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Sound Transit outlines light-rail for Federal Way

By ERICA HALL

The Mirror

Sound Transit has released detailed analyses of 81 potential bus and rail projects around the region, including a light-rail plan that will have a direct impact on Federal Way.

An extension of the Central Link light-rail system from Kent-Des Moines station to the Tacoma Dome station will see the construction of five new rail stations, including two in Federal Way. Sound Transit created cost projections under the assumption light rail will run along Pacific Highway South.

Alignment is expected to be aerial, according to Sound Transit’s preliminary plans. It would run along the west side of Pacific, crossing South 316th Street to serve the Federal Way Transit Center — expected to be operational Feb. 11 — and returning to the west side of Pacific south of South 324th Street. Central Link would stop again at the South Federal Way park-and-ride lot.

The Central Link connections will require road-widening and traffic signal modifications at 32 Pacific Highway South intersections, officials said.

The segment of light rail from Redondo Heights to the Federal Way Transit Center is expected to cost between $520.3 million and $598.3 million, according to Sound Transit estimates. From the transit Center to the southwest Federal Way park-and-ride lot is expected to cost between $402.7 million and $463.1 million, and the stretch from southwest Federal Way to Fife is expected between $705 million and $810.8 million.

Construction of the Central Link system began in late-2003 and is about one-third complete. As of Nov. 30, the project was about $200 million under budget and was scheduled to begin carrying passengers in mid-2009.

A connection with Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is scheduled to be completed by December 2009 and eventually carry more than 45,000 riders daily between downtown Seattle and the airport.

A preview of what an elevated light-rail line in Federal Way could look like is in Tukwila. There, the first section of an elevated trackway has been built for Central Link.

Concrete columns up to 65 feet in height have sprouted along State Route 518 between Interstate 5 and the airport exit. Workers have used a steel truss that moves along the tops of the columns to erect the spans that will carry light-rail trains. In late-November, the truss hoisted the final pieces of the first span into position.

The “milestone,” as Sound Transit officials called it, launches a process that will continue between now and 2007 along Tukwila’s approximately five miles of elevated trackway. The truss will “walk” from south to north along the alignment, hoisting into place the pre-cast concrete segments that will form the elevated tracks. A typical span between two columns is formed by 12 pre-cast concrete segments. The truss lifts the segments into place one by one and supports them while they are connected.

Sound Transit was created by the Legislature to build a mass-transit system for King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties.  In November 1996, voters in the urban areas of those counties approved local taxes for the system.

Staff writer Erica Hall: 925-5565, ehall@fedwaymirror.

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