If all went as it was supposed to as of this writing, the first commuters to catch the Sounder train in Lakewood and South Tacoma in the wee hours this morning are already at work up north.
This is a day that Pierce County has long awaited – and paid for. The region’s citizens voted back in the mid-1990s to tax themselves to extend Sound Transit rail service extending to Lakewood. Now, 11 years after that service was originally supposed to begin, it finally has. The 8.5-mile, $325 million extension from Tacoma’s Dome District was scheduled to begin operating with a 4:42 train this morning.
If the recent testing period is any indication, there will be bumps along the way. Drivers will have to get used to trains briefly shutting down 17 at-grade street crossings between the Lakewood Sounder Station and the Dome District in downtown Tacoma. And pedestrians will have to restrain themselves from trying to beat the trains by scurrying across the tracks. That does not always end well.
Inconvenience is a price drivers should be willing to pay. Someday they, too, might want the option of taking the train instead of battling freeway traffic. And offering one more way to commute helps lighten that traffic and moves people in a more environmentally friendly way.
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There’s another reason to start getting used to the rail traffic. If the state and federal government have their way and complete the Point Defiance Bypass, the rail route through South Tacoma and Lakewood will get a lot busier a few years down the road — with several high-speed Amtrak trains daily. Freight trains will travel on the existing corridor along Puget Sound.
While the Sounder commuter trains offer something of value to South Sounders to offset the inconvenience they cause to drivers, that’s not the case with the Amtrak trains. Those are scheduled to speed right through the Lakewood station, forcing prospective passengers to board at either the Dome District or Lacey station.
That’s a concern for another day, though. Today is for celebrating the important rail service the South Sound has long waited for. All aboard!