Last December I made the modest proposal that the 5th and Madison Station in Sound Transit 3 move three, or even six, blocks east. This would reduce overlap with the existing tunnel stations. More importantly, it would bring First Hill — one of the densest neighborhoods in the Northwest, with three hospitals and Seattle University — into the Link walkshed after circumstances screwed them out of their Sound Move station. Oran’s calculations showed that it was as little as 0.09 miles more distance to tunnel.
Although the idea made it into a letter from the First Hill Improvement Association, it didn’t catch fire. Seattle-based activists have been more excited about elevating Link to Ballard, or 130th St. Station. Those are worthy causes, and the same order of cost as a First Hill Station — and chances are good that both will win. At the same time, I think most neutral observers would agree that, on the merits, First Hill should be a higher priority than either, and it’s a shame that no one in a position of influence greater than mine has made a stink about it.
As a further headwind, Sound Transit staff found tunneling under I-5 for U-Link to be a troublesome experience, and does not like the idea of doing so twice more in a matter of blocks. Sound Transit paid a contractor $23m to prepare I-5’s foundations for a tunnel boring machine to pass through. To do so twice would therefore probably cost around $50m and introduce some risk. It’s hard, but we know it’s possible, because they’ve done it (pretty much flawlessly) before.
It’s late in the day. In about a month, Sound Transit will lock down the package for November, and we should know most of the substance of the final plan by later this week. If the Green Line goes to the ballot as-is, the kerfuffle over “22 years to Ballard” will create extreme pressure to discard edgy alternatives early in the process. If anyone with substantial influence on the process is going to make this happen, the time is now.