Tacoma Urbanist

Dec. 2, 2007 at 12:46am

TNT: Sound Transit "shouldn’t be laid over the grave of the Dome District."

The Tacoma City Council will vote on 12/11 whether they desire an "at grade" crossing or an elevated crossing.

Today, the TNT weighs in on the Sound Transit proposal recognizing the likely blightful consequences of a bad design with a strongly worded editorial:

There are win-win solutions and win-lose solutions
. As Sound Transit prepares to extend its Sounder line to Lakewood, Tacoma’s Dome District needs at least a break-even solution...

But the project could all too easily damage the Dome District if the extension in that area is not done with the best principles of urban design foremost in mind. A straight-ahead engineering mindset would be a disaster...

So the heavy rails must be laid. But they shouldn’t be laid over the grave of the Dome District...

The best ideas will come from the people who will have to live with the results. As it proceeds, Sound Transit should rely heavily on affected citizens and urban design experts...

The agency’s board will be voting to approve the project in mid-December; before then, the agency will be negotiating terms with the city. This term should top the list: Do right by the Dome District...

Bottom line: Will the Dome District look like this (an at grade crossing recommended by Boe)

Or a blightful raised overpass?  We will see on December 11th when the council votes on the matter.

comments [1]  |  posted under sound transit, tacoma, washington


by Erik on 12/13/2007 @ 8:25pm
Here's David Boe's latest letter on the matter to try to reduce the blight factor onthe Dome District now that the "grade separation" option has been choosen.

There is still alot of work to do on the issue. I hope Sound Transit and the city will try their best to reduce the impacts.

Mayor Baarsma, Deputy Mayor Talbert, and Members of the Tacoma City Council,

Further to my presenting to your Study Session on the Sounder Expansion plans through the Tacoma Dome District, I have had the chance to fully review the two reports presented by staff – the Comprehensive Plan Consistency Review and the AHBL Urban Design Assessment – and have the following comments for your consideration:

Comprehensive Plan Consistency Review: As noted in the study session, the Comprehensive Plan is supportive of commuter rail; however, it is the ‘how’ of the commuter rail project that is the issue to assure the project can be a catalyst for ongoing as well as future economic development. This distinction between the ‘If’ and ‘How’ of public infrastructure design in a urban setting is critical. Too many times public agencies get lulled into the ‘Field of Dreams’ concept of “build it and they will come” and commuter rail is no exception to this rule. So while getting the commuter rail service up and running will be a positive for Tacoma, Lakewood and Pierce County, if the infrastructure is not property designed with future economic development considerations for the Tacoma Dome District and through the rest of the City of Tacoma, then the net result could be negative.

AHBL Urban Design Assessment: This report starts to highlight some of these urban design concerns with the project. The fault I see with this report is that is does not accurately delineate the concerns about potential ‘attractive nuisance’ issues with the preliminary Sounder Project designs. One of the lacking elements I have noticed with a number of recent public projects in Tacoma is a perceived the lack of a ‘defensible space’ overlay to projects. Page 28 of the report starts to illuminate these concerns when it notes that safety and night time will be a concern along the train route when it recommends “maintenance and patrols of the A Street land wall” and “Employ lighting at a ‘panic button’ station” as mitigation elements – i.e. increased security and police patrols may be required due to the proposed construction. This should be a warning bell if new infrastructure will require increased staffing of security due to physical constructions not directly related to its use. What happens when there is no funding for increased patrols? Another issue for concern is the lack of ‘on the ground’ aspects of the proposed Sounder Project. Most of the design mitigation recommendations are ‘suburban’ in direction which could have a profound impact to the potential character of the Dome District. Many of the design recommendations would be totally appropriate for a Ruston Way setting – but for the Tacoma Dome District these design elements would be inconsistent with the Comprehensive Plan Goals and Policies for this portion of the City.

BOE Recommendation: In meeting with Sound Transit Staff, it has come to my attention that there has not been much detail design completed for either the ‘at-grade’ or ‘separated-grade’ option due to uncertainties related to the route. Most of the design work that has been completed has been at 400 feet in the air – not down at street level. Given this situation, I strongly recommend that the City Council approve the route for the Sounder Train but defer the Pacific Avenue crossing option to a later date once more design, construction and cost analysis can be generated for review. I personally have serious concerns about the significant lowering of Pacific Avenue – from an urban design, project cost, and construction disruption aspect – and firmly believe that the consequences of the design must be identified prior to the City Council voting on the crossing option. Has the cost been calculated on what the different route options will have on existing businesses?

I am unfortunately unable to present these thoughts to you during the Public Comment portion of the City Council Meeting tonight (alas Revels rehearsal) – and thus I am sending you these comments this morning. If you have any questions on the above, please do not hesitate to give me a jingle at 383-7762. Thank you in advance for your consideration.

David Boe