The Level 3 end-to-end alternatives. Click to enlarge. Credit: Sound Transit

At a Stakeholder Advisory Group meeting last night, Sound Transit released its first cost estimates and evaluations for the three proposed Level 3 alignments of the West Seattle-Ballard Link extension. Agency staff presented cost estimates and “mix and match” opportunities, both of which advisory group members and elected officials requested in earlier meetings.

Sound Transit project lead Cathal Ridge took pains to emphasize the cost estimates are very preliminary.

“This is a very high level evaluation that I’m giving to you,” Ridge told the stakeholder group. “I’m not trying to capture everything that’s in the analysis, I’m just trying to give you some high points to think about.”

Below, all the figures amount to estimates of the cost that an additional funding source would have to account for in addition to existing ST3 funds. Individual items add up to the total cost of the end-to-end alignments.

The Yellow/Brown alignment, which would elevate the guideway in West Seattle and Ballard, with a bored 5th Avenue South Chinatown/International District (CID) station would cost at least $400 million above the ST3 representative project. The costs for individual big ticket items are:

  • A controversial cut-and-cover tunnel in the CID on 5th could save $200 million.
  • A fixed bridge over Salmon Bay on 14th Avenue Northwest would cost an additional $100 million
  • A Smith Cove/Expedia station at West Galer Street would add $100 million
  • A South Lake Union station at 6th and Mercer would add $300 million

The Blue/Purple alignment, which builds popular tunnels in West Seattle and Ballard, would add at least $1.9 billion for the entire line with tunnels in both neighborhoods, with a CID station on 5th. The same alignment with a mined CID station on 4th would cost $2.1 billion. The costs for individual big ticket items are:

  • A West Seattle tunnel would individually cost $700 million, with an additional $300 million for a light rail bridge north of the West Seattle Bridge
  • A 4th Avenue CID station would individually cost $300 million to cut and cover, or $400 million to mine
  • A tunnel under Salmon Bay, with a station at either 14th of 15th Avenues NW, would cost $350 million
  • A Smith Cove/Expedia station at West Prospect Street would add $200 million

Ridge presented “mix and match” opportunities—i.e. places where stakeholders and elected officials could tinker with a Level 3 alignment in a specific area.

In the Yellow/Brown alignment, stakeholders could recommend making any or all of the following changes:

  • Crossing the Duwamish River either north or south of the West Seattle Bridge
  • Routing the Downtown and South Lake Union segments on either 5th Avenue and Harrison Street or 6th Avenue and Mercer Street
  • Placing the Smith Cove Station on West Galer Street, or closer to the Helix Pedestrian Bridge on West Prospect Street

In the Blue/Purple Alignment, stakeholders could suggest:

  • Tunneling or elevating the West Seattle segment
  • Building the CID station on 4th or 5th Avenues South
  • Tunneling under or high bridging over Salmon Bay, with the bridged Ballard Station on 14th Avenue NW

Ridge also presented the agency’s analysis of the tradeoffs in those mix and match selections, some of which is a rehash. The following table shows some of those tradeoffs, and some of the cost estimates.

Click to enlarge. Credit: Sound Transit

Elevating the West Seattle segment would cause “more displacements”—both residential and commercial—in the Junction, Avalon, and Delridge station areas, and create the “greatest disruption” near the Junction. The tunnelled West Seattle stations would “require 3rd party funding.”

The bridge over the Duwamish would be a more challenging engineering project if it crossed south of the West Seattle Bridge, but a Duwamish bridge north of the existing bridge “affects freight, port terminal facilities especially during construction.” In a separate conversation earlier this week, Port of Seattle Commissioner Stephanie Bowman said that the Port’s analysis suggests that mitigation and construction of a new trucking right of way account for the higher cost of the north crossing.

In Sodo, the choice is between elevated track, or at-grade track. The at-grade track would separate pedestrian and car traffic from grade, probably via an overpass, at South Lander and Holgate Streets. The E3 Busway would close permanently if the at-grade alignments were chosen. Buses would also be displaced for construction of the elevated line. In both cases, buses would likely run on either 4th or 6th Avenues South, according to Sound Transit’s Ron Endlich.

In the CID, the 5th Avenue South alignments would be much less costly, but more significantly impact business and residents in the neighborhood. The 4th Avenue South alignment would cost about four times more than on 5th, and displace an estimated 33,000 weekday vehicles and bus lines. Both alignments would limit either expansion or existing operations of the Central or Ryerson Metro bases.

The main tradeoffs in the new downtown station are between its location on either 5th or 6th Avenues. A station on 6th would have “limited entrance options,” according to the deck, but the Seattle Center station would have “wider right-of-way” than a 5th Avenue alignment. Also, both of those tunnels’ north portals would be located in landslide areas, while the ST3 representative alignment would not. The 6th Avenue alignment’s South Lake Union stop on Mercer would add significant cost.

The Salmon Bay crossing still has three options. The agency says the movable bridge “has potential service interruptions and [the] most in-water effects.” A fixed bridge “reduces in-water effects and avoids Fishermen’s Terminal but has other potential maritime effects.” The bridge would have to be very high for “navigational clearances”; Ridge said that the bridge would need to be “140 feet, plus or minus.” A tunnel would avoid the impacts on maritime businesses, but, as the slide deck points out, “tunnel crossings add costs; require 3rd Party funding.”

Ridge’s comments on the Ballard station on 14th or 15th Avenues Northwest revisited the familiar arguments about each station’s walkshed. A new wrinkle is the analysis of the elevated line, which would require “more acquisitions and displacements with elevated guideway, station and tail tracks on 15th Ave NW.”

The advisory group will make its recommendations in April. Elected officials will be briefed on the alignments on Friday, and will also make recommendations in April. Both sets of recommendations are non-binding; final alignments will be selected by the Sound Transit board.

After the April meetings, Sound Transit hopes to have two alignments to enter into environmental review: one that would be funded with the ST3 package’s existing funding, and one that would draw on an yet-undefined third party funding source.

At publication, the stakeholder advisory group deck was not available. The deck that Sound Transit will present to elected officials, which is based on the same estimates, is available here. The above images are drawn from that deck. We will update this post when the advisory group deck is available. Stakeholders saw this deck.

103 Replies to “Tunnels, deep stations for West Seattle-Ballard line could add $2B”

  1. Why is it that ST can keep significantly more expensive tunnel options on the alternatives table, yet say things like a new station entrance on Sixth has “limited options” and summarily ignores that an underground escalator bank to First Hill could substitute for the previous decision to remove that station option (and commitment in prior ballot measures)?

  2. I remain disgusted that rail-rail transfers are not better described or analyzed. That’s true for SODO, IDC and Westlake Stations. The number of transfers will be higher than any one of these new stations — and ST is proposing severing service between SE Seattle/Seatac and UW/ North Seattle/ Snohomish as well as forcing every SLU/ Ballard trip to or from West Seattle or the East Side to involve a transfer.

