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August 22, 2003

Tacoma welcomes light rail

The region’s first light rail line opened Aug. 22 in Tacoma, and the UW Tacoma campus was at the center of the celebration.

Local and regional dignitaries stopped by the campus, where a mariachi band and Japanese taiko drum group performed and clowns made balloons for kids. Crowds packed the trains and explored each stop seeking bargains and treats offered by businesses along the the 1.6-mile line operated by Sound Transit. Supporters of the new Link Light Rail line say it is a breakthrough in public transportation in downtown Tacoma, connecting downtown to the entire region through the intermodal station at the Tacoma Dome, where commuters can catch trains and buses for destinations throughout the region.

The Link train is tailor-made for UW Tacoma, where parking is at a premium. Now, students, staff and faculty can park elsewhere along the line and ride the train to campus, or hop on Link at lunchtime for a quick trip to downtown or eclectic Freighthouse Square.

The line runs from the Tacoma Dome Station (25th Street between D and E streets) to the Theater District (South Ninth and Commerce streets). Trains will run from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sundays. Trains are scheduled to pass the station in front of UW Tacoma every 10 minutes on weekdays. All rides are free.

Sound Transit projects that the system will carry 2,000 passengers a day by 2010. Transit officials hope to some day extend the line eastward.

Friday, dozens of UW Tacoma staff, students and visitors lined up to be among the first to ride the train. Longtime South Tacoma resident Amelia Haller, who waited anxiously for the first train to pass, has a special connection to the station in front of UWT.

Her poem, “Dedications,” was chosen for part of an art and poetry display at the train stop.

“Streetcars are just a wonderful idea,” she said. “It’s something fun to do, and it’s a lot easier to get downtown. And our businesses should benefit as well.”

Sound Transit advises people to use caution when driving or walking near the tracks. The Link trains make very little noise, so pedestrians and drivers should read and obey all posted traffic signs, avoid parking or walking on the tracks and cross the tracks only at intersections or in crosswalks.

For more information about Link Light Rail, visit www.soundtransit.org.