Residents are thinking big, and some of the proposals Sound Transit received during the early scoping period for the West Seattle Ballard Link Extension (WSBLE) could strain the ST3 budget.
ST presented the comments during a meeting of the WSBLE Stakeholder Advisory Group Wednesday night.
West Seattle residents are pushing hard for a tunnel — rather than an elevated track — as the alignment enters the West Seattle Junction, with some residents offering to eliminate the station proposed at 35th/Avalon to pay for the underground alignment.
“Don’t forget that you are building this for not only a generation but for centuries. An eyesore now will be an eyesore forever and tunneling is a much better option,” one commenter wrote.
Ballard overwhelmingly rejected the idea of a movable bridge over Salmon Bay, which residents pointed out could cause delays and impact reliability of the Link system.
“The fact that a bridge of any kind is being considered is ridiculous. The fact that it’s a *drawbridge* for a *rail system* being considered leaves me dumbstruck. This is a rail system in a booming metropolitan area that needs speed and reliability in its infrastructure. Even considering such a thoughtless, half-baked idea of a drawbridge terrifies me about the management at Sound Transit, even as a fervent supporter of Sound Transit,” one comment read. “If it’s not underground, don’t bother spending the money.”
Meanwhile, residents of First Hill want to see the Midtown station located east of I-5 rather than closer to existing stations.
One commenter argued that “Midtown station will be best located near the base of First Hill. A new downtown station at 5th & Madison does not add much new service area. An underground station at 8th & Madison could serve Virginia Mason, Harborview, the Convention Center, and high-density residential neighborhoods without adding much length to the line.”
Comments also stressed the importance of good bus connections at stations and encouraged ST to orient stations in order to facilitate future extensions of the Link system. Other commenters expressed the need to preserve industrial land and consider freight mobility during light rail expansion.
STB reached out to all the Sound Transit board members who also sit on the WSBLE Elected Leadership group if they were supportive of these constituent requests. ST Chair Dave Somers declined to comment at “this early stage in project development.” Mayor Jenny Durkan’s and Seattle Councilmember Rob Johnson’s offices didn’t respond to a request for comment.
King County Executive Dow Constantine: “I believe that it is worth looking at a tunnel under Salmon Bay to ensure better reliability for the system. This would undoubtedly entail additional cost. At this point, a tunnel option in Ballard should move on for further study.
I support a tunnel in West Seattle moving on for further study. I believe it offers better bus/rail integration, TOD potential, and urban design. I also believe the representative alignment does not adequately anticipate future extension of light rail south to White Center and Burien. I do not support elimination of the Avalon station as a way to pay for the tunnel. At this point it is premature to eliminate any stations without further study and refinement of costs. The Avalon station allows for a larger walkshed for transit in West Seattle and would be a critical transfer point for buses using the important bus corridor on 35th to serve High Point, Gatewood, and Arbor Heights.
I am skeptical about the idea of the Midtown station being located on First Hill. This would require tunneling under I-5 twice and I do not believe that due to the steep hill there that a First Hill station could be located far enough up the hill to make the added expense worthwhile. It would also mean the loss of the Midtown station near the downtown library. The City of Seattle and Metro are also investing in the Madison Rapid Ride line which will provide a frequent and reliable transit corridor that will link the Midtown station to First Hill with an easy transfer.”
King County Councilmember Joe McDermott: “The volume and quality of feedback for the early scoping period has been very impressive. I have not been able to consume all the 2,800+ comments Sound Transit received yet; however, based on the conversations I have had with constituents, I know community members and stakeholders raised lots of smart questions and in many cases provided creative solutions.
Honestly, it is too early in the process for me to say what I will definitely support. I need to learn more about the options and their implications for the overall project, including engineering feasibility and budget impacts. I also need to better understand how various options will impact communities and effect ridership and user experience. That’s what this process is about.
I have already stated publicly that I prefer a tunnel for West Seattle, but a number of conversations need to be had about how to pay for it and I’m not sure there is a 1:1 tradeoff in this situation. At this point, I do not believe giving up a station in West Seattle is the best option.”
During the WSBLE Advisory Group Meeting, ST presented several
alternatives concepts for the alignments based on the 2,800 comments the agency received. ST anticipates a full report of the early scoping comments will be released in early April. Neighborhood forums are anticipated to begin in late April and run through early May.
Reliability, travel times, transit capacity, ridership potential, better service to historically underserved populations, and consistency with the agency’s long-range plan were among the criteria ST instructed the advisory group to consider. ST says the
preferred alternative representative project, identified in the ST3 plan, will be the baseline the other options will be measured against. The ideas will go through three levels of evaluation to whittle down and refine the broad range of initial alternatives.
To speed up the timeline for the Link extension, ST is using a new process they say will streamline project development. To meet the agency’s goal of having a preferred alternative chosen by mid-2019, ST convened two new advisory groups to facilitate public engagement. The stakeholder advisory group will recommend a preferred alternative to the elected leadership group, who will then make its own recommendation to the full ST board. The full ST board will make the final decision on the West Seattle and Ballard alignments.