Lake Washington Ship Canal (Brewbrooks – Flickr Creative Commons)
Lake Washington Ship Canal (Brewbrooks – Flickr Creative Commons)

This post concludes our summary of ST3 feedback letters. Previous installments include East King County, Pierce County, SeattleSouth King County, and Snohomish County.

Belltown Community Council

Belltown Community Council President Dean McColgan
Belltown Community Council President Dean McColgan

Belltown’s letter unsurprisingly laments its exclusion from the proposed Ballard line, losing out in favor of South Lake Union. It proposes resurrecting earlier Seattle Subway-style plans for SLU to be served as the starter neighborhood for an SR 99 line, with the Ballard line running through the heart of Belltown instead. Anticipating objections that SLU’s employment density requires it be given priority, the letter argues that Amazon’s new Rufus campus demonstrates that employment is increasingly concentrated in areas traditionally considered Belltown, and that such employment would be equally well served by a 4th Avenue stop as it would one at Westlake/Denny. The letter includes significant documentation of Belltown’s density, employment, and amenities, and criticizes the neighborhood’s exclusion from light rail and streetcar planning.  Its desire to be served in ST3 has found traction here on STB as well, with both Frank and Seattle Subway taking up the cause.

Federal Highway Administration

FHWA Washington Division Administrator Dan Mathis
FHWA Washington Division Administrator Dan Mathis

The FHWA limited its comments to areas of common interest between light rail and interstate highways, offering a sentence or two on each candidate project within an interstate catchment area. Their comments are a mixed bag, progressive for a highway agency in some places and traditionalist in others. First, the FHWA seems to favor urban arterials for light rail as opposed to interstates:

Using Interstate right of way as a primary conduit as opposed to an arterial like SR 99 debases the opportunity for appropriate urban densification and its commensurate economic development. (emphasis mine)

FHWA also asks that Sound Transit choose its target market, arguing for either urban arterials with densification, or freeway light rail with more car-centric access provided, but not freeway light rail without parking:

Since the light rail extensions appear to serve car‐based commuters and relies heavy on the existing Interstate, Interchanges, and Park and Ride lots, the ST3 projects may have the potential to increase trips on I‐5 as well as the local system adjacent to those lots and interchanges…We have concerns that placing stations at existing interchanges could significantly increase congestion and decrease safety. ST will need to identify impacts to those interchanges and ensure that the proposed light rail will not prohibit future interchange improvements nor should ST actions result in increased cost to WSDOT to improve those interchanges in the future…If these light rail extension are to serve car based commuters then additional parking needs to be considered. If Sound Transit is assuming to acquire (temporary during construction or permanent) WSDOT parking lots then they could potentially be displacing highway users’ parking at park and ride lots. This will need analysis and may require mitigation.

In what seems like an argument both for transit quality and for minimizing conflict with its highway interests, FHWA believes that ST should take grade separation as a first principle:

A base assumption should be all crossings are grade separated unless there is a compelling reason, regardless of cost. Span lengths should fully span interstate facilities including any future expansion.

Lastly, like many other observers, FHWA also seems puzzled by the lack of connection between South Bellevue and Eastgate under current concepts for light rail between Totem Lake and Issaquah:

This plan leaves a gap in the system along I‐90 between Bellevue Way and Eastgate. That connection should be provided to eliminate the out of direction link through downtown Bellevue and provide a more desirable route to Eastgate.

First Hill Improvement Association, Mercer Corridor Stakeholders, Microsoft, Northwest Seattle Coalition, Queen Anne Community Council, and Transit Access Stakeholders after the jump.

First Hill Improvement Association

FHIA Director Alex Hudson
FHIA Director Alex Hudson

The FHIA‘s letter takes up the cause of shifting the second downtown tunnel east of I-5, as Martin has previously proposed. Co-signed by Urbanist writer and frequent STB commenter Gordon Werner – who also chairs FHIA’s Transportation Committee – the letter wisely makes a strong point but in general terms, not getting lost in details this early in the process. Their intent is admirably clear: get an “east of I-5” option included in the scoping for a second tunnel, providing analysis of the benefits of connecting First Hill to South Lake Union and Ballard, etc:

A stop on Madison, east of I-5 would support existing and planned infrastructure improvements as well as provide a reliable connection between South King County, South Lake Union and the high density and swiftly growing residential and employment center of First Hill. This idea is succinctly captured by the Seattle Transit Blog post titled “A Proposal for Madison Station”.  This post recommends that SoundTransit consider routing the line eastward in order to capture the large walkshed east of I-5 which includes the region’s major medical services area and the rapidly growing residential population of First Hill. …It presents a unique opportunity to provide high-quality N-S transit service connecting the First Hill neighborhood to the region as a whole.

At this time we do not propose a stop location, design, or any preferred options. We simply put forward the idea of a stop east of I-5 as one supported by the community and worthy of exploration. Our goal is to include the feasibility of a First Hill station in the actual planning and scoping for the DSTT2 by SoundTransit, rather than limit it to the 5th and Madison stop already mentioned. We are fully appreciative of the scope and timeline of ST3 as well as the fact that a station located under First Hill will have its own unique civil engineering and geological challenges, however, it behooves us to think big for the future benefit of the ever growing First Hill residential and medical communities.