    Past meetings even raised these concerns and ST did additional diagrams. ST even committed to rethinking SODO station. Now, all that has been made unimportant in this new presentation.

    Of course, the primary emphasis that pervades this entire effort is concern for stakeholder over riders.

    1. I do read summary concerns about transfers in the report. That includes recognizing the hassle of transferring to a deep mined station as well as the connectivity benefits at SODO (presumably train operations but that could also benefit riders).

      Still, a qualitative rating of higher, medium or lower for all transfers generically seems quite dismissive.

    2. Of course, the primary emphasis that pervades this entire effort is concern for stakeholder over riders.
      Hear, hear!

  3. I hope the extra cost for the tri-county regional components gets greater priority over those for WS and Ballard. A 4th ave International District tunnel is one of those components which has been listed as beneficial to all participating regions whereas the WS bridge and Ballard tunnel are only beneficial to the Seattle area and therefor should be relegated to alternative funding mechanisms.

    1. Port of Seattle kicked in nearly $300m for the 99 tunnel, if protecting Fisherman’s Terminal is that big a priority they could do the same in Ballard. Nobody but the City has any reason to chip in for a West Seattle tunnel. And it’s 2X the cost.

      Good news appears to be a 14th tunnel doesn’t save any money over 15th, so presumably that argument is settled.

      1. They have yet to pay $300 Million. They are going to divert the majority for something else. Watch.

    2. As a Ballard resident I would hope ST would give us the opportunity to not only pay for the incremental costs but also to advance the project.

      However, by that same logic if they go with a movable bridge option, in partnership with SDOT’s replacement of the Ballard Bridge as a single facility, I will expect to see my share of the capital and operating and maintenance cost savings sent to me in the mail.

      1. Giving money to ST for extras is not a problem. That’s what McGinn did to accelerate the Ballard-downtown corridor study and add a streetcar option. The problem is raising the money. Seattle has a limited number of tax options allowed by the state, and a lot of overall transit needs. One thing we need to do is finish all the RapidRide lines in MoveSeattle, and it looks like the estimated budget will cover only two of them or so, so additional funding will be needed for the others. The promised-but-not-yet-outlined countywide Metro measure may fund a couple others but that’s uncertain at this point. Also, the Prop 1 levy will expire in 2020, and that’s what’s funding 15-minute evening frequency on the 5, 10, etc, so those will revert to 30 minutes unless something replaces the funding. I’m not sure if the night owls are funded by city council funds or Prop 1 now; it may be a combination. But Metro stopped funding them in 2014.

      2. “The ship sailed on White Center/Burien when they decided to go to the Junction rather than turn south at Delridge.”

        That seems like a logical option and would save money, as well as potentially improve the flow of trains/buses/cars/peds/bikes across the bridge. But SDOT has said nothing about leveraging this opportunity, beyond its early attempt to get ST to pay for the non-Link parts of it, which was not included in ST3.

      3. Also, ST’s bridge would have to be higher. The current bridge is 35′ I think. ST’s proposals are 70′ moveable or 140′ fixed (previously estimated at 130′). A higher bridge means fewer openings. the current bridge opens several times a day. 70′ would clear all but a couple tallest sailboats a day. 140′ would clear everything. But the higher you go the longer the approaches have to be to avoid steep inclines. So we’d have to see where the approaches would land in Interbay and Ballard, and how much that impacts bikes and peds that are starting from locations under the approach.

      4. It might look strange, but what about spiral approaches to a high level Ballard Link bridge.

      5. Prost Seattle, the diameter required would make them too large. The spiral tunnels inside the mountains west of Banff are about 600′ in diameter. Grant, those are for freight trains which can’t curve too sharply on hills or they’ll “straight-line”. But even LRV’s have effective minimum radii for at-speed curves. And standing passengers would be tossed around.

        One would want to climb the hill more than 25 miles an hour but that would produce too much gee force.

    3. Neither a Ballard tunnel nor a West Seattle tunnel benefits the people in Seattle. Unless, of course, they built the tunnel so that it served a location better than the original proposal, which apparently is something they aren’t even considering.

    4. All subareas not only benefit but will pay for the downtown infrastructure. So there’s that.

    1. Yeah that was bull. Basically saying that the station will not only be farther away but it will also suck (reroute) buses on 15th over to 14th making them worse too.

    2. Not really bull. Think about it. With Ballard Link operating, there is no need for the D line and downtown express routes. What is needed is a bus loop for local routes to feed the station. That, and the east-west routes (44, 40, etc). All those routes could take advantage of the significant cross-section of 14th to access the station, create platform-platform transfers for a better customer experience, and make the movements necessary to unload, return, continue, etc. Easier to do than on the busier, narrower 15th.

      For example the 40 could easily use 14th to serve the station from Leary, then continue into Ballard on Market. The 44 would literally stop under the train platforms. And don’t forget SDOT has a project to upgrade transit performance on Market. The successors to the D and 15 would loop around the block. The successors to the 18 and 17 would feed into the 44 network, either by splitting the 44 itself on the west end, or using Market.

      1. No. For buses like the 44 and 40, it makes no difference. Either way you are going from the surface to an elevated train.

        For buses on 15th, it means it is a little more complicated, but definitely worse. A bus going down 15th has to turn onto Market and then go over to 14th. Clearly that means no bus stop on 15th (southbound) close to Market since it would be impossible to turn left from the right hand lane. So that means either a bus stop on Market (just east of 15th) or no bus stop at all until 14th. Assume there is a stop. For riders along 15th headed to the heart of Ballard (to the west) the stop is worse. A rider has to wait for a left turn (which occurs rarely) and after exiting, cross 15th. For riders transferring to Link, it means you have to wait to take that left turn, then wait for people to exit at that bus stop, then continue onto 14th.

        Now assume that Metro skips the stop. Folks headed to Ballard have it much worse, while folks headed to Link still have to endure the time consuming left turn. It is quite possible it doesn’t matter, but eventually it means someone (or rather, a group of riders) will be there, in the turn lane, watching as the Link train pulls away, wondering why the stop isn’t closer.

        It gets worse. The 40, as you implied, will follow Market, instead of Leary (as it does now). This creates a hole in Old Ballard. Sending the bus further east — to 14th — makes that hole bigger. Now folks from Old Ballard (whether they live there, work there, or are there to enjoy a night out) have a longer, more time consuming trip to Westlake, Fremont, Loyal Heights or Crown Hill. The bus network has changed for the worse.

        In contrast, imagine if the station was located at Market and Leary. This is obviously better (if not ideal) from a walk-up standpoint. The 40 has the same route as it does now (which means Old Ballard is covered). A bus on 15th turns on Market and serves the station. Folks connecting to Link have to wait for the turn, but folks headed to the heart of Ballard get a better connection than they have now. That is a reasonable trade-off; you’ve delayed the transfer to Link, but sent the bus to a major destination (the heart of Ballard). That is why a stop there is ideal for both bus transfers and walk-up riders.

