At Thursday’s Sound Transit Executive Committee meeting, the staff presented its proposal for the draft project list for Sound Transit 3. The board will amend and approve this draft list at this month’s meeting and there will be public comment all summer. In the fall, Sound Transit will launch more detailed studies with refined cost and ridership estimates of all these projects. Next June, the Board may decide on overall package size and define its approach to subarea equity, allowing to pick from this menu of choices and determine what goes on the ballot.
Any worries that the study concepts last month limited the range of projects were unfounded. Nearly every project covered in one of last year’s long-range plan studies appears here, with some new permutations. There are five categories of project:
- ST2 Leftovers: anything voters approved in ST2 that ST had to defer due to the recession; most notably, Link to Star Lake.
- Existing system enhancements: infill stations, Sounder runs, DSTT improvements, etc.
- Corridors from the ST2 High Capacity Transit (HCT) studies: both the spine (North Everett/Tacoma Mall/Redmond) and “additional corridors” in Seattle and on the Eastside.
- Systemwide programs from the LRP: IT and access improvements, more corridor studies, financial reserves.
- Supporting System Expansion: vehicles, maintenance facilities, ST4 planning.
I’ve reproduced the other slides that have specific projects below. I chatted with ST bigwig Ric Ilgenfritz to clear up some points that might not be evident from the short descriptions.
- The studies will examine nearly every potential station as a potential terminus, to provide options at various cost levels.
- Mr. Ilgenfritz was emphatic that in all cases “at-grade” meant MLK quality: rare stops for signals and clearly separated rail right of way. It would be a higher level of service than on the Center City Connector, and certainly existing streetcars.
- The new downtown light rail connection refers to a broad definition of downtown, from the stadiums to about Mercer St. The board could mix elevated, tunneled, and at-grade elements to Ballard, West Seattle, and through downtown in any of a number of permutations. In the meeting, Mayor Murray said Seattle had “concerns” about at-grade approaches through Downtown, and suggested Madison BRT should be on the project list.
- Low-capital ST Express improvements will generally be programmed into the plan after the major capital elements are documented.
- The I-405 BRT corridor now extends from Lynnwood to Seatac. Mr. Ilgenfritz clarified that from Renton to Seatac this would be along I-405, not along the proposed BRT corridor that serves the heart of Southcenter.
- As part of the Downtown Seattle study, Sound Transit would look at a no-build option, that delivers riders to either end of the existing DSTT and requires a transfer for full access to downtown, to examine the operational issues.
- Although the Board will select a preferred alternative for Link to Federal Way this year, the ballot measure will likely be flexible enough to authorize either an I-5 or SR99 alignment as engineering progresses.