Mercer Corridor Stakeholder Committee

The Mercer Corridor Stakeholders Committee – a who’s who of SLU and Queen Anne business and community groups – wrote in unanimous support of ST3, a split spine, and a new downtown tunnel. The letter has a number of encouraging elements from an urbanist perspective, including calling for half-mile stop spacing as national best practice, three stations between Westlake and Queen Anne (Denny, Harrison, Queen Anne Ave), and for a historic shift of Seattle Center tourist and event traffic away from cars to transit:

Three stations could be located along the northern tunnel extension at 0.4 to 0.5 mile spacing…compatible with the best practices from other light rail systems throughout the county. If only two stations are provided, they would be spaced 0.7 to 0.8  miles apart – too far apart to effectively serve these dense urban centers.

…Convenient access to the Seattle Center is also critical to shift event and tourist trips from automobiles to transit. An estimated 75% of the 12 million visitors per year to Seattle Center come from outside of Seattle. Excellent high-capacity transit…would less event-related congestion…which would benefit the entire region.


Microsoft Government Affairs Director Irene Plenefisch
Microsoft Government Affairs Director Irene Plenefisch

Microsoft‘s letter asks that the Downtown Redmond extension be the first priority, and seen as completing an ST2 promise rather than an ST3 project. It supports completing the spine, asks that there be SR 520 light rail planning funds, and supports Totem Lake-Issaquah Link. Its support of I-405 BRT comes with a call for integration between WSDOT and Sound Transit, asking that they jointly plan and execute an integrated vision for managing transit and HOT lanes on the corridor.

Northwest Seattle Coalition

The Northwest Seattle Coalition for Sound Transit 3 is an impressive mix of neighborhood groups, transit activists, and industry interests, and their letter primarily calls for a tunnel rather than a drawbridge to cross the Ship Canal, citing a tunnel’s ability to minimize freight impacts and set up compatibility with a Ballard-UW line:

The Coalition advocates strongly for the reliability of a new Ship Canal tunnel over competing drawbridge proposals. A new Ship Canal tunnel will also maintain the existing capacity of 15th Avenue to carry buses, freight and automobiles…

The Coalition recognizes that Candidate Project C-01c is vitally necessary to meet our city’s transit requirements. Additional transit capacity is needed to serve residents and businesses in Ballard, Crown Hill, Interbay, Magnolia, Queen Anne, Uptown, Fishermen’s Terminal, Salmon Bay, Terminal 91, and other areas northwest of the Seattle Downtown Regional Growth Center that would otherwise have to use the already-overcrowded 15th Avenue West corridor. Addressing the transit needs of this critical corridor should be of the utmost priority for the City of Seattle and Sound Transit…

The final alignment chosen to serve the needs of the area represented by the Coalition should:

  • Have the absolute highest possible reliability in order to maximize long-term ridership, reduce delay for trips throughout the region, and support equitable transit-oriented development in our growing Urban Centers;
  • Reach and serve the most potential transit users along the corridor, both workers and residents, working and residing both in current development and in potential future development;
  • Have the fewest negative impacts during construction and after construction;
  • Enhance, and not diminish, the current and potential future vehicular, freight, and bus carrying capacity of arterials, especially the critical 15th Avenue West Corridor;
  • Be designed, engineered, and built so that all the necessary engineering is built into one underground Market Street station in Ballard from its inception so that service might “split” to the north and east from one underground Market Street station in Ballard as the system expands toward Crown Hill and the University District;
  • Be designed, engineered, and built to include “urban station spacing” in the vicinity of the Uptown and South Lake Union Urban Centers, with an additional station included between Uptown and South Lake Union;
  • Include integration of other transit services at stations.

There’s much more in the letter, all of it pretty good. Go read the whole thing.

Queen Anne Community Council

Like the Northwest Seattle Coalition, the Queen Anne Community Council’s letter strongly supports Option C1C that would serve Downtown-Ballard via East Magnolia and a new Ship Canal tunnel. The letter’s emphasis is primarily on mitigating construction impacts and retaining vehicular capacity on arterials such as Westlake and 15th Ave W.

Transit Access Stakeholders 

The Transit Access Stakeholders group – comprised of  TCC, Puget Sound Sage, OneAmerica, Housing Development Consortium, Cascade Bicycle Club, Feet, First, Seattle Subway, Futurewise, the Sierra Club, and Forterra – submitted a joint letter that is detailed, wonky, and strongly supportive. It advocates for a large ST3 package, prioritization of multimodal access, managed (e.g. priced) parking, affordable housing on TOD parcels, maximizing ridership and reliability, using race/social justice planning lenses, and planning ST3 with future operational needs in mind. Highlights include:

Go Big! We support a bold and visionary ST3 system plan that brings affordable and sustainable transportation options to all subareas. The people of Puget Sound are excited for high capacity transit that offers a reliable, cost-effective alternative to increasingly congested corridors. We urge the Sound Transit Board not to develop a plan that picks between jurisdictions that are eager and prepared for such investments, and instead develop a plan that is able to serve more neighborhoods of all incomes and demographics. We believe an ambitious plan can win at the ballot.