      2. Wow, that sounds pretty authoritative. But it largely misses my point. Link obviates the need for many thousands of hours currently dedicated to bus service between NW Seattle and downtown. What’s needed to make bus-rail transfers efficient and customer-friendly in this location is space, both vertical and horizontal. 14th has way more space than 15th. And as bus advocates are so fond of pointing out, buses are flexible. The network will hardly remain static. As with U-Link and (hopefully) Northgate in two years, the bus network will morph around the presence of a rail terminal. I have confidence that future KCM planners will figure out how to allocate and route their surplus service hours to build a network that effectively serves the station and surrounding neighborhoods. But to really work well as a transfer, the modes must meet in very close proximity.

        The comment was made that bus connections couldn’t possibly better at 14th than 15th. I’m just pointing out the physical attributes that argue otherwise. Space is precious, and 14th has it.

      3. That space is only useful if the buses are terminating at 14th. It makes no sense at all to do that. Instead, it makes more sense for them to go into Ballard proper as there are far more places people would want to go there, rather than 14th.

        Making the transfer easy doesn’t mean ending a route at the station. It means providing good connections between the buses and the Link platform. Main Street / Science World Station on SkyTrain does this just fine with no bus loops or excessive space consumed. Something like that would work fine there.

      4. @Railcan — You spent most of that paragraph stating obvious, undisputed facts. Of course Link will free up service hours, buses are flexible and the buses will serve the station. No one said otherwise.

        But service hours are not infinite. Some station locations are easier to serve than others and some stations are bigger destination than others. Those are the two key criteria here for a successful station, and what folks are arguing about.

        Imagine if there was only one station for the UW, and it was at Webster Point, at the far end of Laurelhurst. I have no doubt that buses would find a way to serve it. But most riders would spend extra time getting to the station, and Metro would spend extra money serving them. Meanwhile, the buses that served Laurelhurst would only serve the station. No one else would ride that bus.

        In contrast, put the station someplace both popular and convenient and you make for a better network. The buses manage to cover the important areas without making detours that are both time consuming for riders, and expensive for Metro. If the station is in a popular area, then Metro gets to kill two birds with one stone — they both serve the station *and* provide service to Link. Right now you don’t need to have a bus from Sand Point to Link and a bus from Sand Point to the UW. The same bus does both.

        14th fails on both of these criteria. From a network standpoint it is poor (for the reasons I mentioned above). A bus serving 15th is made worse, and it creates a bigger service hole in Old Ballard. Meanwhile, the buses that go to 14th are going the wrong direction — away from the primary attraction in the area (to the west). It is just worse, and no geniuses at Metro can possibly square that circle.

      5. Exactly. It’s true that the walk is farther to “Old Ballard”, but the bus transfer experience would be much better at 14th, simply because it isn’t a car sewer.

        And then of course Ross goes ranting off on one of his absurd hypotheticals. Let’s just rename him “RossAH”.

        If terminating in Ballard is the ne plus ultra, the only routes that would be negatively affected are whatever replaces the 15X out to Blue Ridge and the north end rump of the D line. The 17, 18X, and 40 will go through Ballard on their way to a station at either 15th or 14th. In fact, whatever replaces the north end of the 28 will be better served at 14th.

        So, if the problem is that the D-successor and 15X-replacement need to get over the 14th, just have a bus-only turn pocket at 56th and with a light co-ordinated with the 15th and Market lights and a “protected” turn-on like the one at Aurora and Valley at 57th. The dirty secret here is that the D-successor that Metro is planning doesn’t go into Ballard anyway! It’s planned to terminate at the Eighth Avenue Fred Meyer.

        So have the local service bus be the one that fish-hooks back west to Central Ballard and have the RapidRide visit the Link station, continue down 14th to Leary and turn left there. People headed to downtown Ballard can take the local “overlay” while the longer-distance riders from Northgate go where Metro was going to take them anyway.

        This whole rant about how 14th will ruin the future bus grid is a bunch of overhyped hooey. The vast majority of transferring riders would not experience any significant difference.

      6. Hey Tom (if that is your real name) instead of making personal attacks on me, maybe you should read what I wrote. You seem to have trouble understanding the details. I would suggest you slow down, and read each sentence I wrote carefully. Then you can address each point. Here, I’ll break it out in excruciating detail:

        1) Trips from the 15th corridor to the heart of Ballard will take longer, since there won’t be a southbound bus stop on 15th, close to Market. People will have to wait for the bus to turn and let them off on the other side of the 15th (then walk back across 15th).

        2) A trip along 15th to the station will take longer, since the bus needs to make an additional stop (to serve those headed to the heart of Ballard) as well as make the left turn (towards 14th).

        3) A bus traveling south along 15th will not turn right onto Market. It wasn’t clear whether a bus would do this anyway (maybe the bus would continue to go straight) but it is a reasonable option that would simply be impossible, because the bus would turn left (to serve the Link station). This means that rather than connect 15th to the heart of Ballard, it connects to a low density, low employment, low destination location.

        4) If the 40 is moved to serve the Link station, then the coverage gap caused by that move is increased. Instead of the 40 turning on 15th (and essentially back filling the gap) it would turn on 14th.

        5) If the 40 is moved to serve the Link station, riders from the northern part of the 40 (in Ballard) have to wait longer to get to the station (just as folks from 15th have to wait). They will have to wait for the bus to cross 15th and wait for an additional stop. Those on the other side of the 40 will have a shorter connection, but there are fewer people there, and that type of trip is less likely (e. g. it is unlikely that many riders will go from Fremont to the Ballard station, since it means going north to go south).

        Your “solution” doesn’t address any of these problems. There are a lot of options and alternatives, but they lead to other problems. For example, the LRP (that you favor) does not move the 40. The bus is labeled as the 1993, is considered RapidRide, and the only bus on 24th. Yes, there are trade-offs. As you mentioned, riders on 8th would be closer to the station. But riders on that corridor are greatly outnumbered by those on 24th and 15th. In short, if you move the station, then the number of riders inconvenienced far outnumber those that benefit. It is reasonable to say that this is not that big of a deal, but it is simply the death by a thousand cuts that has lead to stations like Mount Baker performing far worse than they would otherwise. It is asinine that people are seriously considering an option that is clearly worse, when it will actually cost *extra*.

        Finally, your argument that station comfort trumps everything is absurd, given how people view transit. The RapidRide E is the most popular bus in the entire state, and it runs on the biggest car sewer in the city.

      1. Agree. If the station is on 14th, how does that set up the future extension that is supposed to go north?

      2. Elizabeth, it’s relatively easy to include an elevated station over 65th in front of Ballard High School. The trains would have to make sharp turns at the ends of the station, but they would be going relatively slowly to enter the station any way. Think of the turn just west of the Westlake platforms in the DSTT.

        It’s doable and would add a useful station.

