We’ve written recently about Sound Transit’s update to their Long Range Plan (LRP). This list of potential projects is what Sound Transit draws from when developing future ballot measures. It can contain projects that range from completely designed and shovel ready to opportunities for study.
Sound Transit has framed their current outreach as serving two needs – updating the LRP, and prioritizing projects for Sound Transit 3. These are different goals. The largest projects likely to be in ST3 are already in the LRP – completing Link’s first spine, potentially expanding Sounder and Tacoma Link make up the bulk of an ST2-sized measure.
Most of the comments I’ve seen people make focus on influencing those projects that are already in the LRP. That’s a solid goal, but it leaves a hole in our advocacy. Just as Sound Transit 2 contained the corridor studies now under way toward Sound Transit 3, Sound Transit 3 will need to contain study work for potential projects in Sound Transit 4 – and Sound Transit 3 projects will need to be designed to accommodate those potential expansions.
Given the advocacy I know has already taken place and the corridors that already exist in the LRP, there are two things I think we need to be sure to add to the LRP for study:
First, a third north-south corridor through Seattle. However we serve downtown to Ballard and West Seattle, a huge swath of the city will still be between the two lines. A new Ballard line won’t serve the Greenwood or 99 corridors, but we’re seeing growth in both, and that will only continue. A West Seattle line can’t serve California, 35th, and Delridge at the same time, much less Georgetown and South Park.
The key here is that any new tunnel in downtown Seattle (as is being considered as part of the Downtown-West Seattle study already) should be designed to carry two lines, not just one, without having to shut down for future reconstruction.
Second, a Sand Point alternative to connect Kirkland to our regional system. Right now, shortsightedly, the Ballard-UW-Kirkland planning focuses exclusively on using SR-520. I wrote about this more than three years ago, and from that post, I’m resurrecting the image above, which shows alternatives considered by a study designed to push rail compatibility on 520.
Using 520 to get from UW to Kirkland would be some 50% longer than Sand Point, costing more and dramatically increasing travel time. Plus, with Children’s Hospital expanding, a Sand Point alternative wouldn’t just serve thousands more people, it would serve tens of thousands more jobs.
Considering the massive political hurdles to building through UW campus again, retrofitting 520 and giving Olympia another hostage, and trying to build new infrastructure in Montlake and Medina, it might even be cheaper to build a new bridge/tunnel/whatever than to build all that extra mileage. We should be studying it, not precluding it before we balance the options.