Representative project alignments for the West Seattle and Ballard Link extensions (courtesy of Sound Transit)

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.]

101 Replies to “West Seattle & Ballard Link Get Green Light”

  1. I guess it’s time for me to start lobbying my employer to move from Lower Fremont to somewhere that will actually get reliable transit service. I.e., any other commercial hub in Seattle.

      1. You think I can afford a house?

        I merely work in Fremont, and have a 60+ minute commute including a transfer at either UW or 3rd and Union (from the 522 corridor, which also is receiving little love—and don’t lecture me about BRT).

    1. I’ll give you one thing, Andrew. ONE hearing on a movable bridge? OCCASIONAL openings?! Promise I’ll put your house to good use. It’s tempting to give Dino Rossi some real malfeasance to investigate. Meantime, overdue health measure to use current residential proximity to Bob Hasegawa’s office for twice-daily exercise.

      Year 2025, to start at least fifty years of a main line with a piece of hardware that was already obsolete when in I was five in Chicago? Installed in the years when the Ravenswood ‘El had air-operated cast-iron vestibule gates, on trains that looked like Butch Cassidy would rob them?

      ‘Way past time to gavel that hearing to order. Foot of 24th Avenue tonight? STB, wise that you don’t give out personal e-mails. But anybody interested…how do I get in contact with the people I- and this whole region- need to start digging the damn tunnel.

      Mark

    2. What’s wrong with reliability in Fremont? There’s four buses per hour on the 40 and four on the 62, and both are to be upgraded to RapidRide. The 99 tunnel construction will be finished soon. (can’t really call it AWV (Alaskan Way Viaduct tunnel anymore), so what do you call it? The Deeply Boring tunnel?) Link will have some unknown construction footprint in SLU, but it’s a decade until we know how much it will affect Fremont buses. A bit further away are the 5 and 28 and E, which will be out of any construction on Dexter. In four years you’ll be able to take the 31/32’s successors east to U-District station if you’re concerned about north-south buses. Or ride a Lime bike on the flat Burke-Gilman trail if you’re concerned about those buses. Or walk, it takes twenty minutes along the beautiful lake which feels like the center of Seattle. Maybe twenty-five.

      1. His point is that we are spending billions, and doing nothing — or at least very little — for neighborhoods like Fremont. Contrast that with a Ballard to UW rail line (which would cost less) and completely transform *every* neighborhood north of the ship canal.

        Yes, the bus service will improve. Yes, Northgate Link will make connections easier. But we missed an once in a generation chance to completely transform transit in almost half the city.

        Oh, and in what way will the new 99 tunnel improve things in Fremont? It won’t even improve the driving situation, let alone bus service. The tunnel won’t have more lanes (it will have fewer) and worse yet, won’t have ramps from Western. A significant chunk of the traffic that right now goes from Ballard to SR 99 will continue to do so, but via Fremont instead.

        Fremont is not alone in its plight (the situation in the Central Area is worse) as Seattle builds these disjointed, extremely expensive lines that serve little parts of town instead of building a real transit network that would serve the entire region. Oh well. Maybe by 2080 we will build an effective system.

      2. “in what way will the new 99 tunnel improve things in Fremont?”

        No more temporary lane closures for construction.

      3. I would be twice as willing to work or live in Fremont rather than Ballard until Ballard Link is completed, by which time I’ll be in my 70s. Fremont is a minor overhead from downtown or the U-District, which the eight buses an hour help significantly, while Ballard is twice the overhead. And I did work in Ballard for four years so i know something about that. Although neighborhood-wise I prefer Ballard because it feels more laid-back and homey and none of that Center of the Universe solstace silliness.

      4. Mike, it seems like you are speaking from time tables, not from experience. NB 62 and NB 40 during evening rush hour often have up to 45 min headways and bunched buses due to the Mercer Mess and the one-lane Dexter bottleneck. Add to that the crush loads on 40 between Amazon and Ballard, so it’s no guarantee that you can board. Want to go to Northgate? It’s a long detour through Ballard, Crown Hill, and a mile of backtracking to hit North Seattle College before going to the transit center. Maybe 62 will get me out by taking the backroads: Nope, 45th through Wallingford is a parking lot most afternoons due to the backup from the I-5 onramps. NB 31/32 to get out of Fremont? Stuck before the Burke Gilman underpass due to a combination of University Bridge traffic and the tight right turn onto 6th Ave NE; then sits on NE Pacific St due to UWMC/Montlake Bridge traffic. Maybe heading south into town for a transfer would be better? Nah, 31/32 don’t go to any transfer points and 40 and 62 head for the Mercer Mess and Dexter’s a parking lot from Mercer to Galer.

        All this to say there’s nothing reliable about transit in Lower Fremont, and the number of single-seat destinations from Fremont are even more limited. Even the Ballard-UW line would be little consolation as it would be a hike up to 45th from the Fremont bridge to catch a train.

        I’ll fight for grade separation on the Ballard and West Seattle solutions, but the fact of the matter is that there’s not much hope in sight for Fremont, so I’d be a proponent for moving business to a more transit-friendly neighborhood if I can get the ear of those who make those kinds of decisions.

      5. The 62 is RapidRide in Metro’s 2040 plan. The 40 is RapidRide in Metro’s 2025 plan. However, the 62 is slightly different than the current one. Rather than doing that Greenlake peak, it goes Meridian-55th-Latona-65th. The good news is it’s straightened out by 2025, even though Metro doesn’t have money to upgrade it to RapidRide until after that. You also have to take Metro’s 2040 plans with a grain of salt. They assume a continuing good economy, so good that it can reintroduce questionable service like Lakeview Blvd/Fuhrman Ave and a brand-new Uptown-E Aloha corridor, and additional suburban or county capital funding that may or may not happen.

        Metro has been bullish on the 62 since it first proposed it, like it was bullish on the 75/31/32 interline which has succeeded so well. However, that was nine months ago that Metro updated its plan, and maybe with the ongoing problems with the 62 Metro is having second thoughts about some aspects. But that’s speculation: we don’t know what Metro thinks of the 62 now. I think both halves are worthwhile, but they don’t have to be on the same route. Splitting it at Greenlake or Fremont is certainly possible, or even attaching those two parts to something else.

      6. Even when those busses are not bunched up, there’s the slow travel times, and unreliability of those travel times. It’s not a 20-25 minute walk from UW Station to downtown Fremont–that’s how long it takes to walk to the I-5 ship channel bridge. And the bus is not much faster. Rents would have to be a whole lot lower for me to put up with it. If Ballard – Fremont – U District were at least being upgraded to full BRT (rapid ride doesn’t quite cut it) there would be hope. Well, at least there’s a robust bike share now.