  4. When comparing the benefits of a tunnel or elevated/ bridge at the ends, providing only the entire segment’s ridership seems inappropriate and misleading.

    – While a moveable Ship Canal bridge option has the potential to disrupt schedules all the way to Tacoma, it seems that it would not open very often. When it does open, the Ballard Station riders are the most affected (and seemingly the only ones affected by northbound trains).

    – While the West Seattle tunnel options affect the Avalon Station placement, it’s really mostly affecting only the riders at the end Alaska Junction Station.

    ST has not announced the ridership forecasted boardings at these stations. They should if the public and committees are to understand the specific merits of the various bridge/ elevated and tunnel options.

    Let’s see the Alaska Junction and Ballard Station forecasted weekday boardings!

    1. The weekday boarding for Avalon Station should also be forecasted (the one that some tunnel proponents want to get rid of to pay for a tunnel), for that station will potentially be getting bus connected passengers from multiple neighborhoods—Westwood Village, Arbor Heights, Highpoint, and Gatewood. This will be, arguably, the biggest bang for the buck link station in West Seattle, possibly along with Delridge.

      1. Many folks keep arguing that the Avalon Station is necessary because of the bus connections… BUT until recently Metro had absolutely no intention of stopping any buses at that station. It makes no sense as a concern, because that’s not an end destination for those bus routes. It’s always going to be preferable to run those routes at least as far as the Alaska Junction — so why not just keep the riders on and take them to the Alaska Junction? And before you say that it impacts ride time for those passengers, keep in mind that not doing so impacts the ride time for all those going to the Junction and elsewhere locally.

      2. The 21 and 21X coming up 35th Ave SW from the neighborhoods I mentioned have been stopping at Avalon for at least as long as I’ve been living in West Seattle — 17 years — so it isn’t a recent thing for buses stopping at that station; Maybe so for the Rapid Ride C that was introduced a few years ago.

        In a future with link, people going to the Junction from the south of it can get off a bus at Avalon and take a link train at Avalon heading from the North into the Junction. Chances are likely that the critical mass coming from the southbound regions of West Seattle, particularly during peak hours, will be taking link northbound (from Avalon where they connect), to downtown and beyond. Those are going to be the commuters with ride time efficiency need.

      3. Metro’s 2040 plan has the 35’s successor crossing the line at 35th & Avalon (and then to Admiral). Of course there will be a stop there; Metro is orienting its entire network around Link. And the 21X will be gone. It’s being replaced on 35th by a WSJ-Kent express.

      4. It makes no sense to have half of West Seattle buses go to one station and the other to go to another station a half-mile away. That means that bus-bus transfers would mean riding a train for a half-mile and transferring twice.

        I’ve long felt that the feeder bus requirements should be prominent in these studies. They are never discussed at these committee meetings. Still, they need to be to define the footprints needed for these alternatives as well as each station’s ridership.

        I even wonder if the reason that individual station ridership isn’t listed is because the model shows so doing really badly in attracting riders.

      5. It’s a judgment call whether any of the Delridge, 35th, or California buses can detour to any o fhe other stations if their own station were deleted, without incurring excessive travel-time delays. The position of most transit fans is that we shouldn’t be compromising in this way: all arterials that have existing north-south buses should have stations. If we need to economize we should drop the tunnels before we drop stations. West Seattle’s geography is several parallel north-south neighborhoods isolated by steep hills. So Link should serve all the major ones.

        California: West Seattle’s commercial center and largest urban village.
        35th: A lower-rent area with one of Seattle’s largest public-housing complexes and a library.
        Delridge: Another lower-rent, diverse area, and the most direct route to Burien.

      6. “That means that bus-bus transfers would mean riding a train for a half-mile and transferring twice.”

        The north-south bus routes will cross for bus-bus transfers and diagonal trips. Metro’s 2040 plan supports the following transfers:

        (1) California: RapidRide Alki-California-Sylvan-9th-1st-Burien. Transfer at 35th/Morgan, Delridge/Sylvan, 16th/Sylvan.
        (2) 35th: Frequent Admiral-35th-Barton-24th-118th-4th-Burien. Transfer at California/Admiral (for California), Westwood Village (for Delridge).
        (3) Delridge: RapidRide Intl Dist-Delridge-WV-WC-Ambaum-Burien. Transfer at WV (for 35th), Sylvan (for California).
        (4) 16th: Frequent Alki/Harbor waterfront – 16th – WV – Highland Park – Military Road – TIB. Transfer at Delridge (for Link or Delridge), Delmar (for California), WV (for 35th), TIB (for Link, A, F).

        There will be other routes in West Seattle too, with east-west segments that cross one or more of these.

      7. The Avalon station isn’t just about bus transfers, that station is primed for increased density and TOD. The city is planning significant upzoning for that part of the Junction urban village.

        The 21 has rather pathetic ridership right now despite passing some fairly dense residential areas (Morgan Junction/Highland Park) that are not well served by transit. I suspect it will see a big increase once the Link transfer is available.

    2. Interesting point of view, and I think a drawbridge would have a more than local effect. If we are 25 years into the future, and headways have gotten shorter, trains could stack up very quickly with even a short opening. This would delay tons of people, and also throw off the schedule and timing for the rest of the day. And if it didn’t, that would imply that they were needing to run trains slower than they could, at all times, in order to be able to make up lost time in the event of an opening. Grade separation is smart for a reason. Lets not sabotage that reason.

  5. Basically it’s going to be the ST3 representative project with a few minor tweaks. The West Seattle tunnel is definitely dead. Fortunately the better options in downtown/ID are cheaper. Clearly the #1 spot to lobby for raising cash is the Ballard tunnel.

    To reduce impacts in West Seattle I would go with an E-W orientated Junction station as in ST3 representative. It makes no sense to ever extend that line southward, why pretend?

    1. If you spend money on a Ballard tunnel that it should go to a better location than originally planned (15th). Otherwise it means spending a bunch of money on something that is likely to be worse for riders (a longer walk to the platform).

    2. As point of inquiry at what population density would you justify extending the rail south to White Center and Burien? If forward thrust had been built there would have been a stop in issaquah in the 1970 and it only had a population 4000 people back then.

      1. The ship sailed on White Center/Burien when they decided to go to the Junction rather than turn south at Delridge.

        I would serve White Center/Delridge via Georgetown on some future line.

      2. Forward Thrust was based on future growth expectations. At the time 90% of the county’s population was between Lake City and Renton west of Lake Washington as the network reflects. Surprising omissions like Northgate, SeaTac, Southcenter, and Lynnwood were less developed then and were not seen as growth areas. The growth management plan directed all of it to the Eastside, which was then still semi-rural. So it wasn’t for the existing population but for the million that were expected. And we know from later history that the million did come. But things didn’t go quite as planned. They didn’t foresee that the freeways would cause new residential, job, and trip patterns. In other words, they didn’t predict that shopping malls, mini-marts, and office parks at greenfield freeway exits would draw most of the economy to them and contradict the transit plan. They assumed people would continue to work and shop downtown as they always had, and wouldn’t move into the non-targeted areas. But the cities were too weak in preventing sprawl to non-targeted areas, and individual cities saw growth in their boundaries as beneficial to their parochial tax base.

