The Sound Transit Board’s capital committee on Thursday made the early construction of the North 130th St. more likely. The agency’s staff and elected leadership also continued to express concerns about the Trump administration’s hostility to transit projects.
The committee also voted to elevate Downtown Redmond’s new Link station, change the Federal Way Link federal grant proposal, study improvements to Seattle RapidRide, and install new diagnostic units on light rail vehicles.
N 130th Street Station preliminary engineering
As we predicted Wednesday, the North 130th St. Link station got one step closer to opening at the same time as the Lynnwood Link Extension in 2024, instead of 2031. The Sound Transit Board’s Capital Committee encouraged (but did not formally vote to recommend) a plan for ST staff to begin preliminary engineering on the station.
Until today, the board’s Snohomish County officials opposed building the station before Everett got Link service. Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling, the only Snohomish County official on the committee, supported the move to begin engineering work. Earling’s cautious endorsement of the move was a victory for Seattle officials, especially City Councilmember Debora Juarez, who campaigned on the issue.
In his comments during the meeting, Earling emphasized that he didn’t represent the board’s Snohomish County bloc, and that his approval of the engineering phase wasn’t a vote for including the North 130th station in the Lynnwood extension.
“The ongoing concern in Snohomish County is about the potential downsides,” Earling said, referencing an ST staff presentation about the station.
The presentation included positives like lower costs and avoiding service disruption; the negatives were “modest” effects on the agency’s funding capacity, technical staff, and construction workforce. Based on the tenor and content of the presentation, agency staff seem to prefer the accelerated timeline.
Earling downplayed the significance of his endorsement of preliminary engineering after the meeting. He said that the final decision about the station timeline would have to wait until ST can finish the analysis: “This is a practical, small step about engineering.”
So North 130th’s accelerated schedule isn’t a sure thing, though today’s vote does represent a subtle shift in Snohomish County officials’ positions.
Board and Seattle City Councilmember Rob Johnson attributed Snohomish County’s reluctance on North 130th to apprehension about an increasingly hostile attitude from the federal government towards transit. Johnson said that moving up North 130th will require ST to negotiate changes to its FTA funding package for the Lynnwood extension, and suggested that process would gives the Trump administration more chances to torpedo any and all Sound Transit projects.
Johnson also said that there’s a perception up north that Snohomish County isn’t getting a fair shake.
“There’s a narrative that Seattle is getting ST3 projects faster than Snohomish County is getting results from ST2,” Johnson said. “The only major project they’ve gotten so far is North Sounder.”
In any case, the whole board has yet to approve the measure. In fact, no part of the board has—the Capital Committee itself didn’t have quorum to actually vote on the motion.
Earling, and board meeting stalwarts Dave Upthegrove, Balducci, and Johnson were all present at the beginning of proceedings. Upthegrove left partway through the meeting to attend another obligation, but had trouble staying connected via phone. Committee members Kent Keel, Nancy Backus, John Marchione, and Victoria Woodards all skipped, and didn’t try to call in.
Several other measures, however, got a vote before Upthegrove lost contact.
Downtown Redmond station to be elevated
The committee voted to elevate the Downtown Redmond terminus of the line, per the recommendation of the Redmond extension staff. If the changes are approved, the alignment will be 0.3 miles shorter than before, due to newfound efficiencies.
Federal Way federal budgeting
The Federal Way light rail extension has a higher funding contingency estimate. Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff said that the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) wants partner agencies to build more conservative estimates for contingency funding in their grant requests. Sound Transit was asked to build a model that will be at or under budget with 65 percent certainty. The old model asked for 50 percent certainty.
According to agency staff, Sound Transit is 85 percent certain that the Federal Way project will cost $2.451 billion or less, after the latest cost increase.
RapidRide C & D capital improvements
The committee passed a motion that would spend $2.5m to study improvements on Metro’s RapidRide C & D routes, while the agency plans the new West Seattle and Ballard Link lines.
Improvements could include signal priority, retiming signals, que jumping, rechannelization, and pavement treatment. The Sound Transit funds will pay for ST staff for the project, preliminary engineering, and a speed and reliability study of both routes.
The funds will come from the $65 million agency budget for “early delivery” projects on ST3 corridors, which also includes the Madison BRT project.
North Sounder parking study, maintenance base WiFi
The capital committee recommended Sound Transit engage Fehr & Peers, Seattle-based transportation consultants, to study improvements to North Sounder park and rides.
The committee also approved a plan to purchase and install new WiFi-based diagnostic units (which monitor vehicle performance and ridership) on existing and future light rail vehicles. The existing units are no longer supported by the manufacturer.