Increase Multimodal Access Funding. ….Sound Transit should prioritize funding for local transit, walking and biking access to high capacity transit over parking by increasing both the overall allocation to the system access fund and the specific allocation for transit integration, access, and information within each project. The system access fund should be large enough to cover both additional community-identified improvements for new stations as well as retrofits for all existing stations that need transit and non-motorized access improvements. Sound Transit also should scale the size of the System Access Program to the size and duration of the final ST3 system plan.

Make Smart Investments in Parking, and Use Pricing to Manage Demand. We think Sound Transit should plan for and build less parking for each project, increasing parking only when the need for parking is demonstrated….We believe that excessive spending on parking disproportionately benefits white people and higher-income populations: people with low-incomes and people of color in Washington are still much less likely to own a car…We urge Sound Transit to price and manage parking at all current and future park-and-ride lots. Parking management can help spread passenger demand across the day, thus lowering operating costs by requiring fewer vehicles and drivers during peak periods. Pricing and managing parking can also help achieve social equity goals by providing predictable access to a spot and defraying the costs of building and operating park-and-rides. Without fees, these costs are fully borne by all users, including people arriving by foot, bike, or bus…We also urge Sound Transit to find ways to use existing parking capacity before building new capacity.

Prioritize Affordable Housing in Development Decisions. Sound Transit should prioritize affordable housing in the use and disposal of its land… The State Legislature has already required, in RCW 81.112.350, that Sound Transit sell 80% of its surplus land for affordable housing use. Additionally, Sound Transit is required to put $20 million in a revolving acquisition loan fund to acquire additional sites for affordable housing near transit. Sound Transit should develop a clear and predictable process for implementing RCW 81.112.350 and maximizing affordable housing outcomes by:

  • Removing fair market value requirements on surplus property and better utilizing federally authorized tools such as joint developments, land leasing, and liquidating federal interests.
  • Providing favorable sale & development terms for affordable housing developers and organizations acquiring land for affordable housing.
  • Planning for and acquiring sites that can be used effectively to promote future TOD, and align land purchasing decisions with affordable housing and land banking actors when possible.
  • Updating disposition policies and increasing staff development expertise to better enable nonprofit housing providers and land banking organizations to purchase developable land in and around stations prior to cost increases.
  • Maximizing affordable housing potential by ensuring disposition sites are large and regularly shaped.
  • Eliminating any assumptions of surplus land sale profits in financial planning.
  • Developing minimum standards for sites acquired with loan fund dollars.
  • Creating job quality standards for developments at surplussed TOD sites and sites acquired through revolving loan fund to promote healthy, accessible, living wage jobs near transit.
  • Ensuring that organizations and developers with strong ties to community (alongside development expertise) be competitive in the bidding process. Community partners are better able to understand the holistic needs of a low-income community, immigrants, refugees and people of color and are the most knowledgeable about what makes equitable TOD successful.

Maximize Ridership and Potential for Equitable Transit-Oriented Development and Density. We strongly believe that the System Plan should include robust policies, projects, investments, and alignments that maximize potential for equitable transit-oriented development (TOD) and increased density…Prioritizing equitable TOD decreases reliance on travel by car, reducing single occupancy vehicles and greenhouse gas emissions (GHG)….Sound Transit should maximize potential for equitable TOD means by: Selecting alignments and investing in station locations that can support mixed development.

  • Building in sufficient funds for multimodal access and TOD development to each station.
  • Connecting areas with an existing mix of development.
  • Prioritizing contracting with developers that will build affordable housing.
  • Actively working to prevent residential and commercial displacement, especially in lower-income, communities of color, immigrants and refugees.
  • Supporting equitable TOD through land purchases that are the right size for future development and disposition policies that ensure land can be developed when stations are built or soon after completion.
  • Considering access costs when evaluating alignments. Freeway alignments and other access challenged alignments should require analysis and inclusion of multimodal access costs as a mitigation need.

Use a Race and Social Justice Lens in Decision Making. Sound Transit should make an extra effort to bring reliable, high-frequency, and accessible service to low-income households and communities of color, both of which are disproportionately transit-dependent, underserved, and negatively impacted by transit investments. This may mean providing light rail service in these areas, or it may mean ensuring smooth system integration with local bus service…Because access to reliable transportation is the single most important factor in escaping poverty, Sound Transit has the opportunity to significantly improve quality of life for communities throughout the Puget Sound. Like with other stations that have these characteristics, we strongly support funding the Graham Street infill station.

Maximize Reliability. Sound Transit should choose projects and alignments with exclusive right-of-way, and grade separated where possible. This ensures that light rail will remain a competitive mode of transportation even as the region grows and congestion increases. For example, we strongly support the construction of a new transit tunnel in Downtown Seattle, which will provide the opportunity for increased train frequency and capacity for higher ridership while avoiding congested downtown roads. When at grade, Sound Transit should invest in safety measures that adhere to universal design standards in order to maximize safe access to transit.

Adopt a Community Engagement and Outcomes Policy. Sound Transit should develop and adopt an explicit community engagement and outcomes policy that lays out best practices for expanding engagement with low-income communities, people of color, immigrants and refugees earlier in and throughout the planning process. Achieving equity outcomes – and optimizing ridership – will succeed only by providing diverse communities with equal opportunities to participate in and influence the planning process. Laying out steps to create and sustain meaningful relationships with community leaders and social services organizations, which will help Sound Transit staff understand language and cultural differences that may shape the way that the agency engages with communities and conducts planning outreach is key to this process.