    3. The process of the Fremont alignment being dismissed for Ballard Link has made me cynical of ST’s planning process. I’m not satisfied that the alternative alignments and the metrics for comparisons are technically detailed or transparent. Given the underlying geology of salmon bay/fisherman’s terminal area as tide flats, and the Fremont cut, as… solid land, It seems like a higher level discussion of bored tunnel being feasible at Fremont, vs a bridge being needed at Interbay (and the associated operational trade offs) isn’t captured.
      My inner cynic thinks the metrics comparing the alternative alignments are intentionally soft, so the routing can be largely decided by the politically connected large employers, and developers holding large parcels. There may also be a feeling within ST that it’s preferable to build alongside large highways/stroads like 15th so environmental mitigation for noise/dust/glare/working hours will be fewer. Whatever the cause, it seems like we are consistently getting station locations that don’t benefit existing dense neighborhoods.

      1. The decision is ultimately political because the ST board is politicians, and I don’t know if the metric results bind their decisions in any way. So the problem is probably not in the reports, but if you want to investigate you can take the results of the Interbay alternative and the Queen Anne-Fremont tunnel alternative and confirm whether the evaluations were accurate and whether the metrics should have been different, and if so how different the results would have been.

        We do know that ST’s own corridor studies said that the Ballard-UW project would cost less and have higher ridership than the Ballard-downtown project, and people have argued it’s adequate for Ballard to downtown even with a transfer, but ST stuck with the Ballard-downtown project anyway. There are several factors behind this: the pent-up expectations for a Ballard-West Seattle monorail or equivalent, McGinn’s prioritizing of Ballard-downtown, the fact that it’s an unserved half of the city, the fact that a lot of people do go downtown for destinations and transfers, the attraction of combining it with the second tunnel to increase capacity for the Everett-Tacoma-Redmond spine and downtown circulation (the latter was headed to a capacity crisis), and getting Link to SLU which oops they overlooked before, and getting Link to Interbay which has the isolated Expedia campus and room for modest density at Dravus. So all these outweighed whatever advantage the metrics might have said about the QA-Fremont-Ballard alternative.

        And this again applies to all Link corridors: it’s a political decision; that’s how we’ve structured Sound Transit, and we gave outsized influence to the cities and counties. The takeaway for us is we need to evaluate how much we need these high-capacity transit corridors anyway even if they’re warped by political factors. I would say yes on some, tolerable on others. Others may think differently.

      2. Agreed. It was a political decision, with very little objective analysis. As Mike said, they ignored Ballard to UW, despite the fact that ridership would be higher and the cost would be lower. They also ignored bus to rail integration on that, along with other lines.

        If you think it was bad with Ballard, it was worse with West Seattle. They never seriously considered a congestion free bus system, despite the fact that it would be a lot cheaper. They looked at a “BRT” system, but it did not involve improvements to the freeway (which would be cheap) or a new tunnel (which would cost the same) but instead looked at running buses on the surface.

        This is all part of a larger problem with Sound Transit, which is that they don’t objectively study transit options. They ignore population density, bus integration, and ridership time saved per dollar spent (a decent metric for any project). They simply ignore the science, and build what they consider to be politically pleasing. That explains why the more densely populated areas that struggle with congestion and slow transit speeds all day long (like anywhere in the First Hill/Central Area part of town) get very little, while relatively low density areas with relatively high transit speeds (e. g. West Seattle) will get a new subway. Since the head of ST is actually from West Seattle, the explanation could not be more obvious — it is all politics.

    1. Lynnwood Link is now seeing projected cost overruns of around $500m because:
      * property values along the line have increased faster than expected, increasing land acquisition costs
      * a shortage of construction workers is driving up construction prices above what was predicted
      * changes to zoning along the corridor are requiring them to build more cul-de-sacs and plant more trees than originally planned.

      These are the kind of things that can bite you in the ass if you let too much time go by between making plans and implementing them.

      1. Like I said last night, Lack. First thing we need to see ASAP is the balance sheet column with estimates on how much money the development resulting from the project will bring over a very long time-span.

        However, one thing we need to get ready for is the major war we’ll need to keep it from turning the benefit zone into a hundred years’ more Lynnwood.

        But another thing we have to factor in is that by the time this section is finished, it’ll probably be one more station-neighborhood on the HSR line between Vancouver and Tijuana.

        Also, sorry for the spine-snapping change of outlook on the canal-crossing at Ballard. That’s what happens if first coffee of the day gets delayed too long. Offer still stands for Andrew’s house soon as I get with my funding source.

        Dino Rossi? If his record for doing anything he says is in the Presidential League, we’re safe. Bob? If he never drove trolleys, he’s probably got Bernie too ticked off for any connection. However I’ve already linked pantograph electric semi’s in Sweden.

        So: Anybody reading this EMT? Because treatment for drawbridge shock has shorter survival time than project financial planning.

        Mark

    2. Yeah I had the same reaction when I read that sentence. Seemed like an odd way to phrase the growing problems with Lynnwood Link.

      The projected variance is actually almost +$517 million, which is a huge miss in terms of the core part of the project (estimated at $1.5 – $1.7 million in YOE$). As an earlier poster has already stated, most of this increased cost estimation is coming from ROW, construction and project scope increases.

      As I stated in a post yesterday, ST has yet to release their 2017 Annual Financial Plan so it’s difficult for us taxpayers/lay people to ascertain what changes they’ve made to their financial assumptions. With that said, the 2016 plan uses the following assumptions with regard to ROW acquisition:

      ROW Average Annual Cost Inflation –
      4.5% 2009-2023

      ROW Annual % Change –
      2015 4.65%
      2016 9.6%
      2017 3.86%
      2018 4.01%
      2019 4.0%
      2020 4.0%
      2021 4.0%
      2022 4.07%
      2023 4.0%

      Finally, in regard to the tree mitigation matter ($32 million) for the Lynnwood Link project, the bulk of the mitigation (79%) is in the WSDOT ROW and is something that was knowable even in the early planning stages.

    3. First cost overruns, delays for Lynnwood Link

      “Plague” is not the right term because that implies repeated and persistent problems, one after the other like it never ends. This is just one set of problems. I don’t care when ST knew about it; I just care whether I can use Link in north Seattle and Lynnwood in 2023, 2024, or 2025 if it must be, because we needed it yesterday or really three decades ago and that’s the overwhelmingly hugest problem.

