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No tunnel for Tacoma in light rail study

Fife and Tacoma are getting Sound Transit light rail, but with that comes some disappointment.

On Thursday, the Sound Transit Board selected the routes to focus on in an environmental impact statement but had to reject some key requests from the two cities.

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Fife’s mayor wants the trains to run along Highway 99 where a new light rail station would bolster development.

“I think the time is definitely perfect and it will be very transformative,” said Mayor Kim Roscoe.

The Sound Transit board meeting Thursday, Roscoe wanted to designate the Highway 99 alignment as the preferred route through her city.

But the Federal Transit Administration insists that a route along Interstate 5 be studied equally in the Environmental Impact Statement.

“Although we recognize that both of those alignments will be studied and vetted equally, we do maintain a local preference for a State Route 99 alignment,” Roche said.

For Tacoma, there was similar disappointment.

The city wants to study a tunnel for the line as it arrives at the Tacoma Dome, to enhance and protect the development that’s already going in.

But noting soil problems and the possibility of finding Puyallup tribal remains, the Federal Transit Administration gave a firm “no” to studying a tunnel.

“We were told by the FTA that we could not study, cut and cover. I have to say that that was very disappointing for all of us, especially disappointing for the City of Tacoma,” said Mayor Victoria Woodards.

The board, however, did agree to Woodards’ request for a top-notch station design.

“It is an area that we are focused (on), that we are growing and we want to make sure that we have the best possible designed station for that neighborhood,” Woodards said.

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There will be plenty of public hearings over the next three years before the final environmental impact statement is done.

The $2 billion light rail extension between Federal Way and Tacoma is scheduled to be complete in 2030.

By Essex Porter, KIRO 7 TV

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