By MIKE ORR
[UPDATE: C segment cost figures corrected Sept. 30th.]
ST will hold open houses on the new draft EIS for the Lynnwood Link extension between August 14th and 22nd in Mountlake Terrace, Northgate, Lynnwood, and Shoreline. The DEIS has six alternatives for King County: three with stations at 130th+155th+185th, two with stations at 130th+145th+185th, and two with stations at 145th+185th, all along I-5. South Snohomish County has four alternatives: three with a single station at Mountlake Terrace TC, and one with a second station at 220th St SW. Lynnwood has three alternatives, each putting the station on a different side of the transit center. (Executive Summary, pp. 8-15) The low estimate for the cheapest combination is $1.23 billion; the high estimate for the most expensive combination is $1.74 billion. (pp. 23-26) So let’s look at it in terms of which alternatives are minimally acceptable, which ones add substantial benefit for passengers arriving by foot or bus, and which ones don’t add enough benefit to justify their costs.
A 130th station is an absolute necessity, to give Lake City meaningful access to Link. Lake City is the largest existing urban village north of Northgate, and one of the most affordable. So imagine a pedestrian at 125th & Lake City Way. For her, a 130th station would be a short bus ride away, and faster than the buses slogging through Northgate traffic. A 145th station would be beyond walking distance, and the indirect bus ride would negate much of Link’s advantage. A 130th station would also facilitate an east-west bus on 125th/130th. If this were a reorganized 75, it would give northwest Seattle, Lake City, and Sand Point easy access to Link and to each other. Currently it takes a whopping 45 minutes to get from Magnuson Park to Aurora Avenue.
The most economical King County alternatives — surprisingly — include 130th station.* That’s a relief to transit fans who were worried they’d have to fight for the station over its cost. Alternative A5 has stations at 130th + 155th + 185th. Alternative A10 has stations at 130th + 145th +185th. The 130th and 185th stations would be at-grade, while 145th/155th would be elevated. The “at-grade” segments would pass under cross streets like the freeway does, mostly in retained cut-fill trenches.** Alternatives A7 and A11 are similar but have fully elevated stations and more overall elevation, at a cost of $90-120 million more. I don’t think elevation is necessary here because there are no intersections to eliminate or spectacular views to see.
As for 145th vs 155th station, I have no strong opinion. 145th has more potential for development because it’s already a highway, so NIMBYs have less standing to object. The main advantage of 155th is it’s closer to the Safeway-Sears cluster at 155th & Aurora, but it’s still not close. It’s a 15-minute walk away, and I don’t see a major increase in pedestrians unless Shoreline turns 155th & Aurora into another Lake City and upzones the connecting street. More after the jump.
In South Snohomish County, alternatives B1 and B2A put Mountlake Terrace station on the east side of the freeway next to the bus bays, and are a five-minute walk to the city center through Veterans Memorial Park. Alternative B1 puts the station in the freeway median (subtracting $3 million), but it’s unacceptable to me because it would add some two minutes to the walking times, all along a boring freeway, and that’s enough to adversely affect people’s walking decisions. B4A has both an east side station and a second station at 220th (adding $120-130 million). I don’t know the area well enough to have much of an opinion, but it would be adjacent to several medical office parks, and new pedestrian cut-throughs could improve access to the surrounding businesses and the Interurban Trail. Swift’s 216th station is a 15-minute walk away. East-west buses 110 and 119 could serve the Link station with just a slight reroute. The B4 alternative raises the cost without adding a 220th station, and I don’t see any benefit in it.
In Lynnwood, the main difference between the alternatives is which side of the transit center the station is on. C1 is on the north side, C2 on the west side, and C3 on the south side. All three locations are in the southwest corner of the emerging urban village, making a less-than-ideal 20 minute walk to the opposite corner of the village, and a 35 minute walk to Alderwood Mall. C3 is unacceptable because it’s furthest from the center of the village and has no immediate walkshed: the P&R is on one side and I-5 on the other. C1 is closest to the center of the village (apparently replacing the strip malls on the south side of 220th) but it costs $30m
$300-340 million more than the other alternatives. I’m not sure that the cost is worth it for just a 2-3 block gain, because unlike the Mountlake Terrace freeway station these are ordinary blocks with potential destinations on all sides. It may be better to save the $300 million for a future extension to Alderwood Mall and Ash Way.
Summing it all up, the cheapest acceptable combination is A5/A10 + B1 + C2 at $1.26-1.45 billion. That would give an at-grade station at 130th, an elevated station at 145th or 155th, an at-grade station at 185th, an east side station at Mountlake Terrace, and a west side station at Lynnwood. It’s $30 million above the minimum (the unacceptable Mountlake Terrace freeway station in B4). Adding some wishlist options, A7/A11 would elevate all King County stations for $90-120 million more. B2A would add a 220th station for $120-130 million more. C3 would move Lynnwood Station to the north side of the transit center for $300-340 million more. The elevated option is unnecessary, the 220th station may be worthwhile, and the north side station seems like a lot of money for not much more walkability.
* According to ST spokesman Bruce Gray, the contradictory DEIS text that says that 130th is more expensive is a clerical error. More on the cost differences:
The reason some of the alternatives with the 130th station are less expensive is because of the way supporting elements like parking and road rebuilds were packaged within the alternatives. For example, Alternative A1, with only two stations at 145th and 185th requires rebuilding the 185th St. bridge over I-5 and has more expensive parking facilities than does Alternative A5, which has three stations at 130th, 155th and 185th, but less expensive parking treatments and no bridge rebuild at 185th. All other things being equal, a third station in Segment A is $30-$50 million more expensive than alternatives with only two stations.
** That “at-grade” is still traffic-separated is not clear from the DEIS, but confirmed by ST.