Plan for the Future. Sound Transit should develop the system plan in a way that will best serve our growing region in the future by:

  • Designing alignments and stations that make it easy to expand lines and create new junctions;
  • Making cost-effective investments that will allow ST to do more with the money they have, accommodating more growth in the region over time;
  • Increasing funding for and ensuring policies support early recruitment for apprenticeship programs so that we have a local workforce in place that is ready to tackle ST3 construction Sound Transit should look into new grant opportunities for workforce development in the FAST Act;
  • Locating in dense areas with the best potential for TOD in order to connect the most people with the most jobs, reducing GHGs and helping meet long-term climate and growth management goals;
  • Planning for contingent funding to build out the system further if projects come in under budget or additional federal, state or local matching funding is found. This should also include identifying potential projects in all subareas, and doing early planning that can inform decision making for ST3. Thank you for the opportunity to share these comments.

West Seattle Transportation Coalition

The WSTC’s letter is short and, other than expressing skepticism of at-grade and elevated alignments, it remains agnostic on project details. The letter primarily asks for additional process and outreach to West Seattle prior to the release of the Draft System Plan. The letter in full:

The West Seattle Transportation Coalition (WSTC) is a peninsula-wide organization representing Seattle’s largest constituency of more than 100,000 people living and working in the 10 square mile area between the Duwamish River and Puget Sound.  These community leaders, advocates, business owners, and residents are working to address the peninsula’s transportation, mobility and commuting challenges.

The WSTC membership has some concerns about the “3+1” West Seattle ST3 options that have been presented to the Sound Transit Board (STB) for consideration.  The proposed ST3 projects with at-grade or elevated tracks will directly conflict with the Move Seattle funded Fauntleroy Boulevard and Delridge Way SW Visioning / Complete Street projects. In addition, the decision by Sound Transit not to include comprehensive planning to West Seattle in ST2 funding puts us at a distinct disadvantage.

Therefore, we request that before the March draft of the ST3 plan is unveiled, a significant effort is made by Sound Transit, with the assistance of the City of Seattle and WSTC, to get constituent input on potential light rail routing.  We propose meetings be held in each of the West Seattle Urban Villages (Alaska, Admiral, Morgan, Westwood/Highland Park and North Delridge) as well as in the City of Burien.

WSTC strongly believes that our region requires a fully connected light rail system. The system should accommodate our fast growing population and economy, and the reality in which we must live and commute from more affordable housing in our suburbs and outlying areas.  We endorse all the projects presented to the STB on December 4, 2015, to form the Complete Regional System. Our hope is that the STB chooses to ask for the taxing authority in order to successfully implement the complete, regional light rail system.

We look forward to working with Sound Transit in order to Move the People.

52 Replies to “Community Feedback on Sound Transit 3”

    1. Can you imagine the comment board explosion if STB didn’t support the Ballard to UW and/or supported light rail to West Seattle?

      1. Any reason somebody shouldn’t support these things? And what’s anybody going to do to us one way or another? Just so we know what we’re talking about.

        Mark Dublin

    2. What is the qualification for a “stakeholder”? I didn’t send any feedback because I’m not a government or large employer and it asked for stakeholder comments rather than public comments. But of course citizens are stakeholders too in a way, so what’s the real distinction?

      1. Stakeholder refers to any type of organization that either itself has a stake in the outcome, or represents citizens that do. As an example, a corporation like Microsoft has a direct stake in how transit is provided to Redmond, while the Queen Anne Community Council represents the citizens of that neighborhood.

      2. Read the original “Dracula” and look for “Doctor Van Helsing.” Who’s got the worst Dutch accent in the Irish theatre. But at the end, two of the stake-holders kill Dracula (permanently)- and one of them is a brave American.

        Who brought along Winchester rifles, the M16 of its day.
        Also a Bowie knife, with which he stabs Dracula instead of a stake.
        If the stakeholders here don’t let the public in, just throw a handful of fresh chopped garlic into the meeting room and lock the door from the outside.

        That way, we can tell which one of them is actually a vampire, whose pinstriped suit has a cape inside.


  1. “FHWA also asks that Sound Transit choose its target market, arguing for either urban arterials with densification, or freeway light rail with more car-centric access provided, but not freeway light rail without parking…”

    I love this paraphrasing! This is exactly what happens when some election officials don’t fully appreciate a rail investment – and instead try to please everyone while keeping costs low. Most other new systems have stations that do one or both – but there are concepts on the ST3 table that do neither.

    1. Yeah, the subtext from the official is essentially “Are you sure you guys know what you’re doing?”

    2. A funny thing is that MAX green line is mostly next to a freeway, has several park and ride lots, and most of those park and ride lots really aren’t that full.

      MAX orange line runs next to highway 99, and both of its parking lots were completely full from the start.

      The big difference is that MAX green line crosses about 2/3 of the busiest bus routes in Portland (71, 72, 14, 71, 17. 9, 4, 15, 72, 77, 71, 75, from north to south counting twice or three times those that cross more than once), plus a dozen or so less busy ones like the 19. It’s a bit like a 43+44 light rail line would be, without the really good density.

      The bus routes that form the ribs to this spine don’t seem quite as busy, for the most part.