      3. “The ship sailed on White Center/Burien when they decided to go to the Junction rather than turn south at Delridge.”

        It’s still live according to ST and the WSJ-Burien-Renton corridor studies. The issue is how much South King and North King are still interested in it, or whether the study results made them less enthusiastic.

      4. @ mike orr
        With the GMA and light rail would it be easier to justify rail extension based on and actual density or should we be planning for station just inside a urban growth boundaries. since the GMA has specified growth targets shouldn’t be be planning on connecting all Urban Grow boundaries with Light Rail since most of the density targets are the same excluding DT Seattle and DT Bellevue?

      5. What do you mean? The ST district is smaller than the urban growth boundary; it ends at Everett, Bothell, Woodinville, Redmond, Issaquah, Renton, Kent, Auburn, Puyallup, Orting, DuPont. Not Marysville, Snohomish town, or Covington. ST3 Everett, Redmond, Issquah, Link and Woodinville Stride will be at the district boundary. Tacoma Dome is nowhere near the boundary, but other ST Pierce services are.) The district is unbalanced because Pierce has a lot of exurban land that King and Snohomish have no counterparts to. The counties have long-established Regional Growth Centers, which are Link’s must-serve nodes. In North King, downtown, the U-District, and Northgate. In the Eastside, downtown Bellevue, downtown Redmond, Totem Lake, and Issaquah. I’m not as familiar with the other subareas. We’re trying to get Ballard-Fremont and Lake City recognized as Regional Growth Centers but so fare haven’t succeeded, because the formula requires a minimum amount of zoned job capacity, and those two have a more even balance of jobs and housing so they’re under in jobs. So I’m not sure what you’re recommending and how it’s different from ST3 and the default next steps (which were identified in ST3 for study).

      6. @mike Orr
        I wasn’t recommending anything i was only asking for clarification, Because the growth areas are defined by job density and housing density.
        My real question at what population density do you move from a BRT to a Light Rail, and if Regional Growth areas are defined by density should you just be planning to build Light rail to each of these areas when they hit a certain population threshold?

        I understand the the growth areas are larger than the ST planing areas around stations.

      7. OK, that’s a different question than I thought. I thought you were asking whether we should build future extensions to the GMA borders or in dense areas. My point is that the ST district is smaller than the GMA borders and Link will already reach it in some areas, and in other areas (most notably southeast Pierce) the remaining gap is way too far (you’d have to double the length of South King/Pierce Link).

        As for the BRT/Link threshold, I don’t know that there’s a single answer. The U-District really needed Link because the existing express buses were already ultra-frequent and were melting down with overcrowding, bunching, and unreliability. Lynnwood and Bellevue/Redmond “feel” like they should get a Link upgrade to reach their natural potential, a quantum level higher than current service. Seattle-Bellevue-Redmond are the most economically integrated areas in the region with almost even two-way flow. Lynnwood allows decomissioning of hundreds of less-efficient express buses. The other areas, Federal Way, Everett, Tacoma, Issaquah, Ballard, West Seattle, 522, and 405 all have other different factors I won’t get into now, in some cases political. I agree that Link is not necessary beyond Lynnwood and KDM or in the Issaquah corridor: BRT could have quite adequate performance. By “BRT” I mostly mean full-time frequent, and hopefully lane priority. But one of the political limitations is we can’t get transit/HOV/BAT lanes very easily, which limits the ability to build high-quality BRT lines. It’s easier to get a subway approved than to convert GP/parking lanes. So if we can’t get high-quality BRT, that increases the practical need for light rail, because otherwise we have nothing and we continue a downward spiral of entrenched car dependency which will really hurt us. So I can’t give a general answer about a BRT/Link threshuld, I can only look at specific corridors and judge their overall combination of factors.

    3. “Basically it’s going to be the ST3 representative project with a few minor tweaks.”

      Let’s hope so. Most of the alternatives are worse.

    4. It is making no sense to go all the way to the Junction, on the far side of upper West Seattle’s island of density, especially if that means getting to Westwood, White Center, and Burien is less feasible.

      Maybe turning south at 35th was the right answer all along.

      1. The Junction is the largest urban village, with the largest number of businesses and housing within walking distance, Not serving it kind of defeats the purpose of bringing Link to West Seattle at all. Is it to serve West Seattle, or is it just to go through West Seattle to White Center and Burien?

      2. I often point out that California Ave has mostly one-story businesses and there’s mostly just single-family houses west of California. The station just has to be within a reasonable walking distance of Alaska and California. I’d even point out that the distance from Leary and Market in Ballard to 14th and Market is almost the distance from Alaska and California to AVALON station.

        Further, a tunnel will require at least one or two blocks for station construction. I get a laugh at people who naively think that the only intrusion from a tunnel is a tiny hole for a subway entrance and that’s a big reason why they want the tunnel.

        I think combining Alaska Junction and Avalon into a single station around 38th and Oregon would be fine. Of course, some people go apoplectic about walking the 1500 feet (of course walking the same distance as Columbia City business patrons or Pike and Broadway business patrons do to Link). Oh the burden of West Seattle patrons having to walk as far as everyone else in town!

  6. So, basically, to make the system a lot worse, we only have to spend a few hundred million or so. To make it just a bit worse, we have to spend a bundle.

    Here is a crazy idea: How about we keep it pretty much as planned, instead of spending any money making it worse?

    1. That seems like the plan all along. The expensive alternatives are mostly failing their evaluation criteria. When West Seattle NIMBYs throw a fit about an elevation line they can say “at least we tried”.

      1. <> Because it wasn’t really “planned” at all. In many cases, it seems like someone in an office simply drew a line on a map. There are so many parts of the so-called “Representational Alignment” that almost no one is in favor of — including the actual designers and consultants who have been brought on since that vote. And more upsetting to many people is that that Red line that that agency claims to be so beholden to was NEVER vetted in front of an actual open public meeting. In some places, the line seems to have deliberately avoided the places folks spent YEARS recommending for transit to run. Instead of just branding people as “NIMBYs” perhaps you should pay attention to the complaints. The new lines are going to be around for ~100 years, perhaps we should try to build them RIGHT.

      2. There are so many parts of the so-called “Representational Alignment” that almost no one is in favor of …

        What parts are those? For the most part, every alternative sounds worse. If you are basically proposing that we move the station from 15th and Market to 17th and Market or Leary and Market than I agree. But nothing in the proposal looks like that. Just about everything looks worse. For example, 14th and Market is worse than 15th and Market. 17th and Thorndyke is worse than 15ht and Dravus. 6th and Mercer is worse than Aurora and Harrison. All or worse from a pedestrian and bus transfer standpoint. Likewise, burying the station, deep underground (but locating it in the exact same spot) will not improve the transit experience, but make it worse. There are reasons why people want to move the stations, but from what I can tell, no one is doing so to improve the whole point of this thing.

