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Sound Transit: A bridge — not a berm — at B Street

Post by Doug Conarroe on Sep. 11, 2009 at 1:49 pm with 14 Comments »
September 14, 2009 5:29 pm

Sound Transit says it will build a bridge — not an earthen berm  — over the so-called B-Street Gulch within its project site to install commuter rail tracks through Tacoma’s Dome District.

The design change for that part of the project largely was spurred by community concerns about aesthetics and wildlife,  Jim Edwards, Sound Transit’s director of capital projects,  said this week.

“In the past several months,  we became aware of the potential for a habitat trail through the gulch area,”  Edwards said.  “That caused us to go back and reevaluate things.”

Although bridges typically cost more than berms do to build, Edwards said, the move likely will not increase overall project costs because it will off-set additional costs needed for that area under previous construction plans. Overall, the D to M Street project cost estimates remain at about $160 million, he said.

Sound Transit still plans to largely build an earthen berm to elevate and extend tracks over Pacific Avenue near 25th Street, as part of 1.4-mile project to connect the D to M Street Sounder rail lines.

Opponents support a so-called “post and beam” construction option they view as a less obtrusive alternative to a berm, which they argue would visually and physically divide the neighborhood.

Several neighborhood and environmental groups recently have sent letters and emails to city officials, lobbying for design changes at the B street ravine and other key points along the project site.  Some contend the ravine, the deepest point along the project site, is a key corridor for wildlife.

The new bridge design over the ravine will be a bridgedeck set on columns at either end, providing for an open structure, Edwards said.

“The bridge structure can easily be described as accomplishing what the post and beam intended to do,” Edwards said.

It allows the ravine to remain in its natural state and provides clearance for animal passage, he said.  It also eliminates additional costs under the previous berm design, which would have required expansive digging and installation of protections to subterranean city utility lines, Edwards said.

Sound Transit previously had planned to fill in the ravine with an earthen berm, which would have been the widest such berm — 75 to 80 feet — in the D to M street project area.  Most of the proposed berms along the line range from about 20 to 40 feet wide, he said.

Although the plans have changed at the B-Street Ravine, designs for the remainder of the D to M street site remain largely the same.

“We still believe, when we looked at the options and the terrain, the best alternative for the rest of the structure is the earthen embankment,” Edwards said.

Julie Anderson, Tacoma’s Deputy Mayor and a Sound Transit Board member, said earlier this week she has yet to see any cost estimates or design plans for the proposed change.

“From what I hear, (the new bridge design) creates a sense of permeability and addresses the environmental concerns and protects utilities,” Anderson said.

UPDATE: I’ve corrected the description of the rail line.  Thanks to the readers who caught the error.

Leave a comment Comments → 14
  1. Very very good news. Looks like Tacoma narrowly avoided the below:

  2. This after Anderson said it was a done deal and nothing could be done. Now let’s wait and see what happens under 705.

  3. Change I can believe in! High fives!

  4. To the Dome District people, Jim Merritt and everybody who stood up to Sound Transit: Thank you! You won it for all of us.

    To Princess Julie Anderson: You said we couldn’t change the berm. You said we shouldn’t even try to change it. You didn’t even try to lift a finger to help Tacoma (again). Do you ever help anybody with anything?

    To the chain-newspaper editorial-board: You were too much in a rush to get the money spent to care about the effect of the berm. We know when push comes to shove, you aren’t there for Tacoma.

  5. Great news — nice to see Sound Transit respond to Tacoma’s concerns.

  6. klthompson says:

    One berm down, one to go! Go Jim!

  7. Filling in the gulch was the most obvious error the berms would create and should have been obvious long before the decision was made to remove it. The Pacific St berm is also wrong for other reasons. The total lack of caring about our city and lack of foresight into the effect the berm will have is amazing. I am not a conspiracy theorist generally, but you have to wonder what special interest groups the planners are kowtowing to. It certainly isn’t the citizens of Tacoma who deserve better.

  8. yehoshuakelley says:

    I just need to point out that Sounder IS NOT “light rail.” Sounder is considered “heavy rail” or “commuter rail.” Central Link and Tacoma Link are light rail. Anything that runs on the same tracks as freight trains is considered heavy rail.

  9. When will Tacoma’s leaders start listening to the people that pay their salaries? “Business as usual” can be no more. We don’t want berms in place of bridges, we don’t want bike lanes instead of sidewalks and we want our gas tax dollars spent on roads as intended instead of paved alleys and pretty streetlights. PRIORITIES, Tacoma. It’s all about priorities.

  10. kevin22262 says:

    This is not the first time I have seen this……. Sounder is NOT Light Rail! It is Commuter Rail or some call it “heavy rail”.

    There is a “big” difference.

  11. Wildlife concerns??? Seriously?? Are wild deer in Tacoma really going to cross under those tracks, and then cross over Tacoma Link, 2 tracks of freight railroad and dock street? Please remember, there is still I-705 over this whole corridor which is the largest blight to the whole area. The main thing to cheer about is that this project has one less hurdle to overcome.

  12. Thanks for the post! I have this sucker bookmarked!

  13. I’m actually glad I found this post. I’ve been browsing for information on solar energy for months.Looking forward to reading more posts about energy.

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