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Wednesday, January 13, 1999 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Hearings To Begin On Light-Rail Line

Seattle Times South Bureau

Sound Transit kicks off a series of public hearings tonight for its draft environmental-impact study on the proposed 24-mile light-rail system that would connect SeaTac, Tukwila and Seattle.

The report released last month on the proposed $1.8 billion light-rail line - part of a $3.9 billion regional transit plan passed by voters in 1996 - has been drawing fire from the South King County community, including city officials, the Tukwila School District, business owners and residents.

The main concern is the plan to run rail lines along Highway 99, bypassing Southcenter mall and nearby businesses, said Clarence Moriwaki, a Sound Transit spokesman.

"But this was the fastest (route)" he said. "It has great economic-development potential for (Highway 99), and it's also less expensive."

Tukwila school officials say the light-rail route and a commuter station planned at South 144th Street and Highway 99 would put students in danger.

School buses cross Highway 99 about 80 times a day, so routes would need to be reconfigured or drivers would need to sit out any delays, district Superintendent Michael Silver said.

Tukwila city officials think the light-rail route should be aligned to serve Southcenter.

Sound Transit has scheduled four additional public hearings this month, after tonight's hearing in Tukwila, and will take public comment through Feb. 5. The board is expected to vote on the plan by March. ------------------------------- Light-rail hearing

Tonight's public hearing on light-rail plans will be held from 6 to 9 at the Tukwila Community Center, 12424 42nd Ave. S.

Copyright (c) 1999 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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