      “These are the kind of things that can bite you in the ass if you let too much time go by between making plans and implementing them.”

      What else can we do? The money for construction won’t be there until the late 2020s and 2030s. The actual costs (the cost of real estate, etc) will be the same no matter whether we plan it now or then. Planning it now will give the cities more certainty where the entrances will be so they can plan around that, and it will also show more clearly which parcels will be affected so ST can pre-acquire them if it can (although it won’t have much money for that either). The certainty of a specific Link alignment may also improve cities’ land-use politics, because rather than “It will come somewhere vaguely here (maybe)”, it will be “It will come definitely here unless there’s a major recession or the legislature revokes the authority.”

      There’s still padding in the ST3 timeline that can be compressed to bring the projects three years closer if all the planning and permitting and construction go well. That’s probably one of the reasons for the compressed schedule, to get that certainty now, and create a wave of momentum that may persuade the cities to be cooperative.

      “one thing we need to get ready for is the major war we’ll need to keep it from turning the benefit zone into a hundred years’ more Lynnwood.”

      What does that mean? That it will take a hundred years to build? That land use will deteriorate like around Lynnwood?

      1. I couldn’t disagree with you more on several points. Sound Move was a disaster in planning and execution and no amount of historical revisionism, such as ST’s claims about U-Link, is going to change that. While “plague” wouldn’t have been my first choice, there still seems to be many systemic problems within this agency in multiple areas of system expansion planning.

        I do care about when ST first knew about the cost issues with the Lynnwood Link project. I care a great deal about that actually because it goes to the core issues of accountability and integrity.

        Early ROW acquisition comes with strict FTA guidelines if financial assistance is involved, such as with the Lynnwood Link project. I would hope with Rogoff’s background he has the people in place (in house or on contract) who have this knowledge base with regard to things like the FTA’s Circular 5010.1E and the compliance regulations under the Uniform Act, to name just a couple of areas.

      2. The topic was Lynnwood Link, not everything with ST. ST was plaguED with unrealistic planning and budgets before 2001 but that has not recurred. After it got on its feet, the initial segment and U-Link came on fine, ST2 is going fine. The truncation on south Link was due to the recession cutting income, the delay on East Link was due to Bellevue and the recession.

        The non-ideal Link alignments and stations are a different issue, something larger and involving not just ST but the governments and the public: the best way I can articulate it is we aren’t asking or telling ST to build an urban-centric network. In mean, we the urbanists are, but we’re a minority. ST has never had a visionary leader who would push for a network like Vancouver or Germany and push back against the forces that would make it something else (i.e., Everett to Tacoma with lots of P&Rs). The power structure built into ST and around it explains why: how could it produce such a visionary? And for our dear friend Joe, an elected board wouldn’t solve it, because the same people responsible for ST’s current structure and priorities would elect the board.

      3. Mike, I don’t even know where to start with a reply that is so riddled with misstatements of facts.

        “unrealistic planning and budgets before 2001 but that has not recurred.”

        False. Lynnwood Link. Tax revenues vs budget as shown below.

        “After it got on its feet, the initial segment and U-Link came on fine,”

        False. U-Link was 10 years late and didn’t truncate at the original northern terminus at Brooklyn.

        “ST2 is going fine.”

        False. Lynnwood Link. East Link $225 million over budget (I-90 Bridge). ST2 fleet expansion cost variance from ST2 plan, +$99 million (R2015-24) and then another +$7 million (R2017-15). Northgate Link ever changing cost from original 2012 baseline (R2012-13). I could go on but I think you get the idea.

        “The truncation on south Link was due to the recession cutting income, the delay on East Link was due to Bellevue and the recession.”

        I believe you’re talking about revenues and not income. With that being said, let’s take a look at ST’s tax revenues for the time before, during and after the Great Recession.

        All Reported Tax Revenues (in millions $)

        Year, Actual, Budget

        2007, 353.4, 342.8
        2008, 346.2, 362.9
        2009, 510.9, 573.4
        2010, 506.4, 534.4
        2011, 597.3, 608.2
        2012, 620.2, 630.4

        As you can see, there was only a slight reduction in tax revenues between 2007/2008 and 2009/2010. The issue was on the budgeting side and that’s on ST, particularly after 2008/2009.

        Finally, as far as your position against an elected ST board, your argument seems unpersuasive and ignores the core function that a government/authority board serves.

      4. “False. Lynnwood Link.”

        That’s what we’re talking about. Lynnwood Link is the first to have its kind of problems.

        “U-Link was 10 years late and didn’t truncate at the original northern terminus at Brooklyn.”

        That was all part of the 2001 reform.

        “East Link $225 million over budget (I-90 Bridge). ST2 fleet expansion cost variance from ST2 plan, +$99 million (R2015-24) and then another +$7 million (R2017-15). Northgate Link ever changing cost from original 2012 baseline (R2012-13).”

        I don’t know what all that means or which parts are something ST “should” have foreseen.

        “I believe you’re talking about revenues and not income.”

        Tax revenue is income to ST, maybe not in accounting terminology but in the sense that it’s money coming into ST that it can pay bills with.

        “As you can see, there was only a slight reduction in tax revenues between 2007/2008 and 2009/2010. The issue was on the budgeting side and that’s on ST, particularly after 2008/2009.”

        Is that the entire ST district? South King was heavily hit with unemployment, retail losses, and thus sales-tax losses, and south Link is funded by South King. Or maybe ST expected the economy to improve but it went the opposite way. In any case there was a huge sales-tax loss because it affected Metro and Seattle too. It didn’t affect ST as strongly because only part of ST’s revenue is sales tax, but it affected South King more than North King or East King. And if that’s what you mean by “budgeting side”, well, it’s not something that can be waved aside without abolishing subarea equity.

      5. Lol. I think that’s strike three.

        “Lynnwood Link is the first to have its kind of problems.”

        Again, false. East Link I-90 cost escalation.

        “That was all part of the 2001 reform.”

        This is not a counter argument to the point made earlier in response to your assertion that “U-Link came on fine.”

        “I don’t know what all that means or which parts are something ST “should” have foreseen.”

        Again, apparently you have no counter argument here when presented with factual evidence against the assertion that “ST2 is going fine”. (The parenthetical information refers to the relevant board actions.)

        “Tax revenue is income to ST, ”

        Tax revenue is revenue, not income. Period.

