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Sound Transit expands commuter rail service, braces light rail plans

Despite the trials Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority (Sound Transit) has faced in trying to give birth to its light-rail system, its still-infant commuter-rail system is growing up fast.

Sounder commuter-rail service Feb. 5 by opened two more stations at Kent and Puyallup, and increased its ridership by 25 percent. Granted, that’s just from 1,300 to 1,600 average daily trips, or from 2.4 percent to 3 percent of Seattle’s 1999 population. But Sounder is, after all, only four months old.

Sounder currently offers two weekday peak-hour trips to Tacoma, Sumner, Puyallup, Auburn, Kent and Seattle; service to Tukwila is scheduled to begin in March. And, thanks to an agreement with the city of Tacoma, Sound Transit expects to add another round trip by year-end.

Meanwhile, the Central Link light-rail plan Feb. 8 was braced some with the creation of an independent review group: Central Link Project Review Committee (CLPRC). Last month, Sound Transit announced plans to create such a group after learning the project would require three more years and $1 billion more to complete.
CLPRC’s purpose is to identify ways to lower the project’s cost, shorten the schedule and reduce risk, as well as improve community understanding of the project.

The group would review existing studies and current information, compare alternatives, and advise the board on technical issues and contracting strategies.

Former-Seattle Mayor Charley Royer has been named CLPRC chair. Interim Executive Director Joni Earl would appoint 12 additional members to the committee, including five Sound Transit Board members.

The remaining members would include one member of the Citizen Oversight Panel with construction expertise, plus six outside experts: two familiar with light-rail projects -- especially tunnel construction; one familiar with financing large public works projects; and three citizen or business representatives.

Sound Transit officials anticipate CLPRC’s first phase would last six to nine months. At its conclusion, the group may continue as is, or reconfigure its membership and scope to better address technical issues.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 2/9/2001