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Sound Transit Acquisition Readies Lakewood Service

By: Angie Leventis
The News Tribune
October 11, 2004

Original Article

After three years of delays and much aggravation, Lakewood is one step closer to getting commuter train service.

Sound Transit recently bought 61/2 miles of land for commuter rail service from Lakewood to Tacoma.

City leaders see the land purchase as a sign that Sound Transit is serious about a Lakewood station, a development they say will help clean up a blighted part of the city.

“I think they’ve been kind of dragging their feet,” said Lakewood Councilwoman Claudia Thomas. “We’re finally on the move now.”

Sound Transit officials said Lakewood residents can expect to get Sounder service by 2007.

But with the land acquisition comes a new snag: A property owner in the area says he won’t give up 1 acre that Sound Transit is trying to condemn for the project.

Ken Miller, a University Place farmer and contractor whose legal battle over another condemnation procedure held up the state’s project to widen Highway 16, is now fighting the Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority.

He owns a home built in the 1890s on South Adams and South 60th streets in Tacoma. While the house is in “pretty bad shape now,” Miller said he plans to restore it.

The first hearing will be held in Pierce County Superior Court later this month.

“We certainly don’t want to hold up projects, but you also have a right to keep your land,” Miller said.

State highway officials dropped their effort to condemn 30 acres of his farmland in September, mainly because it would delay the highway project.

Sound Transit officials said they couldn’t comment until court proceedings are complete. Sound Transit does not expect more delays, said Agnes Govern, director of capital projects for the agency.

The latest land struggle is one of many obstacles in Lakewood’s quest for a commuter rail station. The project has been pushed back several years and Sound Transit has studied an alternate site – one Lakewood officials say is unacceptable.

They fear changing the station’s proposed location at Pacific Highway Southwest off 47th Street would unravel a large part of the city’s redevelopment plan for the area, a main entrance into Lakewood off Interstate 5.

Commuter service would bring thousands of people to businesses in the neighborhood and likely encourage more development there, Thomas said.

Sound Transit already has paid for $1.7 million in street improvements in the area. The city was awarded a $3.5 million federal grant for curbs, gutters, sidewalks, street lights and other improvements along Pacific Highway from 108th Street to Bridgeport Way Southwest.

Govern said Sound Transit is considering the alternate location – on Lakeview Avenue Southwest – only because it already owns the land.

“They can look at other options if they’d like, but we already told them (Pacific Highway) is the only choice,” said Lakewood City Manager Scott Rohlfs.

Sound Transit originally planned on completing the Lakewood station by late 2001. Now the agency says it hopes to start construction by late 2005.

Last week’s land acquisition cost $13.4 million and is the second of three purchase agreements required for the project.

The $25.4 million Lakewood station will include up to nine round trips from Lakewood to Tacoma to Seattle, offering commuter rail and bus service.

The Lakewood and Tacoma stations are part of a $3.9 billion Sound Transit package approved by Puget Sound voters in 1996. Expenditures have grown to
$5 billion since then.

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