if the Point Defiance Bypass is completed. Freight trains will continue along the shoreline. (USGS)

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

Maybe the Obama administration can’t wait to get started on the Point Defiance Bypass rail project. But South Sound communities that would feel the brunt of increased train traffic aren’t in a big hurry.

Under the president’s “We Can’t Wait” initiative, the administration is freeing up $473 million in unspent appropriations to expedite four construction projects – one of them being the $90 million bypass. Getting that federal money for the project is expected to move its timeline up about six months, with the state Department of Transportation hoping to begin construction in 2015.

The bypass – which would separate freight and passenger trains as they move through the South Sound – has long been on the wish list for Burlington Northern Santa Fe and Amtrak. It would allow freight trains to continue traveling along the scenic waterfront while rerouting high-speed Amtrak passenger trains inland – through not-so-scenic business districts in South Tacoma and Lakewood and on through DuPont. Read more »


Pacific Avenue project presents opportunity, challenge

This editorial will appear in the Monday print edition.

A short distance from Pacific Avenue in downtown Tacoma is Thea Foss Waterway – a former Superfund site that the city spent $105 million cleaning up.

But untreated stormwater runoff from Pacific Avenue continues to drain dangerous toxins into the waterway, posing a threat to ongoing cleanup efforts. As environmental regulations regarding stormwater contamination tighten up, it becomes ever more incumbent on cities to seek solutions to their runoff problems.

It looks like Tacoma’s found one, and it promises to deliver aesthetic benefits in addition to environmental ones.

Plans are under way to retrofit Pacific Avenue between South Seventh and 17th streets with the latest in stormwater technologies, which may involve replacing curbs, gutters and sidewalks. The $8 million project will provide an opportunity to enhance the avenue with trees, water features and pervious pavement – all of which will help filter stormwater. Public input on the streetscaping part of the project is being sought (see box).

Some critics have suggested the city should give filling potholes a higher priority. But the city must address the polluted street runoff. Besides, much of the funding for Phase 1 of the project is federal money – a $1.5 million Environmental Protection Agency grant and $800,000 from the U.S. Federal Highway Administration.
Read more »


Sound Transit, rescue mission must both prevail

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.

Read more »