by MIKE ORR
Sound Transit is deciding where to put light rail stations between Northgate and Lynnwood and held a series of open houses on the subject this month. Although many here were upset that ST chose I-5 rather than Aurora for the line, we need to make sure it’s the best I-5 line possible, and each station has different potential for serving people and improving mobility.
The current proposal at right shows six potential stations, two with wiggle room: 125th-130th, 145th-155th, 185th, Mountlake Terrace Transit Center, 220th SW, and Lynnwood Transit Center. Last year’s Alternatives Analysis had only 145th, 185th, Mountlake Terrace, and Lynnwood. The other two locations have been added based on citizen feedback. (Documents and maps are in the extensive North Corridor library.)
At March 17th open house in Edmonds, ST reps Roger Iwata and Matt Sheldon said that ST has no fixed number of stations in mind; it depends on whether all the stations are cost-effective. 130th and 145th are rather close for two stations but 125th and 185th are probably too far apart. This means a 125th or 130th station could push the 145th station north to 155th. The budget at this point is elastic enough to support all six stations if necessary, though further engineering may show otherwise. If the cost estimates indicate ST can’t afford all the worthwhile stations, it may have to defer one without abandoning it entirely.
Each King County station is 1/2 mile from either Aurora Ave N or 15th Ave NE (whichever is closer), and 3/4 mile from the other avenue. Here are some thoughts about each station, based on my walking and bus tour of the station areas:
- There’s a strong argument for a 130th station. It would allow an east-west bus to run right from the center of Lake City to the Aurora/130th neighborhood with Link in between. This would significantly improve connections between northwest and northeast Seattle, and also help end Sand Point’s isolation from the west half of the city. A 130th station would be better than 125th because it’s on the main road, has several four-story apartments within a few blocks, and is a more open location. A 125th station would have the I-5 sound wall on one side, a sea of single-family houses on the other, and only one apartment building. The ST rep said that there has been significant public support for a 130th station, and that a 125th station is unlikely.
- The main advantage of a 145th station is the existing P&R. If ST insists on a parking lot in this area, it may as well use this one, which is centrally located. There’s little potential for TOD around the station. An east-west bus would skirt the periphery of neighborhoods rather than centers. I’d call this station mediocre.
- 155th is more residential than 145th; it’s a two-lane street and therefore less likely to be upzoned in the future. Its only advantage over 145th is it’s closer to the Aurora/155th shopping area, but it’s still a half mile away.
- A 185th station would be near the Shoreline Community Center, which is surprisingly large and bustling. The city plans to redevelop the former elementary school into a multistory mixed-use facility. West of the station is the Shoreline P&R and Fred Meyer on Aurora, and the North City commercial area at 15th NE & 175th. The Shoreline Library is in an isolated location at 5th NE & 175th. A 175th station was apparently dropped earlier in the process; it would have been five blocks from the library.
- The Mountlake Terrace Transit Center is sure to be chosen because of the existing transit investment in it. From the local bus bays, it’s a 4 minute walk to the freeway bays (a possible station location), 6 minutes to the library and civic center area through Veterans’ Memorial Park (not disability accessible), and 7 minutes to the library via streets. The civic center area is undergoing a minor redevelopment.
- The 220th station is the most surprising. The ST rep said its main purpose was to access the Premera office parks. He said it’s the least likely station to be chosen, and it may be deferred even if it is.
- The Lynnwood Transit Center is the main jewel in the segment. Lynnwood plans to build a large urban village there to rival downtown Bellevue. It’s the main transfer point for Community Transit buses to Edmonds, Mukilteo, and elsewhere.
Alicia McIntire of the Shoreline Council staff says that “staff is recommending Council identify a preference for the 145th and 185th stations and the alignment on the east side of I-5. Should Council agree with this recommendation, staff will prepare a letter to Sound Transit on behalf of the Mayor summarizing this preference.” See the staff report here.
It’s apparent that Lynnwood TC, Mountlake Terrace TC, and 185th will be chosen because they’re near the center of their respective cities. Of the other stations, 130th is highest priority and 220th is lowest. The most important thing transit fans can do at this point is to make sure the 130th station gets built.