      3. The “West Seattle Elevated” alternative is the one that makes no sense, the representative red line is the one that takes a logical path along Fauntleroy where there is actually room to build an elevated line instead of bulldozing dozens of extra houses just to orient the station N-S instead of E-W.

      4. The reason for a north-south station is it’s supposedly easier to extend it to White Center and Burien later.

  7. If it were up to me, I’d mostly stick with the Representative, with small tweaks.

    West Seattle: Representative, with Delridge shifted south and Avalon bridging Fauntleroy. The elevated proposal costs more, displaces more, and is physically imposing, all to maybe someday extend the line.

    Duwamish: Representative (South) or North. No real big difference to me, except that if North is cheaper than South, the Port should pay the difference for staying out of their hair.

    SODO: At-grade. It’s a slam dunk: cheaper than the representative, removes grade crossings for both lines, and results in superior stations.

    Chinatown: Representative 5th cut-and-cover, ideally a three-platform setup with the current station. Originally I was all in on the 4th cut-and-cover concept, but it’s not worthwhile if it doesn’t actually connect to King Street Station. Give local businesses financial support to keep them afloat, make the light rail transfers really good, then connect the Union mezzanine over to King someday.

    Downtown: 5th Avenue. Potentially better Westlake connection, service for Denny Triangle, and better bus connections at Harrison.

    Interbay: Representative. Prospect is clearly better than Galer, and Dravus is clearly better than Thorndyke.

    Ballard: Representative. An infrequently opening bridge provides the best station access on the correct street at the right price.

    Make this the base alternative, then have the primo alternative add a Ballard tunnel to 17th, 4th Ave cut-and-cover, and a West Seattle tunnel.

    1. Well said. I agree.

      One thing I would consider though is curving the Ballard tunnel so that it runs east-west. That way it could have entrances on 15th as well as 17th. Then again, maybe (for reasons mentioned above) it is simply better to move the whole thing over to Leary (with entrances on 20th and Leary). Either way, orienting the station east-west means that a future line towards the UW could share the same platform.

      1. As you may remember, RossB, I think an east-west Ballard Station could be a winning idea, too!

        I’m just concerned that it will probably never even get seriously considered unless there is an empowered advocate for it. It is an example of how our stakeholder and elected official committee decision authority is structurally flawed against rider interests. Even if two dozen people showed up at public meetings and advocated for it, the most that would happen is that it would be a bullet point buried in an outreach report —and summarily forgotten.

      2. One thing that makes a tunnel to 20th (or even 17th) difficult is that it likely requires a Magnolia station, at least if we take the Level 1 Alternatives seriously:

        I’ve seen some brilliant comments down below suggesting how to finance this on the backs of NIMBYs: tell Ballard (and West Seattle) they can have the tunnel from the deluxe alternative, but only if they agree to an upzone and a LID to pay for it.

        (This is putting aside the fact that we could’ve built the whole Green Line 20 years ago for the same price as the Bertha tunnel, so we wouldn’t have to tax homeowners to get nice things.)

      3. Either way, orienting the station east-west means that a future line towards the UW could share the same platform.

        No, it couldn’t. ST will not allow a level crossing in revenue service. There would be no way to get to “stacked” from a common platform between Leary and say 20th before the turn.

        Anyway, since Ballard-UW isn’t in the Long Range Plan, ST will build any tunnel with horizontally adjacent tubes, forever foreclosing a junction at 15th or even 14th. What is in the Long Range Plan is extension to 85th, and perhaps beyond. If you bend west to 20th/Leary that is also foreclosed.

        The station, no matter under which street it lies would be oriented north-south.

      4. “Ballard-UW isn’t in the Long Range Plan”

        Yes it is. ST did a Ballard-UW corridor study as part of the Ballard-Redmond study. It was a candidate for ST3. ST didn’t select it for ST3, but the ones that have had corridor studies are usually the first in line for the following phase.

      5. There would be no way to get to “stacked” from a common platform between Leary and say 20th before the turn.

        What are you talking about? You would get “stacked” to the east. It costs the same to go underground via 14th as 15th, which means you go via 14th. Then you turn. If the new station is underground, then it will be deep underground. A line coming in from the UW would be higher, since it would be doing the opposite (coming down from the hill instead of up from under the canal). The farthest east the station would be is between 15th and 17th, which means that you would basically have the area between 14th and 15th to branch. That would be plenty of room (especially since one train will be heading up, while the other one is heading down).

        If the line actually goes over 14th (for political reasons) then it could do the same thing (turn and head towards Ballard). It could then end at Ballard, with the possibility of being extended further west, or it could just end to the west (which is better than 15th and a lot better than 14th). A line from the UW could then pop up out of the ground more or less like so ( Or it could just pop out of the ground at 55th (where 55th separates from Market) and go above it. Either way you have the same dynamic (one train going up, the other going down).

        There are a number of possibilities. I’m not saying one is better, or cheaper than any other. But I’m saying that they should be studied, instead of wasting our time with plans that are obviously worse *and* more expensive than what was originally proposed. Any east-west platform is better than even the best proposal currently being considered, because it allows you to go further west (even 17th would be a big step in the right direction).

      6. One thing that makes a tunnel to 20th (or even 17th) difficult is that it likely requires a Magnolia station, at least if we take the Level 1 Alternatives seriously:

        Nothing wrong with that. There really is very little difference between stations on Dravus, as long as they are *on Dravus*. Anything off Dravus makes it difficult to get to, for both pedestrians and buses. That is because Dravus is the only street in the area that crosses the railroad tracks and the only street that crosses 15th. So a station at 20th and Dravus is much better than a station at 17th and Thorndyke. As it turns out, a stop at Thorndyke is actually just as far for Queen Anne riders as a stop at 20th ( versus Obviously it is a lot better for Magnolia riders. A stop at 20th is also a lot better for buses (they would avoid having to detour to the station).

      7. “There are a number of possibilities. I’m not saying one is better, or cheaper than any other. But I’m saying that they should be studied, instead of wasting our time with plans that are obviously worse *and* more expensive than what was originally proposed. ”

        This is the pervasive attitude about ST in general and ST3 specifically. It was done to win stakeholder and voter support — and the specifics were interpreted as fixed for some illogical reason. It is funny how tunnels are considered acceptable alternatives but not an east-west station.

        While we’re on the topic, it would be easy for two lines to share a platform. All it would take is enough tail track and somewhere to have one track cross below or above another one (and I estimate that 15th / Market track to 14th and turning towards a Link Ship Canal Bridge is at least 3000 feet and that’s ample room to get a pretty major grade change, like 180 feet at six percent).

