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UPDATE: Pacific Avenue won’t close until at least June due to Sound Transit project delays

Post by Lewis Kamb / The News Tribune on April 11, 2011 at 5:52 pm |
April 12, 2011 5:16 pm

UPDATE: Apr. 12 5:10p.m.: See comments section for clarification.

It was supposed to happen four months ago. But a rail project’s partial shutdown of Pacific Avenue in Tacoma’s Dome District now likely won’t occur for at least two more months, a Sound Transit spokeswoman said today.

“As far as Pacific Avenue, we’re going to end up closing it as early as June,” said Kimberly Reason, a spokeswoman for the regional transit authority. “We haven’t set a specific date yet.”

Reason cited unexpected soil contamination, as well as storm water and sewage drainage issues as causing construction delays on the so-called “D to M Street” project — a key leg in planned Sounder rail expansion from Tacoma to Lakewood.

Sound Transit officials told the Tacoma City Council last July they expected to close Pacific between South 25th and South 26th Streets for at least 10 months, beginning in late December or early January. The shutdown is necessary so crews can build a railroad bridge over Pacific and drop the avenue by 6 feet to accommodate vehicle traffic and allow it to pass beneath the new span.

But during groundwork leading up to the new construction, lead and other contaminants were excavated at higher and deeper levels than expected, Reason said. That has forced construction crews to delay work, while those contaminants are tested and dealt with, she added.

“Nothing is posing a safety hazard,” Reason said. “That’s not an issue.”

Once Pacific finally is closed, Reason said the arterial between South 25th and South 27th Streets likely will be shut down for at least 11 months. East-to-west traffic — across intersections of Pacific at 25th and 27th — will remain open, Reason added.

“There will also be a temporary signal installed at Pacific and 27th during the closure, making east-west movements easier for drivers and pedestrians,” she said.

Delays on the local portion of the 1.2-mile railway extension project shouldn’t affect the new Lakewood line’s targeted opening date, now conservatively set for the end of 2012, Reason added.

“The overall project is not delayed, as we’re re-sequencing the work,” she said. “We’re definitely still on target.”

Sound Transit has yet to figure out how much the delays will cost, Reason added.

“There will be some cost increases to the extent that we’ll be looking at accelerating some of the work,” she said. “That will probably involve hiring more crews and working double-shifts to recapture some of time caused by the delays.”

After a bidding controversy last year, Sound Transit ultimately awarded the D to M Street project to MidMountain Contractors of Kirkland for $40.8 million.

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