        Finally, in regard to the actual tax revenues reported above, those are indeed the numbers for all taxes for the entire district. Here are the numbers for the South King County Subarea only:

        2005 $56.2 mil.
        2006 $60.5 mil.
        2007 $63.4 mil.
        2008 $60.6 mil.
        2009 $84.5 mil.
        2010 $91.6 mil.
        2011 $91.8 mil.
        2012 $95.2 mil.

        As you can see, the only drop in tax revenues as reported for this subarea was between 2007/2008. It appears to me that you’ve accepted Sound Transit’s narrative on this matter even though it’s not supported by their own numbers. Again, it’s the revenue projection side (budgeting) where the actual shortfalls occurred.

        This closes out my interest in this thread. Thank you for your replies.

      6. You’re aware that ST2 happened in 2008, right? So of course, the ST2+Sound Move revenues were higher than the Sound Move revenues alone. They were lower than the projections because of the recession which hit South King particularly hard.

        Jeebus.

      7. Dan. I’m well aware of when ST2 taxes started to flow into the coffers. That’s irrelevant to the argument that had previously been posited. I was simply refuting that point.

        “Again, it’s the revenue projection side (budgeting) where the actual shortfalls occurred.”

        So, your point is? (RQ)

      8. 2007-2008 % Change Total Tax Revenues (Actuals)

        Sno Co -12.1%
        N King Co -0.1%
        S King Co -4.4%
        E King Co -6.1%
        Pierce Co -7.7%

        (Source: 2008 Subarea Report)

      9. “apparently you have no counter argument here when presented with factual evidence against the assertion that “ST2 is going fine”.”

        I just don’t know enough about finance and all the expenses of rail projects and how ST’s compare to other agencies’ to evaluate your claims that it’s unreasonable. I’m not a numbers person, you’ll have to talk to somebody who is. I mostly focus on the quality of transit and how well it works for passengers, and leave finance and project expenses for those who have more experience in it.

        “It appears to me that you’ve accepted Sound Transit’s narrative on this matter even though it’s not supported by their own numbers. Again, it’s the revenue projection side (budgeting) where the actual shortfalls occurred.”

        I haven’t heard any other narrative. If the problems for south Link were on the budget side, what was wrong and how could ST have fixed it?

      10. I believe the extra expenses on East Link are all within the contingency. This is why you have built in contingency amounts, especially for elements with a lot of risk like the bridge segments.

        I’m not aware of any overruns on Northgate link. In fact I thought Northgate link was well under budget, as “ahead of schedule” usually results in “under budget”.

    4. Also, ST can build into the budget a reevaluation step and contingency fund in case conditions change between the planning and construction.

    1. The representative alignment used as a starting point maintains an at-grade crossing of Royal Brougham, with a newly constructed Stadium Station with tracks shared by both lines. The West Seattle tracks separate from the Central Link tracks and become elevation just south of Stadium Station.

      1. That’s what the previous “Representative Alignment’ map showed. It’s not what this one does.

        There is no Stadium Station on the Green Line shown above. It appears that the current tracks will be connected to a portal of the new downtown tunnel just about the location or the current Stadium Station. This makes a LOT of sense, because the cross-overs necessary to have both Red and Green Lines share the new station as shown in the original proposal would have permanently crippled the system.

        Street-level Royal Brougham should be made bus-only between Fourth and Airport Way.

  2. The drawbridge across the ship canal is really going to be an issue. So many people are going to be riding Link by 2035 and trains will come at a higher rate. By stopping trains to and from Ballard for openings (which can last up to 10 minutes at a time), we are essentially creating a clog along the Ballard line. This is unacceptable for a mass transit system in a metropolitan city. The crossing should be completely underground to avoid any sort of backup. I know the costs are higher, but it is a price we need to pay to keep the entire operation running smoothly. If the drawbridge crossing is built, we’ll be looking back twenty years stuck on a waiting train asking why we chose this alignment over a completely separated tunnel. Sound Transit is making a BIG mistake if they think a bridge will suffice.

    1. Even if openings take ten minutes (which they hardly ever do), I’d rather take the drawbridge and use the saved money to extend Link farther north or west. That’d save thousands of people up to ten minutes each trip in getting to Link.

      1. Does anyone know of any cost estimates for a lower drawbridge vs a higher fixed bridge vs a tunneled crossing? It’s hard to have a useful conversation about this without at least ballpark numbers.

        If the price difference is $100 million, I’d likely prefer a higher fixed bridge or tunnel, but if the price difference was $1 billion, I’d likely prefer to live with a drawbridge’s issues, and use the money to add more stations.

      2. The actual openings are more like 2 minutes, off peak hours only, and rare at that. What takes 10 minutes is waiting for all the cars in front of you to move after the opening has finished. Which the train will never have to do.

    2. The higher the bridge, the less often it will open. Only a few tallest sailboats will have to open the bridge. ST has estimated, what, twice a week I think. Even if it’s twice a day, that’s only a tiny fraction of the times that the Fremont and Ballard Bridges open. We can talk more about the $400 million difference, but by a strange coincidence that’s almost the same as the Lynnwood Link overruns that have delayed it a year, so it’s not insignificant. And maybe we’ll want more money for a better Ballard transfer station or something. The biggest problems is things like MLK that reduce the speed to 35 mph (soon to be 30 maybe) and have several traffic crossings that sometimes get out of sync. One 70′ bridge is a much smaller problem.

      1. Or 30 down to 25. Is Vision Zero 30 mph on arterials and 25 on residential streets, or 25 on arterials and 20 on residential streets?

      2. I believe Vision Zero in Seattle lowered speeds from 30mph to 25mph on arterial and from 25mph to 20mph on non-arterials.

      3. Don’t forget that an elevated salmon bay crossing necessitates an elevated station in the middle of Ballard. Future generations will thank us if we tunnel and preserve Ballard for increased urbanization. It. Is. Worth. It.

      4. Is it really unacceptable to allow the train to travel at a higher speed limit than the cars? If not, I think we all know what’s going to happen. The train will obey the 25 mph speed limit to the letter because it’s run by a public agency that’s supposed to set a good example. But the cars will just ignore it and zoom past the train at the same 40 mph they’ve been going before, since the road is designed for 40 mph travel.

      5. Don’t forget that an elevated salmon bay crossing necessitates an elevated station in the middle of Ballard. Future generations will thank us if we tunnel and preserve Ballard for increased urbanization.

        So you are saying that Chicago and northern Manhattan as well as large parts of Brooklyn aren’t urban? Seriously?