  2. I like the MS comment to finish ST2 and close the “last mile” to Redmond. Unfortunately it looks like small worth while projects will get lost in the wash of waste water like rail between Issaquah and Totem Lake.

    In the Bellevue City “news paper” they said tunnel construction was getting underway. What a waste, three minimum radius turns and no station. It’s really like they tried hard to make this project as bad as possible while spending the most money. We’ll see how the holding Redmond hostage for passage of ST3 works out.

    1. Every time I see Microsoft requesting something from the government, I chuckle and try to remember how much money we’ve been screwed out of due to using Nevada as their tax haven.

      1. Or the government mandating we serve Boeing, who is taking our money and trying to leave as best they can.

      2. This problem of paying corporations to be here, and giving tax breaks for the services paid for by the taxes for us who do pay them, will start to get solved when we tell the next company demanding this that we’ll do just fine without them.

        As we have to do anyway when they leave us, also leaving overdue repairs. It’s probably worth whatever this costs us, like some years of paying for the educational infrastructure to become self-supporting.

        National independence generally works this way. But at least what we have, and pay for, we’ll own. Starting with telling both major parties that on the State level, we’re not going to pay for them until they come around on this one.

        Mark Dublin

    2. Is downtown Redmond more in ST2 than Federal Way (320th) is? In both cases ST wanted to go to the city centers but cut it a station short due to funding limitations (which is the same thing as limiting the tax amount).

    3. “It’s really like they tried hard to make this project as bad as possible while spending the most money.”

      Who did? Sound Transit or the City of Bellevue? It was the city who insisted on the tunnel, and opposed a station in it that would have given it a reason to exist and made a shorter transfer to the bus bays. But Bellevue asked ST to economize elsewhere to afford the tunnel, and chipped in half the cost. ST could have blown them off but it didn’t for the sake of the long-term relationship with the largest city in the Eastside, and because the city had the power of the building permits and the possibility of suing ST and delaying East Link further or making it more expensive.

      1. Who did? Sound Transit or the City of Bellevue?

        Yes. ST’s epic fail was to not realize the 520 bridge was going to be completely rebuilt and focusing solely on I-90. So they failed to make use of a purpose built bridge. One that doesn’t already have serious structural design problems and will be reaching end of life by the time East Link ever opens. Add the worst traffic impacts the region’s ever seen when they close the center roadway and it guarantees the eastside will never vote yes on another ST levy. Then there’s all the skewed studies to make B7 look impossible; yet now they want to use it to run rail from Totem Lake to Issaquah. Bellevue City Council is to blame for the tunnel debacle and the Swamp & Ride to DT in a trench. Bel-Red is pretty messed up but that’s minor in comparison.

        Is downtown Redmond more in ST2 than Federal Way (320th) is?

        South King didn’t have the money to come close to Federal Way, never did. And the nothing stretch from Federal Way to Angle Link is nothing like the short distance and massive ridership bump from DT Redmond to Overlake. Then there’s the issue of the maintenance facility penciled in out past Marymoore that ST now is putting in Bel-Red. The icing on the cake is after spending $3B the ridership is still going to be pathetic.

        Every time I see Microsoft/Boeing requesting something from the government…

        There’s the easy answer to housing affordability in the region. Just say no and let Boeing move to Georgia and MS move to Reno; give Amazon the boot while you’re at it. We’ll have a housing surplus to rival Detroit. Even the Dino-saurs can be on board since it cuts guberment spending.

      2. This region has been planning for rail in the I-90 corridor since before SR 520 existed. There was no way Sound Transit was going to suddenly pivot to SR 520 just because the bridge was being rebuilt; they would’ve been fighting decades of planning.

        The problem with B7 was crossing Mercer Slough, not with using the BNSF ROW. However, I agree that the Bellevue alignment from South Bellevue through downtown and Bel-Red is sub-par, verging on idiotic in places.

      3. This region has been planning for rail in the I-90 corridor since before SR 520 existed

        I don’t think rail in the I-90 corridor was being planned in 1963 when the Evergreen Pt. Bridge opened. But yes, the “but we’ve always done it this way” mentality was in full effect. What’s particularly sad is the failure to acknowledge that even though the pontoons on I-90 are 30 years newer they are still only going to have ~ 25 years of service life left after East Link opens. Assuming they don’t sink it while under construction.

        The problem with B7 was crossing Mercer Slough

        That’s the skewed studies I’m talking about. There a freeway crossing there in case nobody noticed that WSDOT as been adding lanes to since the 1940s. What a lot of people don’t know, or refuse to admit, is much of the roadway is supported by wood timbers that are rotting and sinking into the muck so a major construction project is going to happen there sooner rather than later. Miraculously, digging a trench in the wetlands buffer area however is perfectly OK along with expanding a P&R that’s built on fill.

        ST also played up big the negative impacts of B7. It would have encroached on a furniture store parking lot and come really close to a bunch of condominiums obviously sensitive to noise since they were built along I-405. And it’s way better to run between a cliff and a swamp that anywhere close to where people live or gawd forbid hotels! Pass the Kool-Aid.

      4. “And the nothing stretch from Federal Way to Angle Link is nothing like the short distance and massive ridership bump from DT Redmond to Overlake.”

        The comparison is 272nd-320th, not 200th-320th. 272nd was in ST2, but was deferred with the recession.

        “South King didn’t have the money to come close to Federal Way, never did.”

