Ahead of the first neighborhood forums for the West Seattle/Ballard Link project, Sound Transit has published its full summary report of the early scoping project, which we covered last month. Some 2,800 individual comments were made at open houses, the online survey, and other forums, and many of them asked for the same modifications to the project: tunnels to Ballard and West Seattle Junction, better connections at transfer stations, and grade separation in SODO. Using these suggestions, Sound Transit has also produced some Level 1 alternatives for the project, which we’ll be covering in a series of posts this week (so stay tuned).
For the West Seattle segment, public consensus seems to have decided that the elevated alignment would significantly impact the Junction’s “neighborhood character” and thus a tunnel was needed. Some comments went a step further and suggested dropping Avalon Station from the plans to fund the tunnel, while others requested that it be kept for bus connections. Also in contention was whether to pre-plan for a southern extension on California Avenue, Fauntleroy Way, 35th Avenue SW, or Delridge Way.
Public comments for the SODO segment, meanwhile, were less grand and mostly concerned transfers between lines at SODO and Stadium stations, as well as grade separation of the corridor. The Downtown segment’s comments were similarly focused on transfers, as well as the general placement of Midtown Station (a potential First Hill stop) and the Denny/South Lake Union pair.
The Interbay/Ballard segment’s comments echoed the many, many calls for a tunneled crossing of the Ship Canal and a western alignment that avoids 15th Avenue W. Some comments also suggested keeping the movable bridge and incorporating pedestrian and bicycle facilities, or to build a higher, fixed structure. In Ballard proper, several comments asked for the station to be moved further west into Old Ballard or other commercial areas near the intersection of NW Market Street and 20th Avenue W. Curiously absent were calls to pre-plan for an east-west line to the University District, which showed up on the online open house and have been endorsed by a few groups in their own letters to Sound Transit.
The scoping summary report also includes letters from various organizations and coalitions, which may provide an idea of upcoming political battles over the alignment. For example, King County Metro requested further study of the West Seattle and Ship Canal tunnels and continued bus operations on the SODO Busway, which would be displaced entirely by light rail construction under the early plan.
The Port of Seattle stated their concerns with the SODO and Interbay segments, particularly if the Duwamish River crossing is located on the north side of the West Seattle Bridge. The Port endorsed further study of alignments around the Ballmer railyard in Interbay, including the potential use of Smith Cove Station as a Sounder-Link transfer, as well as a fixed Ship Canal bridge that is “at least as high as the Aurora Bridge” (which is 167 feet above the water).
The Seattle Design Commission, responsible for signing off on station designs and artwork, requested further studies of new alignments, particularly a multi-modal Ship Canal crossing and moving Midtown Station to the east side of Interstate 5.
The University of Washington brought up its concerns of vibration and electromagnetic interference from Link construction and operations, which could affect the newer biomedical research building near the proposed 99/Harrison station in South Lake Union.
Further into the report, comments from neighborhood groups and general interest groups like Seattle Subway and the Transit Access Stakeholders (TCC, TRU, Futurewise, Sierra Club, and Cascade Bicycle Club) go into detail about their various wants and needs. A good chunk of the report is used up by the West Seattle Junction Neighborhood Organization, who used a Powerpoint presentation to explain their endorsement of a tunnel alignment that leaves out Avalon Station. The Transit Access Stakeholders in particular asked in their letter for equitable transit-oriented development and other policy decisions that reach well beyond the scope of the West Seattle/Ballard Link project.
Over the next few days, we’ll be dissecting some of the Level 1 alternatives that Sound Transit presented to the Stakeholder Advisory Group as a result of these early scoping comments. A second meeting of the Stakeholder Advisory Group this month will decide on recommendations that will be forwarded to the Elected Leadership Group and the Sound Transit Board in May. The equivalent Level 2 decisions will be made in late August and early September, so there won’t be much time to breathe before the next open house and comment period.