Construction workers work on the final stop of the Federal Way Link Extension light rail route along South 320th Street in Federal Way on Nov. 19, 2021. Olivia Sullivan,

Construction workers work on the final stop of the Federal Way Link Extension light rail route along South 320th Street in Federal Way on Nov. 19, 2021. Olivia Sullivan,

Light rail service to Tacoma delayed to 2035

Sound Transit studies more options for the train line route.

Construction of the Tacoma Dome Sound Transit light rail extension has been delayed again, and service is now scheduled to start in 2035, as the agency considers whether to change the route the train line takes as it goes from Federal Way to Tacoma.

According to Sound Transit, an environmental impact statement showed the need to consider more station and route options in southern Federal Way, as well as whether to move a proposed station on a floodplain in Fife. The options for the Tacoma stations, including the Tacoma Dome, remain as they are.

The Sound Transit board will convene March 23 to discuss those options and consider whether to study them in full, which would delay publishing the environmental statement to mid-2024 and change the timeline for opening the Tacoma Dome extension.

Sound Transit is operating on the assumption that those delays will occur.

The $3.3 billion light rail extension was first planned to open in 2030, and later delayed to 2032. Sound Transit spokesperson David Jackson said this new delay to 2035 “reflects the time required to study the other options that will go before the board later this month.”

Around 2019, Sound Transit narrowed down the expansion project to a single station in Fife and a single route through south Federal Way.

But the Fife station location sits on a floodplain which, due to federal regulations, requires Sound Transit to now consider alternatives outside of the floodplain. That’s led the agency to consider two other stations slightly to the west of the proposed Fife Station, which still remains the agency’s preferred option.

The alternate south Federal Way routes would mean much more substantial changes.

The current preferred route hugs Interstate 5 until reaching the South 348th Street intersection, where it then breaks west and would meet a station on Enchanted Parkway or South 352nd Street before rejoining I-5. An alternate route doesn’t break from I-5 and would meet a station by the freeway.

But a new third alternative would instead break even farther west, meeting a potential station near South 352nd Street before running along Pacific Highway until rejoining the freeway near Milton.

Changing the preferred light rail route through Federal Way could be key to safeguarding the county’s investment in a homelessness shelter project at the former Red Lion hotel. The current preferred Enchanted Parkway route travels perilously close, if not entirely through the existing hotel building.

When completed, the light rail system will connect residents and visitors from downtown Tacoma to Northgate. From the south Federal Way station, Sound Transit estimates travel times of 20 minutes to the Tacoma Dome and 15 minutes to Sea-Tac Airport.

Sound Transit earlier delayed completion of the 7.8-mile extension from Angle Lake Station in SeaTac through Kent to the Federal Way Transit Center. That line had been scheduled to open in 2024 but has been delayed at least until 2025 and maybe 2026.

Ahead of the Sound Transit Board’s March 23 meeting, the agency will hold three information sessions on the new options this month:

• Milton / Edgewood Library: March 8, 5 to 7 p.m.

• Federal Way Community Center: March 14, 8 to 10 a.m.

• Poodle Dog Restaurant in Fife: March 15, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

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