        We are talking about 15th, not the heart of Ballard. It is a wide, and very congested road. You might as well have a train there (it will arguably improve the aesthetics).

        If there is an argument for building underground, it is in West Seattle. The light rail line will cut right through the cultural heart (and arguably only really urban part) of West Seattle. But if you build both tunnels, then you not only delay projects like an extension into Ballard (65th and 85th) but also delay (if not kill indefinitely) projects like Ballard to UW, and Metro 8 subways. It is just not a good trade-off.

      6. MLK is explicitly signed at a higher speed limit, so it’s fine for the time being.

        But letting the train go faster than cars there would require crossing gates, I’ve heard – which are a good idea anyway.

      7. The city hasn’t said what it intends to do with MLK, Aurora, Sand Point Way, 15th Ave W, etc, so it could keep them as is although it’s not guaranteed, hence my comment. Slowing Link down would make it less useful, and it will soon be part of the line to Tacoma which is already excessively time-consuming, but running Link at a different speed than the street would screw up intersection timings and signal priority.

      8. > Don’t forget that an elevated salmon bay crossing necessitates an elevated station in the middle of Ballard. Future generations will thank us if we tunnel and preserve Ballard for increased urbanization.

        > So you are saying that Chicago and northern Manhattan as well as large parts of Brooklyn aren’t urban? Seriously?

        I say this as a transit advocate impatient for the expansion of the light rail network: it’s worth it to slow down and tunnel. I’ve lived in Manhattan and the elevated portions of the subway dominate the character of the neighborhoods they pass over: usually commercial areas, these places sit in shadow with little natural light, high noise levels and low air quality. The at-grade portion of Link saved Sound Transit a lot of money, but we’ll pay for that discount for the life of the system with service disruptions every time a vehicle collides with a train. Likewise, the consequences of an elevated track through our neighborhoods, once built, will be with us to stay. A useful, expansive light rail system is a long term vision anyway: the end result is decades away and many of us will not be around to enjoy it. Let’s take the time, then, to invest in livability. Future generations *will* thank us if we invest the extra time and money in a quiet, fast, well-built metro system.

      9. I think future generations will thank us a lot more if we did any one of the following first:

        1) Built a tunnel or bridge connecting the 520 bus lanes to the Husky Stadium Link Station.

        2) Add a station on First Hill.

        3) Build Ballard to UW light rail.

        4) Build the Metro 8 subway, including service to Belltown.

      10. “Manhattan and the elevated portions of the subway dominate the character of the neighborhoods they pass over: usually commercial areas, these places sit in shadow with little natural light, high noise levels and low air quality.”

        Decades-old heavy rail systems have a larger footprint and impact than modern light rail systems. Link has elevated segments so you can go see them and judge their impacts. They’re less than the monorail’s stanchions, which in turn was less than the NYC subway in Brooklyn.

    3. Yeah, openings don’t take ten minutes, more like four minutes. And they’ll be off-peak only when headways are lower anyway.

      It’s not quite zero impact, but this is a minor issue. Spending money to mitigate this means delaying everything further down the queue and perhaps accepting some other things we want can’t be paid for.

    4. What asdf2 said. It never takes ten minutes for a ship to cross. An operator can — during high boat traffic times — decide to keep the bridge open for a long time to allow for more boats to cross, but that simply won’t happen. If you arrive late, and the bridge is closing, you get the five short horn blasts and have to wait.

      I think people are forgetting some key elements of this bridge:

      1) It is significantly higher than the highest drawbridge we have (Ballard). This means it opens less often.
      2) It never opens during rush hour.
      3) The trains don’t run that often outside rush hour.
      4) The operator will simply time the opening to when the trains aren’t there.

      In all likelihood, no one will ever notice that a train was held up for a boat. If you have a watch and start tracking the time that the train arrives in Ballard (or Interbay) you will see far more variance based on the time it takes to close the doors at each station.

      Now, there is the issue of maintenance, and wear and tear on a movable versus fixed bridge. Fair enough. But if we are really concerned about reliability, then we shouldn’t be building such long lines. It is far more likely that the train to Ballard will be shut down because of some problem south of SeaTac then because the bridge isn’t operating correctly. Link hasn’t been 100% so far (far from it) and it is really, really new. In fifty years we are likely to have a lot more problems.

    5. A few years back, it sounded like SDOT wanted to at least study completely replacing the century-old Ballard Bridge, and the idea of a cost-sharing arrangement between City of Seattle and Sound Transit to build a combined multimodal bridge that would theoretically save both agencies money was tossed around.

      I don’t know if that is still on the table, but it would be a good reason to keep designs vague at this point, and to continue studying concepts that could be integrated with a new SDOT movable bridge.

  3. RE: “The basic project alignments (seen above) have already been determined and will look near identical to the preferred alternative identified in 2019.”

    This is factually incorrect and extremely misleading. There is an 18-month process kicking off NOW to determine the locally preferred alternative. Their starting point will be the representative alignment used for budgeting and shown to the public during the campaign. HOWEVER, it’s in this process that stakeholders will make recommendations, HNTB will do analysis, and the board will decide what that locally preferred alternative is. That can include changes to station location, alignment through places like Interbay, and assessing costs and benefits of community requests for tunnels under Salmon Bay and into the hills of West Seattle.

    It’s a critical time for people to be engaged, because the likely alignment will be largely set by the end of 18 months (as well as the 1-2 additional alternatives to assess during the EIS). This alignment will certainly resemble the representative alignment, but there may well be deviations. Nothing has been “determined” at this point; the representative alignment just represents a starting point for discussion.

    Therefore, this is the key post-campaign opportunity to engage and be heard regarding how best to serve this corridor. It will be the most significant opportunity to influence the alignment before it’s actually built (this differs from all previous processes that put the EIS study first and determined the locally preferred alternative towards the end of that process).

    1. Even though the new ID Station will likely be astride the existing ID station, the section of text about the new downtown tunnel definitely going under 5th Avenue through Madison station to Westlake is not yet determined. That all still has to be studied and recommendations still need to be heard

    2. Thanks. I was just about to respond in a similar manner when I read your post so I won’t bother. I think your reply captures the needed clarification to the misrepresentations in the piece by the OP.

  4. I think what would be a good idea for the new SODO track is to build it in the existing busway (moving buses to 4th/6th), and keep it at-grade with the current red line track. Then, (with buses no longer turning into and out of the busway), create overpasses for S. Lander, Holgate, and Royal Brougham, and lower light rail tracks a little bit under Royal Brougham way. This makes both SODO tracks at-grade and ROW separated from traffic.

