Photo by Oran

After Thursday’s eye-opening board meeting regarding Sound Transit’s 25% budget shortfall, the agency has moved forward on seeking public for high-capacity transit in the North Corridor, specifically the extension from Northgate to Lynnwood.  As we reported, the plans in the corridor are very prone to change from what was proposed in ST2:

Additionally Earl told the board that the extension from Northgate to Lynnwood has been identified as risky. It may need to be changed if the recession is even worse than the July forecast, and much of the project’s details are unknown since little  has been done on the extension so far.

More below the jump.

While no one is proposing to rescind light rail as the North Corridor’s preferred mode choice, ST has been careful not to identify any one type of transit as the preeminent mode.  A number of Thursday’s comments expressed concern over the potential of losing rail in the corridor.  While the ST2 plan does state light rail as the intended mode to Lynnwood, the Board reserves the prerogative to change that depending on the alternatives analysis.  From Sound Transit’s North Corridor page:

The North Corridor HCT project relies on receiving federal assistance to complete the project. In order to qualify for federal grants, Sound Transit must complete an Alternatives Analysis (AA). This requires examination of reasonable alternatives to meet the needs of the corridor and will help Sound Transit identify a preferred transit mode and route.

The agency will host three workshops to allow the public to weigh in on several factors that will shape the North alignment.  Workshop details from ST’s website below the jump.

As part of the Sound Transit 2 plan approved by voters in 2008, we are starting the formal planning process for mass transit between Northgate and Lynnwood with early scoping. We want to hear from you because public input received during this early scoping process will help us identify the best way to serve your community.

Attend a hands-on planning session to learn and comment about:
• Project purpose and schedule
• Areas that may be served by future stations
• Criteria for reviewing alternatives

Planning Sessions

October 7 – North Seattle
Ingraham High School
1819 N. 135th St., Seattle 98133

October 12 – Lynnwood
Lynnwood Convention Center
3711 196th St SW, Lynnwood 98036

October 14 – Shoreline
Shoreline Conference Center
18560 1st Ave. NE, Shoreline 98155

All meetings will be held from 6:00 to 8:30 p.m. A presentation will begin at 6:45 p.m., followed by a workshop.

35 Replies to “Sound Transit Hosting North Corridor Planning Sessions”

  1. Just how firm is the previously proposed alignment north of Northgate? As others here have mentioned, the TOD opportunities seem to be few, adjacent to I-5, at least in Shoreline. I realize the current alignment has some advantages, but station locations such as 145th and 185th in Shoreline will always be next to a roaring highway no matter what is built there. Pretty much all you have at 145th is single family housing and Lakeside School. Even the golf course is oriented away from the station.

    Is there a great reason for locating the stations where planned now, besides the fact that there’s public ROW there? If the alignment could somehow cut over to Aurora, at least for a stretch, it would serve an area with a lot of activity and growth potential, and better integrate with RapidRide, for access to rest of that important corridor.

    1. A future extention of a Ballard-West Seattle line would make most sense cutting over to Aurora between Greenwood and the county line, maybe moving back inland to serve Edmonds and Mukilteo. I wouldn’t say no to cutting the extention entirely, spending the money on bus improvements and studies (or making the corridor BRT for the time being), and bringing it back for ST3, especially if completing the Northgate leg now would allow the extention to go all the way to Everett later (the downside being less money for Ballard-West Seattle rail if such is needed out of ST3 as opposed to the McGinn proposition).

      1. There will never be two lines less than a mile apart north of 105th. Either the trunk line goes on Aurora or no HCT goes there. It would be foolish to duplicate that closely.

    2. I think having the station at the freeway @ 145 will force better east/west transit connections.

      Right now, residents of Broadview, and Greenwood have to take a very long bus rides to get downtown. With the new station, they could take shorter rides in the opposite direction and then board a train to get them quickly to Northgate or downtown without a car. That’s a big deal.

    3. Assuming Link is built to South Lynnwood as planned I’d like to see it take 15th NE between the Northgate Area and the County Line. I think this addresses the issues of TOD near I-5 in Shoreline without adding much expense or travel time compared to a 99 alignment. It also preserves the investment in the Montlake Terrace TC.

      1. You have to tunnel on 15th. That’s all there is to it. The residents of Jackson Park would never agree to an elevated down 15th NE. It isn’t wide enough for the supports and the traffic it currently carries.

