The Sound Transit Board has identified the light rail alignment and station alternatives to be studied in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the extension of light rail to Federal Way. The Board advanced two alternatives for the alignment, one following I-5 and one on SR99. A final alignment choice could also be a hybrid of the two. The most significant decision, however, was to add two possible stations at South 216th and South 260th Streets, each of which would offer significant opportunities for Transit Oriented Development (TOD).
You should read Mike Orr’s analysis of the various alignments between Angle Lake and Federal Way if you want to get a good sense of the options on the table. Sound Transit’s summary presentation is here (PDF). It’s important to note that these proposed infill stations, estimated at about $40M each, are not currently funded as part of ST2. However, they need to be included in the EIS to even have a shot at existence, so the board wisely included them.
So should we build them? It seems like a no-brainer. The distance between Angle Lake and Federal Way is about 9 miles. Having just two stations in that span, three miles apart, isn’t enough. The added minute or so of dwell time is a worthwhile trade. Additional stations also increase the potential for TOD and strengthen the case for a SR-99 alignment, where TOD is more likely to occur.
In some ways, the Federal Way extension is a mirror of the Lynnwood Link SR-99 vs. I-5 debate. This time around, though, we have a chance to make a better choice that brings more riders, more development, and fewer park-and-ride highway stations. And who knows? We might even convince these guys to ride.