    Then make stadium and SODO stations two-tracked/three-platformed (platforms on each side of the tracks and between the tracks), making transfers easy and crowding manageable.

    1. I’d like more clarification on what the SODO changes mean for the existing corridor. I assume “rebuilt Stadium station” means having both lines at the same or different platforms. But does “elevated SODO station” mean that the existing line will be elevated too? That’s plausable because it elevates anyway just beyond the station. That would eliminate a couple traffic crossings and allow it to accelerate sooner, and reduce the risk of a car/pedestrian collision that kills people and stops the line completely for hours. Or is the elevated SODO station just for the West Seattle line?

    2. This will also lead to the interesting case that the Red and Blue Lines will be together from Lynnwood to Intl Dist, and the Green Line in a separate tunnel, but then the Red and Green Lines will be together between Stadium and SODO while the Blue Line splits off to the Eastside. This is less than ideal, although not as bad as some silly weavings in other networks, where you have to keep track of “This is doubled up with that here, but with yon there, so I’ll have to go to yon and backtrack a station or two if I take this train.”

    3. Transfers at SODO will be the easiest and cheapest for ST to build correctly. I hope that there is a level center platform enabling transfers for each direction of the lines by simply walking across a platform. It could even work well as a timed transfer during off-peak hours if there are four boarding areas (two for each direction) and two center platforms.

      It could be on two levels (northbound of both lines at-grade and southbound elevated, for example), or all-elevated.

      I hope we can get ST to have multiple boarding zones so we make this transfer easy!

      Does anyone else have comments about this future transfer station?

  5. Considering what deferred maintenance is already costing this country, with no improvement in sight, I’d rather pay triple what a tunnel now will save forty years in the future.

    But what this discussion needs right now is a lot of background on the real-world (literally) reality of putting a transit tunnel under the Ship Canal at Ballard. Does anybody know that soil, stone, and groundwater are like down there?

    And what utilities are in the way? I’ve been told that the canal is forty feet deep at Fremont. But have no info at all on tunneling conditions, which I think are factor that resulted in present choice.

    If it’s a matter of short term cost-savings, better to hold off building the line ’til savings-term gets long enough to get it right. Both votes and results over Forward Thrust indicate that Seattle prefers to cry for forty years than sweat for ten.

    If this habit is unbreakable, better just add some through Seattle-Lynnwood diamond lanes, and some signal pre-empts on arterials east and south out of Ballard. Because gripes cause less noise pollution than howls.

    Twenty railcars stuck for same number of hours could out-decibel one of those super deafening Navy jets on takeoff.

    Any tunnel engineers want to weigh in? Or at least tell us where in library or elsewhere to start looking?

    Mark

  6. One can hope the Salmon Bay Crossing and Duwamish Waterway Crossing will use Portland’s Tilikum Crossing as a guide… not a beyond stupid drawbridge. Let’s remember the Tilikum Crossing has to carry light rail, streetcars, buses, bikes and pedestrians over a major waterway used for freight & tourism. Furthermore, if you bought the blueprints from Trimet or their contractor as a starting point – then you wouldn’t have to reinvent crossing a major waterway for light rail.

    For the great aesthetics, check this out: https://www.flickr.com/groups/tilikumcrossing/

    Yours;

    Joe

    1. Please not the slowness of the Tillicum Crossing. I hate it when trains slow to a crawl to cross a bridge, and that slowness extends to a few blocks around it.

      1. I’ve crossed the Tilikum Crossing by foot and on streetcar and even light rail. The vehicles do slow down a bit, I admit.

        But then again Sound Transit has somewhat different rolling stock than Trimet. Oh that’s right, Trimet & soon Sound Transit will have Siemens S70s so thanks to you I just sent this public records request to Trimet:

        I am requesting please:

        a) Any marketing material you recieved from Siemens regarding your Siemens S70
        b) A copy of your Siemens S70 operating manual
        c) Any information about transit vehicle speed limits on your Tilikum Crossing

        Thank you

        Granted I live in Skagit – and not by true choice; but I am hugely supportive of Sound Transit. I listen very much to what Seattle Subway has to say – the same architects of making $15 Billion $52 Billion ;-) – and when Seattle Subway says drawbridges are a nonstarter as much as anything not grade separated, I listen.

        If the Tilikum Crossing is not an appropriate template for Sound Transit, then perhaps Vancouver’s Skybridge & North Arm Bridge (both of which I took Skyrain over and back) should be unless tunneling can be done. Drawbridges are nonsensical for light rail. I also do not want Sound Transit and its contractors reinventing the light rail bridge when we have two good models to our south and north.

        Please understand my intent – a desire to cut costs and time. As Dave Somers once said famously about ST3, “Time is money and money is time”.

      2. I also regard Seattle Subway’s recommendations highly: they have significant insight and expertise behind them, but I don’t always agree with everything they say. I agree that 100% grade separation is a major factor in Link reaching its potential: you only have to look at how transformative the NYC and London and DC and Chicago subways are, and imagine how much less effective they’d be if they were on the surface (hint: like the SLU streetcar). But we need to keep in perspective that 99% or 80% grade separation will also do 80% or 90% of the job. What we need to avoid is another MLK, or worse, that surface alternative in Belltown and Westlake. One 70′ bridge that opens twice a week has much less impact than those. Seattle Subway thinks it’s important enough to draw a line in the sand over; I don’t.

        I’m very glad that ST2 and ST3 are over 90% grade-separated because I feared they would be worse, like ST1 was. At one point ST2 was 100% grade separated, until Bellevue got insistent on its City Hall tunnel and persuaded ST to economize in the Spring District and Redmond to free up money for it. But I’m told that the Spring District grade crossing is just one little-used street, and I hope Redmond will be similarly minor. But, yaay, Lynnwood Link has no grade crossings! And Federal Way Link doesn’t either!

  7. As far as improving this line is concerned, I suggest the following:

    1) A high, fixed bridge for Ballard. This won’t cost any extra money, and will improve the ridership experience (which in turn should improve farebox recovery a bit). It will cost some political capital, though, so my guess is they will go with the movable bridge.

    2) Extend the Ballard line to 65th and 85th in Ballard. Both stops are good ones, and if this is elevated, won’t cost much money.

    3) Move the Madison Street Station up to First Hill. Right now the new transit tunnel is largely redundant. Two of the stations are exactly the same, and the third is very close to an existing one. I doubt very many people will transfer to use the stop at Madison, even if it is at 5th (they will simply get off the train at Seneca). Put the station on the other side of the freeway and the perspective changes. You’ve actually added significant value with this new tunnel.

