In a letter addressed to elected officials, Port of Seattle Executive Director Stephen Metruck and Northwest Seaport Alliance CEO John Wolfe announced that the Port opposes both a movable Ship Canal bridge, and an Occidental Avenue alignment for the West Seattle extension.
Ship Canal and Duwamish crossings
“Moveable bridges across the ship canal should be eliminated as alternatives as they will not work for transit and could impede maritime mobility,” the cosigned letter says. The letter aligns the port with transit advocates who oppose a movable Ballard bridge, citing reliability and travel time concerns.
The Port cautiously endorsed building “a 15th Avenue-aligned Tunnel under Fishermen’s Terminal,” as long as ST does not build a ventilator shaft in a shipyard named Fishing Vessel Owners (FVO.) According to the Port, FVO has operated from its current site for 99 years.
The Port also opposes aerial crossings through Fisherman’s Terminal “because of impacts to terminal operations and repercussions of the fishing industry. [sic]” The leaders also argued against aligning the extension on 20th Avenue West.
The leaders also asked Sound Transit to “evaluate” a Duwamish crossing to the south of the West Seattle Bridge, at the “far southern tip of Harbor Island,” in the hope that the agency can find “ways to further reduce impacts to existing businesses.” The Port categorically opposes building the line to the north of the West Seattle Bridge.
The Port leaders also argued for abandoning the Occidental Avenue concept, which could serve the stadium district and the growing retail strip on 1st Avenue South:
“The SODO alignment on Occidental Avenue should be eliminated because [of] transportation and land use implications. Traffic and freight mobility impacts would exacerbate current congestion and may not be able to be mitigated.”
Metruck and Wolfe also wrote that the Port opposes “adding a station west of the BNSF mainline,” and argue that such a station would threaten the area’s current commercial and industrial land use. The Port opposed the proposed Sodo basketball arena, which would have been built in the same area, for the same reason.
Most troubling, the Port leaders also oppose building a line on Spokane Street. All of ST’s latest West Seattle concepts are located near and parallel to the Spokane Street viaduct between 4th Avenue South and the Duwamish River—except for the “Pigeon Ridge” concept, which ST believes to be the most expensive option.
The Port’s flat out opposition to an Occidental alignment will disappoint some transit advocates. An Occidental alignment would serve Starbucks’ corporate headquarters and the growing 1st Avenue South job center much better than a station near the existing Sodo Link stop.
Sound Transit did not tip how the Port’s comments will affect planning.
“Like all stakeholder comments received during alternatives development,” said ST spokesperson Kimberly Reason, “the Port’s letter will be carefully considered within the public engagement framework of the West Seattle and Ballard Link extensions Stakeholder Advisory Group, the Elected Leadership Group, and the Sound Transit Board of Directors.”
The Port’s preferences—particularly on the Ship Canal crossing—would have the welcome effect of optimizing travel times and other quality of service concerns. Like many major employers, the Port’s bosses are enthusiastic about system expansion.
“We fully support Sound Transit’s objectives of promoting mobility in our region,” Metruck and Wolfe wrote. “Expanding transit opportunities is more important than ever before as Seattle and our region continue to grow. We believe Sound Transit will find a preferred alternative that will move people more efficiently, and with less environmental impact, while also maintaining our economic competitiveness and quality of life.”