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Sound Transit unveils new train for Tacoma line light rail extension

Sound Transit has received the first of the trains that will run on the Hilltop extension of Tacoma’s light rail system.

TACOMA, Wash. — Jennifer Richardson is excited about all the new customers the light rail will bring to her Hilltop coffee shop, the Red Elm Cafe. However, dealing with the construction has its drawbacks.

“We’re hoping that we’ll be able to feed and caffeinate nurses and doctors from both [Tacoma General] and from St. Joe’s," she said. “There have been lots of times where all of my parking was taken away, and the drilling and the noise, off and on, kept customers away, but we managed through it. Actually, I’m really kind of proud of us.”

But she won’t have to wait too much longer.

Sound Transit showcased the first of five light rail trains for the extension on Tuesday, which is set to run from St. Joseph’s Hospital to the Tacoma Dome. The state-of-the-art trains can carry up to 100 people and are accessible for those with bikes and wheelchairs.

The extension is expected to open by the first quarter of 2023, and agency officials say they are confident they will meet that deadline.

In addition to easing people’s commutes, Sound Transit Board Chair Kent Keel says the project also provides work for the community.

“Sound Transit’s also adding thirty new living wage jobs to our Tacoma Link staff, which includes more train operators and maintenance staff,” he reported.

But as excitement builds for the light rail’s debut, there is still concern about the potential displacement of Hilltop residents.

Tacoma has been adopting policies to address displacement since 2018 as part of its Affordable Housing Action Strategy.

Councilmember Kristina Walker pledged that Tacoma would make a concerted effort to maintain those policies as the project develops.

“We passed the Anti-Displacement Resolution last fall as a part of our work,” Walker said. “We’ll continue to do that to keep that lens as a focus for our Home in Tacoma work, and we will continue to make Hilltop a focus of that work as well.”

In the meantime, Richardson has just one request: “Hurry up and get it done!”


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