    Other than that, I wouldn’t make any major changes. I would make sure they get the details right, such as making sure that people can actually get to the train platform and enabling good bus to train integration. For example, the station in Lower Queen Anne should not be in the Seattle Center, but outside it (e. g. 1st and Mercer). Oh, and we should of course consider how this will eventually integrate with future expansions, such as a Ballard to UW line.

    1. Yeah the Seattle center station jumped out at me too. There is little need for a Seattle Center station, there is a huge need for an Uptown/Lower Queen Anne station

    2. #3 in particular. Moving the Madison station to First Hill is hugely more valuable than placing it on 5th – it serves a dense urban neighborhood and a decent number of the area’s hospitals, which are large trip generators not just for staff but for visitors. Transfers between lines to access downtown can be made at either the north or south ends of downtown, or it’s an extremely short hop down the hill on what should be a very frequent Madison BRT. Otherwise you’ve put a station where you gain almost no additional walkshed.

      Serving that neighborhood is well worth exploring and would seem to be a very good return on investment. It’s a defacto part of downtown just as SLU is; in this case only separated by the freeway.

  8. Any thoughts on Elon Musk’s Boring Company technology to improve the speed and likely reduced costs of constructing tunneled segments? His improved tunneling technology would like be available when we actually start construction of these lines.

    I really feel strongly that both West Seattle and Ballard need to be tunneled – is there any realistic possibility that this will be done?

    1. There was a comment on a post, within the last 6 weeks I believe, from a rail engineer who analyzed what would be necessary to make a tunnel to West Seattle happen, and it turns out to get far enough beneath the Duwamish at safe grades, the track would have to start descending so far east that it would eat into BNSF’s right of way in SoDo, which they said is extremely unlikely to be agreed to (and even if eminent domain could be used, which I’m not sure of, the Sounder trains run on BNSF’s rails and they really don’t want to sour that relationship).

      1. Totally understand this, but I was more referring to the portion of the West Seattle line where it terminates near the West Seattle Junction. Elevate the line past the Delridge station, but then starting a tunnel near the West Seattle golf course on the way to the junction.

        Same with Ballard – elevate the line through Interbay, but then tunnel under salmon bay with an underground station at Market street.

  9. A MOVEABLE bridge? And people are saying it’ll open twice a week?!?

    OK, so there are a couple on the L in Chicago and a couple on the subway in New York, but they open, like, twice a YEAR. And are generally considered a huge pain.

  10. No option to run the Ballard – West Seattle line as a single line? That way it could be properly designed for higher capacity transit.

    1. I think the problem is that if Ballard->West Seattle is a single line, Everett->Tacoma must also be a single line, which, at 2+ hours, end to end, is too long. By sending Everett trains to West Seattle and Ballard trains to Tacoma, it keeps each line to no more than an hour and a half.

    2. That was the original plan but it would have made the Red Line run from Everett to Tacoma with over two hours travel time, and ST felt that was too long for drivers to go without a break. So it split the spine and connected Everett to West Seattle in the 3rd Avenue tunnel and Ballard to Tacoma in the 5th Avenue tunnel. ST staff first proposed this December 2015 and it got no opposition at all that I’ve heard, which is surprising because everything else about Link has at least some opposition or other. The highest capacity needs will be between downtown and Northgate, which is doubled up by the Red and Blue lines. Neither Ballard nor West Seattle should need more capacity than Rainier/Beacon has.

      1. In theory, the downtown->Northgate segment should have trains running every 5 minutes all day long, with the West Seattle line and Bellevue line combined, so the actual wait time for the transfer shouldn’t be that long, even during off-peak hours. Not quite as frequent as the New York subway, but still pretty good – better than Portland MAX, the Washington D.C. Metro, and many others.

  11. Problems with the 522 corridor:
    * No dedicated transit lane between 145th and 125th or south of Northgate Way.
    * No direct access to Northgate TC from LFP, Kenmore, Bothell, Woodinville. If Northgate TC is supposed to be the transit hub for North Seattle, then shouldn’t North King County’s largest communities have direct access to this location for transfers? (My fingers are crossed that this will come to fruition when Northgate Link opens.)
    * Poor non-peak service. ST522 is the only option north of NE 130th St. on weekends. Metro 372 should at least be running to get people to the Link terminus at Husky Stadium.
    * No sign on grade-separated transit options in the foreseeable future. No matter what, 522 will be subject to SOV traffic flow.

    1. You commute from Bothell-ish to Fremont? God, that is awful. There are many trip pairs that have just ridiculous transit alternatives like Lynnwood to Licton Springs (Meridian Ave), but the 522 to Fremont is one of the worst. But the fundamental problem there is not Fremont’s unreliability but the little connection between northeast Seattle and the rest of north Seattle, and especially between the 522 and north-central and northwest Seattle.

      Northgate TC is the traditional transit hub in north Seattle, but going to it won’t get you much. You’ll get transfers to the 347, 348 and 68 for whatever that’s worth, but at the cost of slowing down the 522 a lot. The 522’s predecessor, the 307, did stop at Northgate, and the overhead was so significant it’s why the 522 doesn’t now. So all that slowdown would just give you a transfer to the 40, and then it’s still a long way to Fremont.

      Metro’s 2025 plan extends the 40 to Lake City, so you can transfer there and then have a 2-seat ride instead of a 3-seat ride to Fremont. Still not very good but better than the current situation. And the 75 will be rerouted to 130th & Aurora, in case you want to go to Bitter Lake or transfer to the E. The best way to improve 522-to-Fremont trips is probably RossB’s of sending the 522 to Roosevelt Station and transferring to the 62, which will be straightened out slightly in the 2025 plan. There’s not much better opportunity since it’s not really possible for the 522 to stop at 45th or 40th.

      As to extending the 372, is there enough ridership to justify running the 372 so far overlapping with the 522? Weekdays it’s mainly because there’s colleges at both ends.

      1. Once Northgate Link is done, what about routing the 522 to Northgate and then maybe somewhere in Fremont where it could connect to a pile of other stuff?

        Then when Ballard Link is done extend it to Ballard so it becomes more of an east-west express that a west then south express?

        Or, if it must contunue to go to downtown, how about on Aurora?

        Once the tunnels close to buses, the 522 seems like it will be a route that suffers quite a lot and some sort of route change seems inevitable.

