The first 300 ft of Sound Transit light rail track is now laid for the 2.4-mile light rail extension through Tacoma’s Stadium District and Hilltop neighborhood. 

As part of the $217 million Hilltop Tacoma Link Extension scheduled to open in 2022, the first 300 ft of rail requires a two-week test and inspection period to ensure the rails meet design specifications. Once cleared, Walsh Construction Company II can move forward on the rest of the Sound Transit project. 

Since last fall, construction has concentrated on relocating underground utilities, building foundations for Link power poles, building traction power substations and expanding the Link Operations and Maintenance facility near Freighthouse Square. 

In all, the Hilltop Tacoma Link Extension includes relocating nearly 10,000 ft of underground utility lines and foundations for 60 of the more than 300 power poles needed on the project. The operations and maintenance facility expansion required 200 piles and will soon see construction start on new structural steel beams in July. 

Work started in earnest on the new track near Stadium High School in late June and, when finished, will extend the Tacoma Link system 2.4 miles while relocating the existing Theatre District station to near Old City Hall and building six new stations along the route. 

The stations will connect riders to popular destinations in the city, such as Old City Hall, the Stadium District, Wright Park and major medical facilities before reaching its new Hilltop neighborhood terminus. The extension sets up Sound Transit to further extend the light rail tracks toward Tacoma Community College in the next 20 years. 

New Hilltop Tacoma Link Tracks will run in existing road lanes and remain compatible with on-street parking and existing bicycle facilities. Rider platforms will be positioned in the center roadway. 

As Sound Transit continues its plan to form a 116-mile regional system by 2041 as the fastest-growing transit agency in the country, the next scheduled extension opening is Northgate Link in 2021, followed by the Hilltop extension in 2022 and East Link in 2023. Additional extensions to Shoreline, Mountlake Terrace, Lynnwood, Ken/Des Moines, Federal Way and downtown Redmond are planned in 2024. Further light rail extensions will reach West Seattle, Fife and Tacoma in 2030, Ballard in 2035, Paine Field and Everett in 2036 and South Kirkland and Issaquah in 2041. 

Follow Tim Newcomb on Twitter at @tdnewcomb