        Now I agree it is a good alignment. It’s just far too expensive even to dream about.

      2. Well, you *know*, it is a 4-5 lane road. In other, less car-obsessed, cultures, one might even be able to put a median-running light rail down such a road, leaving two traffic lanes and parking and room for left turn lanes….

    1. For “Central Link” they gave $500 million of the total about $2 billion. For U Link it’s $813 mn of about $1.9 billion.

    2. Federal Contributions–
      Portland Green Line: 60%
      Denver West Corridor: 45%
      Minneapolis Hiawatha Line: 50%
      Minneapolis Central Corridor: 50%

  2. How’s this for a novel idea?

    If the money isn’t there for light rail on the north corridor, what about using the money to create a short (mostly aerial?) light rail connection between Aurora and Lake City Way? You’d actually build it as two separate lines that interline at Northgate station and continue south (with the possibility of reconfiguring it to a continuous east-west connection if the system adds other north-south lines). Then you put all the rest of the money into beefing up north-south bus service on those corridors.

    This would provide the foundation to add light rail on both north-south corridors later when the fiscal situation improves. It would provide an immediate transit link across the north end of Seattle (and one that could be extended to meet up with any future west-side rail through and north of Ballard.) It would seem to serve commuters just as well while also going somewhere that has some actual potential for TOD, and where there’s already stuff for people to go to.

    Longer term, the spur from Northgate to 99 can be extended to get you to Lynnwood along the 99 corridor. The Lake City Way spur can be extended to 125th, 145th, and eventually all the way to Kenmore and Bothell, where it would connect to Sound Transit buses on 405 (and maybe, someday, north-south light rail on the Eastside).

    Really, the I-5 corridor north of Northgate is a wasteland. This might be the ideal time to rethink the decision to build light rail there.

    1. This would never fly since I doubt the Seattle subarea probably doesn’t have enough money to pay for this. Snohomish County would never agree to put their money into a Lake City rail line since they don’t get anything out of it!

      1. This wouldn’t be much more Seattle-area light rail mileage than there is currently. Aurora to Northgate Station along Northgate Way,and then to Lake City Way, is about 2.6 miles of new track. (It would be 2.2 miles, but the jog from Northgate Way to the station adds distance.) The planned I-5 stretch from Northgate to the city limits at 145th is 2.3 miles.

        The difference would be in right-of-way costs and the stations, which would both be in Seattle as opposed to one station straddling the subarea line. You’re probably right that some of the costs of the line to 145th are considered beneficial to the Snohomish subarea for the purposes of subarea equity. And just getting to Aurora probably won’t satisfy their requirements even with greatly increased bus service from that new station.

        Revenues are down further in the Snohomish subarea than in North King, so North King will likely not have to be scaled back as much. But any approach other than I-5 means paying for right-of-way, and then probably not having enough money to get to the county line. Yet bagging light rail altogether north of Northgate isn’t good either.

        Maybe the solution is to punt connecting Snohomish to the Central Line for the time being. Give them more, better buses. Then use the North King money for projects that make sense in North King. To me, that has to look like getting light rail closer to Aurora and/or Lake City Way rather than doing anything on I-5.

      2. Regardless of how plans evolve north of Northgate, it will take years to build anything from Northgate to Lynnwood, let alone Everett. Even when Northgate station opens, it won’t be an ideal place for I-5 long haul bus routes from Snohomish County to access Link, due to all the congestion and lack of HOV direct access.

        We need to think about the interim as well as the long term configuration heading north. If an alignment along SR 99 is followed for some stretch, it would be better for RapidRide / Swift connections, and far better for TOD, but potentially weaker for connections to buses that use the I-5 HOV lanes. Perhaps there’s some light rail alignment yet to be developed that solves all of these problems, well enough. I do think never touching SR 99 with North Link would be a big mistake.

    2. Hopefully ST is planning ahead for an east-west transfer station at Northgate. But why are you assuming that an east-west line would be significantly cheaper than a north-south extension? The bulk of ridership and the greatest need is north-south. Plus, the trains would need a maintenance base, so you’d need to either build a second base (expensive and land-consuming) or have turn-tracks to turn onto the north-south line (less expensive but perhaps still significant).