      2. I think the better 522-to-Link connection could be Roosevelt. Once Lynnwood opens, Northgate will become less relevant as a transfer point. That would also provide a direct Lake City connection.

        Half of the RapidRide E Aurora buses can be turned at 80th to end there, providing great service to the northwest.

        The one-way streets can make the street grid work well for turning buses.

        The Greenlake Park-and-Ride can provide layover pavement for buses.

        As time moves on, the freeway justification will be less relevant for Northgate TC too. Riders will be on Link instead.

        As others have pointed out, Northgate TC isn’t near Northgate Way, and Northgate Way is an awkward road for any vehicle.

      3. “Once Northgate Link is done, what about routing the 522 to Northgate”
        “I think the better 522-to-Link connection could be Roosevelt.”

        I was going to follow up on this. Most likely ST will continue running the 522 to downtown until 145th Station opens and then switch to it, and that will become 522 BRT. There’s such large public demand and expectation for the 522 to go downtown and not be slowed down by detours (ST was reluctant to add the 80th Street stop until Metro insisted really hard), that it’s hard to imagine ST would allow it to go to Roosevelt or Northgate or there wouldn’t be a huge public backlash if it did.

        “Half of the RapidRide E Aurora buses can be turned at 80th to end there, providing great service to the northwest.”

        That’s another thing that will never happen. It would break the Aurora grid route and make each branch half-hourly. The 5 used to have half its midday runs going to Northgate but that was curtailed for frequency and simplicity in the north-south corridor.

      4. Link will change public expectations and psychological concepts of distance once opened. Even though some of you can’t envision it, I think that the 12 minutes to reach Westlake from Roosevelt will change the fundamental transit rider’s perception and expectation of using transit in North Seattle. Ask anyone living in Columbia City if they prefer Link or Route 7 local to Downtown, for a glimpse of the coming change.

      5. Another thing I was going to follow up on and forgot. In spite of my questions about whether the 372 and 522 overlapping on weekends is overservice, Metro is going to do it anyway. The 2025 plan has RapidRide 372. I think that’s Metro’s answer to the objections over deleting the 522’s Lake City segment.So for whatever that’s worth, it’s 8-10 buses per hour on Bothell Way, and 4-6 per hour on Lake City Way and 25th. That doesn’t get you to Fremont but it’s something. And there’ll be room to argue for changes when the actual proposal comes out, such as rerouting it to Roosevelt. The biggest objection will be, “What about RapidRide in northeast Seattle? Are we chopped liver?”

        (The answer might be, “Upzone and you won’t be,” but we really do need to evaluate whether downgrading 25th harms the transit grid too much, or conversely whether RapidRide on 25th is overservice. People do want to get to the U somehow, and it doesn’t matter much whether it goes down the east side (25th) or west side (Roosevelt-15th), although it does matter to those going to U-Village.

    2. A pitiable commute to be sure. I quit probably the best job I ever had because of that commute (opposite direction though) That was before the bus lanes through Kenmore, but essentially the same except traffic volumes werent as bad and 31/32 used to be 30. Sleeping on the 372 was common. If you can suffer the rain, the Burke Gillman is your best bet.

  12. So there’s a snake in the grass here: elevated from Delridge to Alaska Junction will be fought against, tooth and nail. You can take it to the bank that the local community groups will fight for a tunnel and underground stations, which while not an entirely terrible idea on a few merits (quality of service, minimize neighborhood disruption, hooray for subways), has a lot of issues that should disqualify it as a solution.

    It will be very expensive (much more than elevated), difficult both to engineer and then to stage/construct, and (the kicker) will make an extension southward towards White Center politically impossible by either requiring further tunneling or a transition to surface or elevated alignments. ST had best be very careful about value engineering this segment of the line: large elevated stations will not be a popular suggestion with this part of town, and may change opinions quickly.

    I live very close to the alignment and the future Avalon station, and I have engineering questions about elevated too: Genesee Street from Delridge to Fauntleroy is a substantial elevation change. The back-of-google-maps-napkin calculation is a total gain of 180 feet in 6/10 mile: that’s a 5.5% surface grade. Does a grade of that magnitude require tackling new engineering challenges or has it been done already (the rise to Tukwila International)?

  13. The end point is something that ST would need to figure out in the next year.

    I personally think that the end point should be at least two blocks east of Alaska Junction. That’s because the line will need to turn 90 degrees in the future and the low density zoning start just 100 to 200 feet west of the Junction. It might even end up as far east as Fauntleroy.

    I hope that the next step studies a number of West Seattle alignments and station areas. It seems wasteful that Deltidge is so close to the Port property, for example. There are several vacant east-west rights-of-way that may be great for different aerial+surface+ravine+tunnel concepts.

  14. When does the current Ballard Bridge need to be rebuilt? Could there be cost savings in building a new, higher, bridge with space for link/cars/bikes/peds?

    1. It’s 100 years old this year. While on the national register of historic places, most will agree it outlived its useful life some time ago. The ST3 plans spoke openly of total replacement, a new bridge for all modes.

    2. Seattle would like to shift the cost of bridge replacement to ST, just like it shifted part of the cost of Madison RapidRide to ST. The upshot is that that North King money can’t be spent on other Link projects that may be more worthwhile. I don’t think ST will go along with a new train/car/ped bridge. But the bicycle/ped factor is what’s pushing for a bridge lower than 70′, and that’s dangerous because a lower bridge would have more openings. So I hope ST doesn’t fall for it.

  15. West Seattle could be the riskiest part of Link, a bunch of ever-rising costs for less benefit than other segments. The downtown – Capitol Hill – U-District – Northgate tunnel was necessary no matter the cost because of the density and potential density and the fact that the surface streets were melting down over the load. But West Seattle could be fully served with a few guaranteed transit lanes. At the same time it’s topography is the difficult of almost anywhere Link goes through, except maybe the aforementioned downtown to U-District segment. The far extensions in Snoho, Pierce, and south King County are cheap and practically risk-free in comparison because they’re elevated in wide flat highway right of way. Yet the political motivation requires West Seattle next because so many councilmembers and former councilmembers live there and its single-family public has such a high sense of entitlement and activism. So the political motivation is warping where the resources are going and leading to risky ventures that are unprecedented in any of Link’s other areas. I hope nothing goes wrong.

      1. A single-track shuttle (even battery-powered) with two center platforms at each end (Burien and TIBS) would be a pretty cost-effective way to provide this. Unfortunately, ST3 is so specific and it’s time horizon is so long that it’s not likely to ever end up being considered for at least a few decades.

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