        So why didn’t ST2 go to downtown Redmond then?

        Re 520, literally everybody agreed Link should be on I-90 as the Hadley bridge was designed for. 520 is a no man’s land between the shore and the Spring District, and would not serve either Kirkland or Bellevue well. There would have been no support to upzone Evergreen Point, Yarrow Point, or Bellevue Way & Northup Way. It would have had to turn south to downtown Bellevue and north again for Redmond. Plus I-90 gave the opportunity to serve Mercer Island and (supposedly) South Bellevue bus transfers from Issaquah and Renton.

      5. So why didn’t ST2 go to downtown Redmond

        Short answer is ST burned through all the money available. Conveniently they can now use this as a hostage to garner votes for another tax increase. Redmond could have come forth with a proposal for inflating the budget the way Bellevue did but at the time that would have mattered Redmond for some bizarre reason was actively fighting rail along the old ROW through town. And speaking loud and proud about how no noisey trains were going to come into Redmond along the Woodinville Spur. Sort of like MI who was against parking until they wanted more.

        no support to upzone Evergreen Point, Yarrow Point, or Bellevue Way & Northup Way.

        Like MI is going to be the next Capitol Hill and we’re going to have Peublo style condos along the west shore of Mercer Slough? Actually North Bellevue and Northup is developing quickly despite the lack of billions of dollars in transit misdirected development.

        It would have had to turn south to downtown Bellevue and north again for Redmond.

        NE 6th is a lot closer to 520 than it is to I-90. The idea that you have to backtrack for Redmond is typical of the “it’ll never work” crowd. Reality check, it would go from DT Bellevue to Overlake on the exact same route that’s currently planned. Doh!

      6. I thought the B7 concerns regarding impacts along the BNSF corridor were overblown. Prior to selling the corridor, BNSF could’ve walked in and run a hundred trains a day through there and none of the neighbors would’ve been able to do squat about it, so comparatively a light rail line has very minimal impact.

        There is a very large difference in our environmental laws between direct impacts to critical areas themselves compared to impacts to buffers. Our laws generally call for avoidance of direct impacts to critical areas unless no other reasonable or feasible options exist. Of course there are exceptions because to be so rigid would be crazy. But to equate wetland buffer impacts with direct wetland impacts is absurd.

        Yes, I-90 plunges right through the Mercer Slough. That doesn’t mean we should double-down on further impacts. Beyond that, WSDOT has documented a history a significant problems with the I-90 structures, to the extent of nearly having to close the westbound lanes in the early 1990s because everything was shifting and there was a danger of collapse. Arguably the south I-405 to west I-90 HOV direct ramp should never have been built. While the problems seem to be minimized for now, nothing lasts forever. A rebuild would likely go with longer spans higher in the air, similar to what we’re seeing for the SR 520 west approach and Portage Bay projects.

      7. The two must-serve areas on the Eastside are downtown Bellevue and Microsoft. Bellevue because it’s the largest destination and transfer point, and Microsoft because it gets stadium-sized ridership. Bellevue’s must-serve status is the main reason it had so much sway over the alignment. Mercer Island is an entire city, not a tiny neighborhood masquerading as a town, and it’s an island so if Link serves it then something else doesn’t have to. Mercer Island isn’t must-serve, but it’s one more geographic area an I-90 routing would serve compared to 520.

      8. Mercer Island is an entire city, not a tiny neighborhood masquerading as a town, and it’s an island so if Link serves it then something else doesn’t have to.

        That’s hilarious. Yes, geographically it’s an island, accessed by an Interstate Highway to both the east and the west. Attempts at local transit have failed to reach the double digit mark in ridership and this “real city’s” big ask from ST; more parking reserved for residents of Poverty Rock, and continued free access for their solo drivers to use the HOV lanes. I guess ST Express buses, like the 550, don’t count as “something else”; other than that the only options are mega yachts, sea planes and helicopters.

  3. “Using Interstate right of way as a primary conduit as opposed to an arterial like SR 99 debases the opportunity for appropriate urban densification and its commensurate economic development.”

    Really impressed by FHWA here. Heed these words, pols!

    1. I also read FHWA’s comments as preferring, for lines along freeways, stations that aren’t right at interchanges. That’s something I heartily agree with. Build rail stations away from interchanges so pedestrians and connecting buses don’t have to mix up with interchange traffic.

      1. Yes, stations at 125th/130th, 155th, and 185th would have given ideal spacing and avoided what will certainly be a fustercluck at 145th as Shoreline grows. By the time that the stations will be in service Metro’s fleet will be 100% quiet so having local circulator buses travel down 155th would not have been a burden for the neighborhood. The on-ramps at 130th could have been made HOV-only at the peaks to preserve road capacity for buses.

        The SR522 BRT could as easily connected there as many people have argued. Shoreline is trying to make the best of its major station at 185th, but even that is under full-on NIMBY-siege. Wiggling west to Aurora and then back to the Mountlake Terrace Station would have added quite a bit of travel time, but it certainly would have served Shoreline better than an I-5 alignment. There was a proposal to tunnel under 15th NE which I think should have been studied better. What’s done is done; the line will follow I-5 and have a station at 145th in the biggest traffic jam in North King County.

