Tacoma Planning Commissioner David Boe sketched his concern for Tacoma City Councilmembers today. He's concerned that the Sounder train extension through SoDo will cause problems that could "have a lasting impact on the viability of future development for all of Tacoma".
Here's the entirety of the description of the "before" and "after" situation from his email along with sketches he made of both scenarios:
It is really important to have an understanding how the existing circulation works in order to see the future impact of such a significant public infrastructure development. Here are a few points to ruminate upon when in the District:
- Access to and From I-5: The main access to the Dome District from I-5 (both North and South) is the 26th Street Exit. This has put additional pressure on 26th Street and the corresponding streets; however, the ‘A’ Street entrance to Northbound I-5 fed from both 25th and Puyallup Avenue. ‘A’ street also provides access to Dock Street to the North; however, this is going to be closed with the completion of the ‘D’ Street Overpass Completion.
- Access to Thea Foss Waterway: In my study for the Waterway Park Alternatives as the South end of the Foss Waterway, it became clear that when the ‘D’ Street Overpass is completed, the Foss Waterway will now finally have a good connection to I-5 using the 26th Street (something that can be clearly signed for visitors). I believe this is going to a huge positive for the success of the Foss.
- D Street: This is THE connecter route from McKinley Hill to the Dome District with access past the Tacoma Dome, the New LeMay Museum, Freighthouse Square, The LINK platform, to Puyallup Avenue to the Foss Waterway. This is ‘The Avenue’ connector to McKinley Hill and with current addition of a McKinley Mixed-Use Center, the development potential for this neighborhood is huge.
- Existing Train Routes: There are at grade crossings of the existing rail line at both ‘D’ and ‘C’ Street; however, there is intermittent train crossings here currently (as the Sounder Train stops East of ‘D’ Street). The existing rail line towards the West follows down the ravine under the I-705 Freeway Structure and up the valley to the South. This is the historical route of the train within the Dome District.
- Ravine: This is a natural ravine that I believe was the creek bed that supplied Delin with the power to run his mill (thus putting Tacoma ‘on the map’). This ravine results in Puyallup Avenue, 25th Street and 26th Street to have elevated bridge structures where they cross. It is interesting to note that the bottom of the ravine at 25th street is comparable to the elevation of 25th Street at the ‘G’ Street intersection (thus why I believe a ‘cut’ train route is appealing for running through this portion of Tacoma).
Proposed ST Design
- Access to and from I-5: The exit and entrances are the same only ‘A’ Street is blocked off since the new train route has to elevate to get across Pacific Avenue. So now ALL in and out traffic from I-5 will have to travel on 26th Street (increasing congestion on it and related intersections).
- Access to the Thea Foss Waterway: While this has not changed in plan, it will now have the addition of Sounder and AMTRAK train crossings as well as the existing LINK crossing to contend with (along with additional traffic circumventing the ‘A’ Street closure mentioned earlier).
- D Street: As per the Thea Foss access – the proposed plans creates more congestion with three sets of light, LINK and the new Train impacts. And as McKinley Hill Mixed-Use Center succeeds, it will put even more pressure on D Street and 26th.
- Train Routes: Because of the requirement for making the percentage of rail gradient, the Sounder Rail extension will create a wall that rises from ‘C’ Street to get over Pacific Avenue. At ‘A’ Street this will result in being about 6 feet above the current roadway at the mid-block location of the crossing. ST is providing a pedestrian only at-grade crossing at this point that will be approximately level with 26th Street at the South (due to the slope) and then will have a serious of ramps to the North down to 25th Street (it will look like either a cattle chute or skate board slalom course – or both).
- Ravine: Since the rail line it going to be going up while the ground is going down, this will result in the requirement of either filling or bridging the ravine – either way it will be a significant structure in height bisecting Dome District North from Dome District South.
- Depressing Pacific Avenue, South Tacoma Way, 26th Street: In order to get ‘under’ the rail line, this whole intersection will need to be lowered between 4 and 5 feet and all of the contributing streets lower. This means relocating utilities, building retaining walls to support existing building and sites, etc… This is a level of work that cannot easily be done in phases (not like the recent Pacific Avenue upgrades). This will need to be done pretty much all at the same time – this means shutting this area down for a considerable time. Just an FYI on the impact to the business owners in the area. Also, the revision to Pacific Avenue between South Tacoma Way and the bridge over I-5 to be increased in steepness to, or close to, State Highway maximums (which means biking up Pacific just got that much harder – bike lane or not).
- Congestion Chaos: The stretch of roadway from 26th Street to Puyallup Avenue will now have ALL of the traffic on it – Sounder, Amtrak, Access to and from the Foss Waterway to I-5, LINK Light Rail, and is the main pedestrian route to the Tacoma Dome/LeMay Museum (my brother the cop says that traffic stopped is traffic in control – so when LINK is running at the same time a Sounder/AMTRAK train and an event at the Dome – traffic will definitely be in control).
- On-grade crossing: This is just a reminder that the proposed route through Tacoma will have at least 13 at-grade vehicle/pedestrian crossings (D St, C St, S. C St, Chandler, Alaska, Wilkeson, Pine, S. 35th St, s. 50th, S. 56th, S. 60th, S. 74th) and an at-grade pedestrian only crossing at ‘A’ Street.