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Originally published June 10, 2010 at 4:12 PM | Page modified June 11, 2010 at 11:27 AM

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Sound Transit wants to extend light rail south sooner

Sound Transit is trying to extend its light-rail line 1.6 miles south into the city of SeaTac by 2016, some four to six years sooner than the current plan.

Seattle Times transportation reporter

Sound Transit is trying to extend its light-rail line 1.6 miles south into the city of SeaTac by 2016 — four to six years earlier than the current plan.

The new segment would go from the SeaTac/Airport Station to a new elevated station near South 200th Street and International Boulevard South, an area of apartment buildings, parking lots for airport travelers and workers, office buildings and bus connections.

An early start would improve the rest of the Link network in at least two ways. First, the station would open about the same time as the north-end Capitol Hill Tunnel, allowing riders to reach the University of Washington from the south suburbs. Second, the park-and-ride lot in Tukwila is already 85 to 90 percent full at peak times, so a South 200th station would bring a needed boost to park-and-ride capacity, said Ron Lewis, deputy director for business services.

For the next SeaTac station to open in 2016, officials need to find about $34 million in grants, and make a board decision in spring 2011 to launch construction, said Lewis. The expected cost is in the low $300 millions, according to a study done for the ballot measure. If not for the recent recession — a potential $3.1 billion blow to Sound Transit — a decision to accelerate construction would be easier, said CEO Joni Earl.

Transit-board member Julia Patterson, a Metropolitan King County Council member who represents the airport-area suburbs, cautioned transit managers not to overbuild the next station. The massive Tukwila International Boulevard Station, an illuminated tower offering mountain views, has been derided as a Taj Mahal.

Lewis was asked why Sound Transit favors elevated tracks, instead of a cheaper surface route. He said an elevated track avoids conflicts with airport loop roads, as well as busy South 188th Street. Also, a dip in the terrain thwarts a surface layout, he said. Thirdly, the city of SeaTac added landscaped medians in a reconstruction of the boulevard and doesn't want to tear them out, he said.

Mike Lindblom: 206-515-5631 or mlindblom@seattletimes.com

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