    2. We have decades of data telling us mixing high capacity transit and freeways isn’t a great idea in the long-run. It’s unfortunate we’re saving a few dollars today to build a system that won’t generate great non-car-based density tomorrow.

    3. I agree with all the comments on this thread. The previous choice of station locations are really going to create a new set of problems that need to be solved. For example, there is talk of adding lanes to 145th for buses, which is plenty expensive (with or without every other feature of BRT).

      As expensive as that is, it is nothing compared to the cost of the rail line. Before there is talk of extending this to Everett, we need to make full use of this thing. You don’t buy a Ferrari, and then put cheap tires on it. Yes, tires that can go 200 MPH are really expensive, but that is way better than buying another Ferrari.

      We need to do this throughout I-5. Add HOV lanes to where the stations are, and HOV ramps and lanes north of there. This would be a much better value than simply extending Link (assuming it is extended along the freeway). What is the point of having a station closer to your house, if getting to it still takes forever. For many, if not most of the commuters, the time saved by improving the connection to the freeway is greater than the time saved by using Link instead of the freeway HOV lanes (to Lynnwood).

      1. Unfortunately, the goal is to reach Everett then maybe figure out how to make full use of it.

        I look forward to seeing what sort of bus feeder system Community Transit and Sound Transit put together at Lynnwood TC. There’s great potential to make an incredibly useful suburban transit network utilizing the station and existing freeway HOV infrastructure. However, thinking of 164th, 128th and other major interchanges north, those feeder roads require serious improvements to meet the demand of both Link station AND freeway travel.

      2. Unfortunately, the part of 99 that could be most productive with Link is in King County. We’re heading toward a situation where Link might be on 99 in Fife and Everett, but not north Seattle, Shoreline, or south King County where it would be most used and could best facilitate medium-density housing and living without a car.

  4. I wonder if an Interstate right-of-way would be useful for interstate bullet trains when time comes. Tunneled under cities for station stops, and also lakes, rivers, and Ship Canals.

    But right now, main trouble with freeway land for light rail is that by definition there are few, or no people to ride the trains. But I still think that every time somebody says that nearby light rail with harm business- make them prove it.

    Though I think that this argument is generally about a bargaining chip claiming hardship to increase the price of land and compensation.


    1. I have often thought that HSR is a natural defendant of the overbuilt freeway system. We have the quite straight ROW already and more space than is really useful for interstate needs. The HOV lanes in Seattle in particular were partially built originally for rail anyway and could operate quite well for true high speed interurban rail.

      At least that would be a much better use for the space than for a time sensitive directional HOV system that almost everyone could agree is completely outdated. Our commute patters are not what they were when I-5 was originally conceived.

    2. The problem is a lot of the highway geometry and right-of-way is designed for 70mph cars and not 190mph trains. A car requires a 1000′ radius curve at 70mph while a train needs 15000′ to maintain top speed, which is quite a difference in ROW requirements. Even at 70mph, trains still need much bigger curves and super elevation.

      1. A train moving almost 200 miles an hour is going to make one stop in Seattle and the next in Portland- and will have less to do with I-5 than I-5 has to do with a side-street.

        And if it’s on above-ground right of way it will have to start its descent to its station under Seattle many miles out of the city. Not this won’t be built. It’s probably a hundred percent likely.

        I do think too much of the commentary here doesn’t give the future the credit (or blame for getting into misbegotten wars) it will bring us whether we deserve it or not.

        However maybe regional or local train traffic can share the high speed tunnel under the city. Pretty much the way BART does in San Francisco.


  5. No one brought it up here, but I want to express again my whole hearted support for the idea of moving the Madison stop up onto First Hill.

    Its a great idea and would do a lot more for our network than leaving the Madison stop downtown.

  6. The West Seattle Transportation Coalition has been urging people reach out to Sound Transit, participate in survey’s, etc., which is great. But their expectations for community meetings are far beyond what any other area has received and includes areas that will not be getting light rail service, so I’m not sure how they’d justify the cost in time for Sound Transit to do this for our area but not for the reast of the ST service area. Also, it’s almost March already, so it’s not reasonable to have that many neighborhood meetings on very short notice and make a plan based on them.
    They make some very good points. West Seattle currently has no service at all from Sound Transit (don’t even try to tell me the 560 counts, it barely crosses the city limits and runs very infrequently). And it is true the ST proposals don’t take into account the street improvement plans for Fauntleroy and Delridge. Those are significant omissions that ST needs to take into account.
    While the WSTC is supportive of mass transit, they are distinctly not a transit advocacy group, but even so it would be nice to see a stronger, more defiitive position regarding routing and mode, espcially considering they’ll likely oppose anything that takes road space from cars. So why not come out and advocate more strongly for underground routing?

  7. Can anyone tell me why it would be Sound Transit’s responsibility to expand Link throughout Ballard and West Seattle versus say King Metro? Similar to San Francisco, where BART is the Regional Light Rail and SFMTA Metro is the city Light Rail with intermodal stops and stations, why can’t they continue to expand a trolley/subway system throughout the city and let ST focus on developing the regional backbone?

    1. A couple of reasons. First off ST controls the pot of gold that allows them to spend billions of dollars on capital projects. Second, Metro is King County not Seattle transit. All the money for trains in Seattle is tied to the ST North Sub Area. To spend it they need the blessing of the mayors in Issaquah, Sumner, Lakewood, et al. It’s pretty much the perfect system so don’t even consider changing anything.

