Progressive Railroading


Newsletter Sign Up
Stay updated on news, articles and information for the rail industry

All fields are required.

Rail News Home Passenger Rail


Rail News: Passenger Rail

Sound Transit considers accelerating light-rail expansions

Sound Transit's board late last week unveiled a proposal that would speed up plans to expand the Seattle area's light-rail system.

Under proposed changes to the upcoming Sound Transit 3 (ST3) ballot initiative, the agency would reduce the completion timeframe of most light-rail extensions by two to five years.

Photo: Sound Transit
In particular, a light-rail extension to Everett, Wash., via Paine Field would open five years earlier than previously stated, while extensions to downtown Redmond and Federal Way, Wash., would be completed four years early. The agency would work with partners to further improve timelines where feasible, Sound Transit officials said in a press release.

"These amendments accomplish the longtime goal of a truly regional light-rail system faster than we thought we could, reaching Tacoma three years earlier while extending Tacoma Link to Tacoma Community College two years earlier," said Sound Transit board member and Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy. "Our changes also include increasing investment in Sounder, which ... has seen ridership increases over the past year."

Improvements to the Sounder commuter-rail network include extended platforms to accommodate two more cars, track capacity expansions and service to Tillicum and DuPont, Wash.

The changes to the ST3 measure also call for building a total of 62 miles of light rail, marking an increase from the agency's earlier proposal to expand the light-rail system by 58 miles.

The board's decision to accelerate light-rail projects came in response to the "overwhelming emphasis of public comments" received during a community input period that concluded in May, Sound Transit officials said.

In November, residents will be asked to vote on the ST3 ballot measure, which would increase various taxes to pay for a slew of transit expansions.

Meanwhile, Sound Transit's board also announced that it selected the site for a new Sounder vehicle maintenance base. The facility will be located in a rail yard along the commuter-rail system's right-of-way between Steilacoom Boulevard Southwest and 100th Street Southwest in Lakewood, Wash.

The 40,000-square-foot facility will house six maintenance bays, ancillary tracks, material storage areas, and offices for operations staff. Additionally, the maintenance base will be able to accommodate 14 locomotives, 40 coach vehicles and 27 cab cars, with enough space to store and maintain 10 additional vehicles.

The $80 million facility will accommodate current service and three additional weekday Sounder south trains to be added by 2017.

Sound Transit chose the Steilacoom Boulevard site after evaluating six potential locations in Everett, Tacoma and south of downtown Seattle. An alternative analysis identified Lakewood as the preferred site due to its proximity to Sounder tracks and its ability to support commuter-rail operations in a corridor that serves more than 14,500 south line riders on an average weekday, agency officials said.

The location also would allow Sound Transit to save money in a right-of-way acquisition because the agency already owns the rail line in Lakewood and likely would need to acquire only two parcels to build the project.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 6/1/2016