        I think a shallow (no mezzanine) east-west cut-and-cover below-grade station between 15th and 27th under Market Street connecting to a Ship Canal Bridge is very doable and a heck of a lot cheaper than a long, deep tunnel under the Ship Canal.

  8. I’m not a big fan of the Ballard tunnel option, but I will point out that $350 million is probably doable with a LID + some city funding.

    Overall though, I’ve always felt like the representative alignment was pretty well thought out. My feeling is also that an elevated option will be easier to extend in the future. It probably doesn’t make sense to run a subway line through NW Seattle, but an elevated line continuing up 15th to crown hill might be feasible.

    My question is who is agitating for a 14th street station? It seems like they are making excuses to keep looking at it. “Acquisitions and displacements” if building along 15th? That’s true of any construction. The whole ST3 project involves eminent domain at every station.

    1. Both the Stakeholders Advisory Group and the Electeds Advisory Group recommended 14th during Level 2. the arguments are that an an alignment east of 15th has less impacts on the Port, on Fisherman’s Terminal, and on the apartments on 15th. The whole experience of Level 2 showed us that ST needs a Riders’ Advisory Group to counteract the rider-harmful recommendations coming from the other stakeholders.

    1. ST has a list of openings somewhere. I can’t find it offhand but I think Ballard is 2035 or 2036.

    2. Yes that’s the schedule.

      For comparison, the Central Subway project in San Francisco will end up taking exactly 10 years of construction. Backing up from that is the environmental studies and permitting, and the detailed design (tunneling through a Downtown and adding stations means tons of utility and nearby building footings issues) — and getting funding in place (noting that ST estimated only 10 percent contingencies even though FTA recommends 30 percent at this stage). If an additional $2B is needed as described here, some sort of new revenue source (like a ballot measure before the voters) would have to be developed and submitted.

      Frankly, 2035 seems overly optimistic!

      BTW, the West Seattle tunnel options would also push that extension another 4-5 years. These presentations say it will delay things. Of course, the crowds on a West Seattle to SODO opération would put so many more riders on Link that I doubt that the crowds could be tolerated.

    3. The schesule says 2035. That includes the downtown tunnel. I have a hard time believing that wil be the actual opening date.

    4. Here’s the list published for the vote.

      2021-2024: Contributions to RapidRide C, D, G (Madison), and PT 1 (Pacific Avenue in Tacoma); Renton TC
      2024: Federal Way, downtown Redmond, 522 Stride, 405 Stride
      2030: West Seattle (to SODO), Tacoma dome
      2031: Graham Station, 130th Station, BAR Station
      2035: Ballard, DSTT2
      2036: Everett
      2039: Tacoma Link (19th Street)

      Underground lines generally take 4-5 years to design and 10 years to build. The other delays are to stagger out the expenses to match the gradual revenue stream, which will increase as the ST1 bonds are paid down. So working back from 2035 we can assume Ballard will start construction around 2025.
      2041: Issaquah – South Kirkland

      1. If the City has money burning a hole in its pocket, advancing 130th St Station seems like a far more useful investment than burying West Seattle and Ballard Link.

      2. Yes, I didn’t mention things that happened since then that might change the schedule because they’re uncertain. ST is now talking about maybe folding 130th into Lynnwood Link. And the increasing real-estate costs, uncertainlty of future federal financing, cities insisting on add-ons, and Eyman’s threat to slash the MVET, a tight labor market, any engineering issues that come up, the stakeholder disagreements about the alignment, and the potential for lawsuits by those who don’t like the alignment chosen, could delay all these openings. But since none of it is certain and we don’t have a specific year, and it’s so far in the future anyway, we might as well assume these dates or now.

  9. Seems to me this discussion would go farther faster if we’d hear from the people who wear the work gloves that grip the Tool-Holders. What will we have to tunnel Through, and put our elevated footings In?

    One terrific advantage. Shift the discussion away from the distance dividing the people involved and toward the job itself. Said it before, and get used to hearing it, this line is not a matter of connecting two communities, but of combining them into one. Subareas are for the plat maps. Transit runs along Corridors.

    Politically, technically, and fiscally we’re looking at the hardest project to build this region has ever seen. About which there’s no choice whatsoever. Including fact we’ll do it no matter how much it costs.

    And, more to the point, how long it has to take. Situation’s very mindful of the years between the last Forward Thrust attempt and first ground broken for the DSTT. What we can’t build whole, we can build in connectable pieces.

    Whose temporary measures can be permanently re-purposed as completions finally happen. Top-of-my-head examples and only that: Run light rail equipment in streetcar mode from the Junction south ’til West Seattle can get its subway funding. Same with lateral measures for Ballard, how- and wherever the station finally goes.

    But could we please bury the word “Stakeholders?” in Unconsecrated Ground? I forget- do you have to take an oath to become a passenger immediately or never?

    In the original “Dracula”,- only “read” more horrible is real Balkan history well into the 1990’s-the girl who would’ve lost her soul if the vampire-hunters had missed, had to be dragged back among the living at stake-point herself.

    Not only could she have been a regional Chief of State forty years before she could even vote in England. But with the help of a simple lunar calendar, could’ve deliberately continued her bloodline with offspring whose boot and paw prints (her choice!) would befit many a Populist politician as their Age recurred.

    So in our own meantime let’s us keep the funeral clothes in mothballs ’til we get some engineering to read around the fireplace. And discuss. Less temptation to count the crows (and ravens!) before they croak.

    Mark Dublin

    1. How about just making Denny an HOV-only street, since it can’t handle being a general-purpose street, and RapidRide-ize the 8? More stops, better coverage, scalable frequency, far cheaper. Throw in protected bike lanes and wider sidewalks.

      BTW, the City hasn’t said it has the $2B

  10. Neighborhoods should be given the option to upzone in station walksheds (and maybe beyond) in exchange for more expensive rail options. The added density would help justify the need for the tunnel while also paying for it in new tax revenue. $2 billion over the life of the bonds should end up equating to upzones that aren’t too extreme, I would think. Many of us want to see the density anyway.

    1. This would be a politically and economically strong approach, and it dovetails nicely with Brendan’s above idea for a LID to provide the “deluxe alternative” funding.

      1. neighborhoods pay both an ST3 tax and then a LID for a station in their neighborhood? Not going to happen. If a Dravus station is ok to service Magnolia and north Queen Anne, which is not walkable for the majority these neighborhoods, then 14th NW is a great spot for a Ballard station, it’s basically 1 long block away from 15th. 15th and Market is congested already, with more congestion on the way.

      2. You’re probably right about “not going to happen,” but the presence of a light rail station in walking distance will certainly increase the value of nearby properties. Reclaiming some of that value in the form of a LID assessment hardly seems like a terrible idea to me.

      3. It depends on how much the neighborhood wants the extra. They’re paying an ST3 tax but it doesn’t include that extra; the budget was scaled below it. It’s like when you order a cheese pizza you get a cheese pizza; if you decide while they’re preparing it that you want pepperoni on it too, you pay extra for that.