    2. Do we have any reason to believe it’ll be ST that does this? The only reason, and it’s a good one, is if the line forms an artery for a much bigger region-wide system with much faster trains than we’ve got.

      If this does happen, it wouldn’t really work to have people change trains at the city line. Have read that in Former Soviet, track changes grade at one of the borders.

      So crews have to hoist every car and change the “trucks” to the other system. However, there’s a good chance this will be faster than using fareboxes in the DSTT.


    3. ST is the only agency allowed by the state to raise enough money for grade-separated transit. The others have little or no unused sales-tax authority. Seattle has a little sales-tax and property-tax authority but it’s saving it for emergencies, affordable housing, etc. There is an unused monorail authority, but its charter says it can only build something that’s “not light rail”. In any case, ST3 is being decided now, so why not see if we can get these in? And ST has experience: it has actually built a line and is running it. If ST3 fails, then you’ll likely see Seattle try to do something on its own, perhaps by seeing whether that anti-light-rail clause can be overcome.

      Also, San Francisco kept its pre-WWII streetcar infrastructure and heavy-rail (Caltrain) infrastructure, so it was easier to modernize and expand it rather than restarting it from scratch. I’ve heard conflicting things about whether the Market Street MUNI tunnel was inherited from those days or was built as part of the BART project, but the only thing comparable we have is the downtown transit tunnel which was built in 1990, and it didn’t have existing rail lines coming out of it. And the Bay Area voted for BART in an era when more federal funding was available. We had that chance in 1972 and voted no, so Atlanta got the subway instead. (Or rather, we voted yes but it required a supermajority.)

      1. The MUNI (and Market Street Railway) streetcars were on the surface on Market Street, originally 4 tracks, then 2. They were moved to the upper level of the Market Street tunnel in the 1970s, with BART on the lower level. It was a decade long process and makes the construction of the DSTT here look like children playing in a sandbox.

    4. In the Bay Area, each county has a multimodal transportation and funding agency, the SFCTA. San Francisco is both a city and county, so they control which operator gets the funding. They also fund highway, bicycle and related projects.

      The model in Seattle is every agency has first priority to do its own thing from ST and Metro to WSDOT and the City. In San Francisco, cooperation and coordination are the priorities if an agency wants funding.

      1. EXCEPT that in-city high density rail transit in SF has mostly received the short end of the stick other than the Market Street Subway – no Geary, no VanNess rail just as examples along with the horror show of the J and N emerging from the Market Street subway at DuBoce.

      2. Both can be true simultaneously. The counties may have a better integration model (I’ll take Al S’s word for that), but SF on its own can’t afford to meet all its high-capacity transit needs which are more then lower-density, car-oriented counties. That actually sounds similar to Seattle vs the Sound Transit district as a whole. SF alone can’t afford/is not allowed to tax for/can’t get voter support for a Geary subway (whichever it is), and likewise our 45th subway and Metro 8 subway. But it also sounds like the BART counties have a kind of subarea equity, with each county choosing what to build, and that’s where SF gets the short end of the stick because Alameda and Contra Costa Counties aren’t interested in a Geary subway. So maybe the situation isn’t so different?

      3. The 4th-Stockton Central Subway has been in construction for several years, and the T-Third line opened several years ago is mostly exclusive ROW and has spurred a huge amount of development.

        I’d also note that there is huge opposition on the Geary corridor towards redevelopment, even notable opposition to creating a center bus-only Lane. The problems of making Geary happen are more internal politically than a shortage of funds.

  8. Wow, mind blown, dare I say FHWA might do a better job designing our light rail system!!

    “This plan leaves a gap in the system along I‐90 between Bellevue Way and Eastgate. That connection should be provided to eliminate the out of direction link through downtown Bellevue and provide a more desirable route to Eastgate.”

    Apparently obvious to everyone but ST

    1. That and its other statements do sound promising, and a refreshing rebuke to ST. But we can’t extrapolate what an entire new transit agency would be like from a few statements, especially those made from a 2000-mile high view from Washington DC. These are just generic national statements with a cursory look at local conditions. An alternative agency would face all the other factors and conflicts that ST does in south Bellevue and elsewhere. The FHWA doesn’t particularly consider environmentally-sensitive areas because that’s not its job, but the EPA does, and other local entities do. So the nature of the statements is partly because a highway administration is commenting.

      I do believe ST should cross the slough so that Kirkland-Issaquah Link could share East Link’s track from South Bellevue to Spring District. Primarily because of usability and frequency: Issaquahites are mostly going to Bellevue and Seattle or can transfer to the most routes there, and double-frequency would help intra-Bellevue ridership the same way as central/north Seattle and Shoreline. Plus it would cost less to share the track. And a train’s impact on the slough is much less than a freeway. But the environmentalists and regulations are looking at it like, I-90 was grandfathered in, so you can’t compare them directly, you can only compare the slough with Link vs the slough without it. And you can’t compare an I-90 rebuild because that’s just maintenance of a grandfathered infrastructure.

      Although, you know, an I-90 rebuild could include light rail. And it would if the law or regulations required a transit right of way, they way they require a pedestrian path and noise mitigation. The legislature could do something about this if it wanted to.

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