    3. As I mentioned before, I envision Aurora service being a future extention of a Ballard-West Seattle line, and more importantly, I see service from Aurora as it crosses the county line better served moving west to Edmonds (an urban village if Snohomish County ever had one, at least outside Everett) than continuing to follow 99 to Lynnwood. But I do like the idea of a spur line connecting the Bitter Lake Urban Village (and west Shoreline) to Northgate in lieu of the full Lynnwood plan – makes for better use of the North King dollars. Maybe cut out the Snohomish subarea’s involvement for the time being, in favor of bus improvements, because of the bulk of the shortfall coming there.

      Honestly, for me the best place for a line eventually connecting to Lake City Way to split off is UW Station, with stops at U-Village and in Wedgwood and Lake City before following 522 to Bothell.

      1. However, another spur to Lake City could be doable if ST thinks the Aurora-Northgate spur would get use if it eventually became an Aurora-Lake City line. (Another alternative for a Lake City Way alignment could be as an extention of Ballard-Fremont-Wallingford-U-District.)

      2. Lake City to UW, that’s an idea. I assumed Lake City to Northgate would get the most traffic, but it would be more natural for it to go down to Roosevelt. That would force the Northgaters to backtrack, but they have the 41 and 75.

        Lake City to UW has two things going against it though. One, it forces anyone going to Brooklyn or Northgate to backtrack — not everybody is going to campus, some are going to the U-district. Two, it would require several miles of extra track paralleling Central Link. Eventually we’ll need several north-south lines, but the greatest need is on 15th NW, not 15th NE.

    1. This sounds like wishful thinking. The cost of tunneling may be falling slightly, but it would have to fall radically to be cheaper than elevated in general. In that case, Rainier Valley could have gotten its tunnel if it had only waited a few years, and downtown Bellevue and Surrey Downs would be as pleased as punch. This is a special case: extending a planned tunnel a short distance to avoid expensive highway crossings.

      1. It is indeed wishful thinking.

        By extending the tunnel (expensive), they were able to eliminate several cut and cover underpasses under roads crossing I-5 (more expensive). Neither compares to Surface (relatively cheap) or Aerial (nearly as cheap). Also, it’s a question of the marginal cost of an additional 10 blocks of tunnelling, when the TVM is already down there. Starting a new tunnel north of Northgate is going to be prohibitively expensive.

        IMO, Aerial is the only way to go.

  3. Just for clarification:

    What is the status of the 45th to Northgate project? I always thought that it was one big project called “North Link” but is there a difference in funding between the south Northgate and North Northgate sections? If so, is there a much likelier chance of the southern North Link section continuing on course for a 2020 completion?

  4. I’ll try to make it to the Ingraham meeting. I think they should take a strong look at making it jog over to 15th after Northgate to have stations in Pinehurst, Jackson Park, and North City, before joining back up with I-5 when 15th runs into it just south of Mountlake Terrace Freeway Station. This alignment would hit up actual neighborhoods that have great TOD potential, but not go nearly as far out of the way as an Aurora/Interurban alignment, and serve the huge park-and-rides at Mountlake Terrace and Lynnwood. Plus, the area around Lynnwood Transit Center is planned to turn into an edge city with skyscrapers sometime in the future, and Link will help with that.

    1. I agree, 15th NE would be a much better alignment than I-5 between Northgate and the County Line.

  5. Many people have been mentioning this…
    The light-rail should stick to the neighborhoods and potential areas for TOD instead of running the line next to I-5. Seattle needs pockets of dense neighborhoods to crowd around the underground light-rail stations for this to work. Having the line running next to the freeway would only promote park’n’rides, forcing commuters to drive half-way; this is NOT what we want to encourage, we want to encourage residents to live within walking distance (1mile) from the station so the opportunity to be “car-less” is feasible.

    Northgate to Lynnwood should be re-designed so that the line avoids I-5 and is built along 15th Ave in a cut-and-cover tunnel to avoid pedestrain, automobile, and bicycle traffic. It’s really easy: tear up the road, lay the track and cover it back up. The Boring machines cost too much and take too long. Keep it away from the freeway and NOT center-running.

    1. If there are in-street utilities along 15th NE or crossing it, cut&cover won’t be easy.

      Also, aren’t there a lot of houses within a 1 mi. radius of NE 145th and I-5? All they need now is sidewalks.

      1. Very few, actually. Jackson Park golf course takes the entire southeast quadrant of the walkshed. The Lakeside private school is in the southwest quadrant and there is a greenbelt/creek cutting diagonally across the northeast quadrant.

        There’s little hope for walk access to 145th and I-5.

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