WA: $80M in improvements headed to Tacoma, Lakewood Sounder stations, nearby neighborhoods

Feb. 1, 2024
Final design will begin this year with construction starting in 2025 and finishing in 2030.

Jan. 30—Sound Transit is going to make substantial improvements to both its South Tacoma and Lakewood Sounder stations to the tune of $40 million each in the coming years. The projects extend far beyond the train stations and into surrounding neighborhoods, adding bike lanes and making sidewalk and bus station improvements.

"Both areas around those stations are pedestrian unfriendly," said Sound Transit spokesperson David Jackson.

The money earmarked in the Sound Transit 2 ballot measure, passed by voters in 2008. The Sound Transit board will most likely approve the final plans in March or April, according to Jackson.

Final design will begin this year with construction starting in 2025 and finishing in 2030.

The goal is to increase accessibility to mass transit by filling in gaps such as missing sidewalks, accessibility ramps and bike lanes.

Seven round-trip Sounder trains run every weekday between Lakewood and Seattle. From Lakewood, the route's southern terminus, it takes about 75 minutes to reach Seattle's King Street Station with stops in South Tacoma, Tacoma Dome and other stations.

South Tacoma

In South Tacoma, the improvements extend miles from the station along city streets.

Details of the project are being negotiated with the city, Jackson said. The work in the city's right of way will be done by a contractor hired by the city, he said. Sound Transit will handle the work at its stations.

For its part, the city had little to say on the project.

"The City of Tacoma is currently working with Sound Transit to finalize the details surrounding its participation," it said in an emailed statement to The News Tribune. Eventually, details will be shared with the public, the statement concluded.

One of the longest improvements will add protected bike lanes along South Pine, South Oakes and South Fife streets from state Route 16 to South 74th Street. That will essentially connect the station to the Scott Pierson Trail that runs from Hilltop Tacoma to Gig Harbor along Route 16.

Another major section of protected bike lanes could be built on South Tyler Street between South 32nd and South 74th streets. Sound Transit has separated its long list of potential improvements into first and second priority levels. The Pine Street bike lanes are priority one while the Tyler Street bike lanes are priority two.

Priority one improvements

Other projects high on Sound Transit's list for South Tacoma include:

— A walking, rolling and biking path on South 56th and 58th streets to connect Tyler Street with the station.

— Improved access to the station along South 58th Street to South Fife Street.

— Bikes lanes on South Sprague Avenue near the I-5/ Route 16 interchange and 35th Street to connect with South Pine Street.

— Improved access to the SERA (South End Recreation and Adventure) campus via South Adams and South 58th streets.

Lakewood

In Lakewood, enthusiasm for the project is high, said city spokesperson Brynn Grimley.

"These improvements will bring big benefits to our Springbrook neighborhood, which is on the other side of Interstate 5 from the Sounder Station," she said.

That neighborhood is connected to the rest of Lakewood via the 47th Avenue Southwest overpass over I-5. The overpass has two sidewalks, each about the width of an adult, and low railings. Walking across it is unlikely to engender feelings of safety.

In Sound Transit's plan, the overpass will be reconfigured to provide a five-foot-wide sidewalk on the west side of the roadway and the removal of the east side sidewalk. North of the overpass, a sidewalk and a southbound bike lane will be added on the west side of the street.

On the south of the 47th Avenue Southwest overpass, sidewalks will be added and improved on the west side of the street.

Working together

Grimley said Lakewood and Sound Transit have been working together on the planned improvements over the past two years. The city will add some pedestrian improvements of its own, she said.

As with Tacoma, Lakewood will most likely contract and supervise the projects in its right of ways and Sound Transit will pick up the rest.

Other Lakewood improvements include improved connections between transit stops on Bridgeport Way Southwest and the station including lighting, crosswalks, signals, sidewalks, trails and sharrows — automobile lanes heavily marked with bike use signage. Many of the improvements will center on 115th Street Court Southwest.

An environmental study released Jan. 16 showed no significant impacts, Sound Transit said.

Downtown On the Go

In late 2022, Tacoma-based transportation advocacy group Downtown On the Go and Sound Transit organized bike and walking tours of the South Tacoma neighborhoods likely to be affected by the changes, according to Laura Svancarek, the group's advocacy manager.

"I think the priority for us is to at least have a route through this part of South Tacoma that feels decently safe on a bike," she said.

While the area has some bike and walking routes, such as the Water Ditch Trail, it needs more in order to connect the Sounder station with the Tacoma Mall transit center and other mass transportation routes, destinations and hubs, Svancarek said.

"This part of South Tacoma has had a history of lack of investment," she said. "Obviously, (the improvements) are geared around access to the station, but these types of improvements will have a really positive impact on the kids going to school at Edison ( Elementary School) or trying to get to the library on 56th."

This story was originally published January 30, 2024, 5:30 AM.

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