Thursday, April 10, 2008

Rail for Russell?

I met up with the squirrels in Kevin's attic today and they spotted me an interesting tidbit. Admittedly I haven't been following the Tacoma/Russell negotiations in detail, so it's possible that this has already been blogged about, but I feel it's worth mentioning anyway.

Word on the street is that part of Russell's counter-offer (I don't know if it's a formalized counter-offer or just something they brought up as a possibility) is their desire for the Link to stop at their front door. They are apparently willing to spend quite a bit of money (possible number I heard out there is $7 million, but that was just a guess) if Sound Transit will undertake the labor.

Basically the idea is to create a loop. Where there are two tracks on Commerce there would be one, and instead of a straight back and forth, the northbound train would split off at some point and head down to A, where Russell is, then loop back up and come at the Theatre District stop from the other side. My best guess is that the break-off point would be at 17th, so that in one direction the Link would service Russell (C), and the other direction would service the Convention Center (E). Then I guess it would have to step up via 8th and 7th to get back to Commerce, like so:

So, the good: Russell likes it, and things that make Russell stay are good, in general. Since a lot of people working in that area park by the dome, it works for them. Also, it sounds like Russell is willing to absorb a lot of the cost, which is good (I don't know how large a percentage their contribution is, but hopefully it's most of it).

The bad: it is a massive amount of manpower, time, and traffic blockage that does nothing but save one subset of the riders a three or four block walk. That area is congested enough as it is. While the work is going on it will be totally screwed, and the only way to keep it from throwing off traffic after it's completed is for it to take over the little cutoff road in front of the Tacoma Art Museum. Otherwise it'll be taking up a hefty chunk of Pacific. And since this is likely to take a while to get rolling, but will be made a priority, I'm sure (if we do decide to do it), any notions of expanding the Link to actual new places would almost certainly get delayed.

All in all... I think it's one of those things that would have been a good idea if it had been done when the Link was built. But to tack it on now feels like a massive waste when their manpower could be theoretically spent (if they got the money) expanding our "Link to nowhere" into a route that actually goes places... McKinley and/or Lincoln district, up 6th Ave, toward Proctor, wherever. Spending the time and money to double an already short route back on itself to save one company from a little exercise feels a bit counterintuitive.


Unknown said...

It's a great idea, but how can the trolley make a sharp turn off Commerce onto S. 7th (by Old City Hall) then handle the steep grade on S. 7th and another sharp turn onto Pacific without knocking down Landmark structures? I guess that's how engineers earn a living.

Anonymous said...

Of course, we're forgetting what if Russell builds elsewhere in downtown?
The Haub site (between 13th and 15th on Pac Ave) is a prime contender.
I don't know how they'd work that in unless we actually get a network of streetcars. Mile for mile, streetcars are significantly cheaper than the Link... that $7m would go a lot farther.

Erik B. said...

Having this extension of LINK would be a great idea! This is a form of a Streetcar.

It would reduce congestion by reducing the reliance on downtown. It is better than anything Sound Transit is offering.

Also, many people walk on Pacific and would likely take it.

Anonymous said...

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izenmania said...

I wonder if they could negate some of the traffic issues by buying up the unused train tracks right there in front of the museum. That would give them at least one chunk heading down toward A that isn't in the actual middle of the street.