    2. Upzoning is not enough. The NIMBYs are still fighting against mandatory inclusionary zoning / housing affordability. There is a certain logic in building for those who can least afford cars to live next to stations. They better be prepared to upzone a lot and allow a lot of it to be affordable before I’d even consider voting for a $2B tunnel tax.

    3. Neighborhoods aren’t political entities who have the power to change zoning in return for getting an extra. In fact, the idea of ST negotiating with a neighborhood and promising the district’s taxpaypers will pay for something to make a neighborhood deal has a whiff of paying off the local mob boss. Cities are the ones that have the power to sign such negotiations. and that’s partly why ST defers so much to the cities. Every station has a mitigation budget for construction impacts and long-term train impacts, so there’s some money for extras there, but it’s not dependent on rezoning. In our government system the transit decisions and zoning decisions are separate and made by different entities. They can both commit to a common vision like the PSRC growth management plan or urbanism, but they both make their own decisions and don’t always adhere to the vision (viz. cities not zoning enough to cover their share of the gowth).

  11. Is anyone else appalled by the lack of any good choices remaining in Ballard? The representative alignment will have trains wait for an open bridge too often, driving down ridership. The high bridge option solves that problem, but puts the station in an atrocious location, most assuredly resulting in poorer ridership. (It also makes it difficult to extend the line north in the future.) The 15th Ave tunnel solves those problems, but is arguably too expensive, that is, the ratio of additional capital dollar per additional rider makes it a tough sell. Even transit lovers want to spend limited money where it will do the most good, and may legitimately argue for spending it elsewhere. The 14th Ave tunnel isn’t worth discussing–crummy location at a high price.

    I wish a high bridge from 21st Ave on the south side of the canal to 17th Ave on the north side was still on the table, because that would outperform any of the options we are left with. Unfortunately, that is a losing battle.

    So, what about these refinements instead? 1) If there is somehow room for the representative alignment to thread the limited space along 15th Ave just north of 46th St, why couldn’t there be room for a high bridge alignment? 2) If that is not feasible, how about transitioning from 14th to 15th, bridging over businesses, say between 50th and 53rd? There are some parking lots where piers could be placed with minimal need for eminent domain. It seems to me that either of these refinement options obtain the benefits of the 15th Ave tunnel at less cost.

    1. A 70′ bridge is not “atrocious”. All but the tallest sailboats will be able to go under it. It’s estimated to open a couple times a day. Assuming Link will run from 4:30am to 2am, that’s 1290 minutes. If the bridge is up for 10 out of 1290 minutes, that’s 0.7% of the time. Not much of an issue. People are annoyed because the current bridges go up more often, but this one is twice as high as those.

      1. Agreed. Most large sailboats are designed with mast heights of 63′ or less. Even including a 3′ VHF antenna, they’ll easily clear a 70′ bridge, as will most of the tugs and fishing vessels.

        The current Ballard Bridge has a clearance of 44′, so it’s catching a relatively large percentage of pleasure and commercial traffic.

        An added wrinkle is the pending replacement of the BNSF railroad bridge just outside the locks. The most likely scenario will be a 70′ clearance fixed bridge. If that happens, it’ll “filter out” any tall vessels from entering the freshwater.

      2. Sally, will BNSF really be allowed to build a 70 foot fixed bridge? Remember that west of the locks is tidal whereas Salmon Bay and the entire Lake Washington system are pretty static.

        So, will that be 70 feet above highest high tide? If so then boats with masts a few feet higher than 70 feet could pass at an extreme low tide.

      3. Plus the Coast Guard doesn’t require a bridge to rise absolutely immediately – the few very tall boats that require the span to raise can be delayed a minute or two to allow trains to pass. The headways on this line are long enough that the gaps are big enough for a complete lift span cycle.

      4. Yeah; Ron, Saffy and Mike nailed it. Remember, the bridge never goes up during rush hour. That means that when this bridge goes up (which will be rarely) the trains won’t be running that often (probably somewhere between 8 to 10 minutes). In all likelihood, folks will never be delayed by an opening. The delay caused by poor station placement, on the other hand, will be felt by just about every rider. Put the station deep underground, for example, and every single rider has to spend extra time getting to the platform.

        Which is why I do share Dale’s feeling about the remaining options. Either we go with the original plan, or we spend $350 million on stations that are no better, and likely worse. If we are going to spend that kind of (extra) money, then the station should be in the heart of Ballard (close to Leary or 20th).

      5. I clearly stated that it is the station location which is atrocious, not the bridge. Indeed, the refinements I propose use that bridge.

        I am particularly interested in hearing opinions on which strategy will succeed in getting a better result: one of the refinements I proposed, or insisting on an alignment not among the remaining alternatives. I don’t want to invest a lot of energy on a strategy which fails, resulting in no improvement. My hunch is that insisting on an alternative alignment would fail, but want to hear what others think.

      6. P.S. If we are to consider an alternative alignment, it should be the best possible. I inadvertently implied that a 17th Ave alignment would be best. I actually believe that the best would use a high bridge from 21st Ave to 20th Ave. The station, on 20th, would ideally span most of the distance between Market and Leary.

        This station location would have the best walkshed, and could have the best transit connections, especially if the RapidRide D is terminated at this station in the heart of Ballard. The north station entrance could be near enough to serve 44 and D. The south entrance could be near enough to serve 29, 40, (and if a stop is added) 17 and 18. Notable traffic generators include Swedish Medical Center, and numerous nightlife venues.

        This would have a higher ridership than ANY of the existing options, at a cost no greater than the 14th Ave high bridge, and appears to have scarcely any impact to the Port. The only negative is that future expansion to the north would probably have to tunnel to get to 15th Ave. In any case, in my opinion, this alignment is clearly better than any of the current options. Is it still possible at this point in the process? If yes, the only way to achieve it is by using this blog (and Seattle Subway?) to muster support for it. At this point in the process, there isn’t any other way to get serious consideration of any plan that is not among the official alternatives.

    2. ST needs to basically buy Ballard Market and the St. Alphonsus parking lot today to ensure a northward extension is possible. With the stop taking up the Safeway parking deck, they need to be able to run north on 14th and cut over to 15th on those 2 lots. The AVA apartments aren’t being torn down in my lifetime, so they need to buy those two properties that have the right of way to make an extension to Crown Hill possible.

  12. The $2B for tunneling could build 30 percent of Trump’s wall! Like Trump’s wall, it will be largely ineffective in changing the usefulness of the investment (number of riders) — and instead be a political promise to a set of interests that perceive their future as threatened. Plus the costs would be borne by only Seattle residents and not the entire country ( or Mexico as in the original campaign promise).

    1. $5 billion would build only a few miles of wall, not 2000+ miles across the entire border. In a Ballard Link context, that would be comparable to building the track between 55th to 54th Streets and leaving the rest of the line for future funding.

    2. Getting over the wall with a ladder will still be much easier than getting to the station platforms.

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