On Thursday, the Sound Transit Board signed off on a $285.9 million budget for preliminary engineering for the West Seattle and Ballard Link Extensions Project, as well as a $24.4 million contract with HNTB to start project development. The project will include both extensions, despite their planned operation as separate lines, and will be the first ST3-original component to be planned.
The project will have an “aggressive” schedule, with alternatives development compressed into one year. By early 2019, with a preferred alternative identified after three rounds of public hearings, Sound Transit aims to wrap up all environmental review and early design work by 2022. Despite the “aggressive” schedule, construction would not begin until 2025 for West Seattle and 2027 for Ballard, leading to their respective openings in 2030 and 2035.
The project development and preliminary engineering phase will provide recommendations on a variety of issues, including TOD integration, whether to use a design-build package or split contractors as they’ve done for most Link projects, and assess additional project risks, like the ever-changing market conditions that plagued Lynnwood Link. HNTB was part of the design teams for University Link, Lynnwood Link, and East Link, working with engineering and architecture firms to consult those projects.
The basic project alignments (seen above) have been identified and will form the starting point for the preferred alternative that will be selected in 2019. The new downtown tunnel would run from International District/Chinatown station to a new station at Madison Street and the existing Westlake station. It would continue on to stations near Denny Way, Aurora Avenue, and the Seattle Center. Through the Interbay area, the tracks would be elevated and stop near the Magnolia Bridge and Expedia campus, as well as Dravus Street. A new crossing of the Ship Canal, likely a 70-foot movable bridge (higher than the Ballard Bridge, but still subject to occasional openings), would bring trains to their terminus at 15th Avenue & Market Street.
The West Seattle alignment would involve a new connection to the existing Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel, as well as a rebuilt, surface-level Stadium station and elevated SODO station, before crossing the Duwamish River on a new, fixed bridge. After a few turns and stops at Delridge and Avalon, trains would arrive at Alaska Junction, all elevated. The West Seattle Transportation Coalition presented some similar preliminary plans, complete with a 3D version of the elevated alignment, back in June during a meeting covered by West Seattle Blog.
In short, prepare for a very short but intense round of public meetings in 2018 that will decide how our mutli-billion megaproject plays out. There will only be one real chance to get your say on the movable Ballard Bridge, the elevated West Seattle alignment, and other components of the plan before it’s bolted down and slathered in quick-drying concrete.
[Correction: As some comments pointed out, the representative alignment shown in the map and described does not specify station locations and street alignments. Apologies for any confusion caused.]