Sound Transit and someone from WashDot came to work yesterday and talked about the RTID ballot for next year. The first guy talked about all the road work, which is about $7bn worth of improvements on choke points. He made a point to say that they were looking at SR-520 more than the press has been giving them credit for.

After him a rather polite and knowledgeable guy talked about the East Link rail for about 20 minutes before giving over to someone who explained the flexibility of light rail and it’s advantages over heavy rail. Basically, more flexibility when it comes to at-grade sections.

We then had a question and answer, where I asked the most unpopular question, “Vancouver is building the Canada Line in 7 years with $2billion USD, if Light Rail is so great, why does it cost so much and take so long?” The gentleman answered that the environmental rules were less strict in Canada, which I believe. The other differences were the Skytrains’ routes will be smaller and they won’t have to build across a lake. He said the date could be moved to as soon as 2018 (it’s 2027 now) if Sound Transit only had more money. I think if they would put ST2 on the ballot after the central link is finished, people would see its usefulness and be willing to fork over the cash.

Someone asked why the line is not gauranteed to go all the way to downtown Redmond and instead is only slated to go to Overlake Transit Center? Apparently if a tunnel is built through Bellevue it’ll cost about $250~$400 million a mile compared to $150 million for elevated and only $80 million for at grade. That’s a lot of money, and with that it would be difficult to get the train all the way to downtown Redmond. Also, Downtown Redmond is not a major employment center, but there is a major push to get the train to Redmond because parking around Overlake is already nasty and anyone taking the train into Bellevue or the city would have no where to park.

So my question is does Bellevue really need a tunnel? I know that they no longer consider themselves a suburb and want to be a real city with a subway and high-rises, but they are limiting the usefulness of their own train line by insisting on a tunnel. We’ll see how this goes, but I think if we have at grade stations in the city, they can handle at grade stations in Bellevue.

Finally, someone asked if there was any possibility of new park and rides in the city. The answer was, “No, the city of Seattle is against new parking lots, and areas around train stations will be for dense mixed-use developments.” That was my expectation, too. I think Nickels and Sims are planning on putting a lot of buses toward the stations, so park and rides won’t be very necessary.

3 Replies to “Meeting with Sound Transit Yesterday”

  1. Nice scoop! Denver’s laying out over 100 miles of rail in less time than ST, so you know it’s got to have a lot to do with funding constraints. That’s too bad. On the other hand, maybe ST wants to under-promise and over-deliver this time.

  2. This is great news! I am excited for the future transportation in Seattle. About the Denver comment, it is much easier when you have mostly flat land and no water. I think that has be taken into account. As for Bellevue, here is what I think, dedicate one lane for light rail and have that lane with a right of way privilege for the light rail vehicle. This would speed up any issues that may slow the light rail down. It seems that if they are planning for a circulator bus that might be possible to get more people walking and less people driving. Better to have that then waiting for a tunnel that might come 20 years later, given there is nothing to slow down tunneling! I applaud ST on being realistic, at least they aren’t candy coating a situation that people buy into only to be let down.

  3. Yeah, This time Sound Transit seems much more sober in their estimates which is great.

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