We’re finally here: ST3 Planning level 3 is where we cut everything but two options and send those on for an environmental impact study. Those options will include a high end options that relies on local funding an an affordable option that doesn’t. At this point, our primary concern is with the low end options. There is a conversation to be had in the future about whether spending $1.9B on high end ST3 options makes sense and where the money will come from, but that’s a topic for another day.
Right now we need to make sure the affordable options that we send through are acceptable in case additional local funding never comes. Building on our central concepts of Reliability, Expandability, and Accessibility along with our Level 2 feedback and plea to put riders first, here is what we’re focused on now by station:
Though we’ve heard ST staff say many times that the options are mix and match, we don’t get the impression they mean it when it comes to the Ballard station location. As we (and others) have said many times a 14th NW station and a drawbridge are both unacceptable. A drawbridge is an unacceptable reliability compromise for the future or our system. A station on 14th NW simply doesn’t serve riders west of 15th or transfers well. A station on 15th NW with entrances on both sides of the street does.
A 14th high bridge crossing with a station on 15th is our minimal expectation for an affordable option. While it’s not impossible to see local funding via the port come through for a tunnel to Ballard, as the current options stand, the 15th Ave NW tunnel station the only option we can support.
SoDo and the International District
This is a rare case where the best option is also the most affordable option and has the least schedule risk. Though a cut-and-cover station on 5th will have impacts, it will serve transfers between the two Link tunnels far better than anything else on the table and preserve Ryerson bus base. This alignment also saves $200m which conceivably could be used on key options elsewhere and to devise very good mitigation for ID businesses. Variations of this option should be included in both the high/low alternatives in the EIS.
We’re highly skeptical of the value of spending $700 million or more on a West Seattle tunnel that has no advantages for riders. We’re particularly concerned that local politicians are attempting to kill transit projects in service of spending on this tunnel. The affordable/elevated option that makes it through to the next round should include a crossing to the south of the West Seattle Bridge to avoid conflicts with the port. The yellow line is an improvement on the representative alignment as it orients the Junction station north/south to ease future expansion. We would like to see multiple variations of affordable options make it through to the EIS instead of any tunnel options.
In Midtown, we need to focus on connections to First Hill. Perhaps the best place for that is between Madison and Marion on 5th Avenue (the Blue Line) where east connections to Madison BRT are possible. For high/low variations at this station, we want to see station pedestrian access options considered. A pedestrian tunnel to 3rd or 7th could make a big difference for riders.
South Lake Union
A Harrison station is both affordable and the best for transit, bike, pedestrian connectivity. We would like to see variation of this alignment selected in both high and low cost alternatives.
A station mostly oriented south of Denny with an entrance north of Denny (blue line) is the best option for the walkshed if we assume a Harrison SLU station. It should be included in both high and low cost alternatives.
It was hard to tell what the tradeoffs are for Westlake Station from the presented materials. A successful future Westlake Station is one that creates easier transfers and a better user experience of transit riders. Multiple options that explore the best possible transfers for riders should be included in the EIS.
At Seattle Center, we prefer direct access to Key Arena provided by a Republican Street Station and we also believe construction of a Station on Mercer would be another mess. Republican should advance for both high/low options.
A station that integrated with the Helix bridge made a lot of sense on its face, but the $200M price tag is eye-popping for not much upside. There are reasons to like that option, but not for that price. The other option, the Brown Line station at Galer, also added $100M over the representative alignment mostly due to a longer tunnel that extends under Elliot Avenue and allows the alignment to be mostly on the surface through Interbay, including the station at Galer St. Both Smith Cove station locations currently have pedestrian-only access to Expedia over the BNSF railroad tracks. There are clearly better places to focus transit funding and we should choose the best option that makes the Interbay alignment as a whole affordable. The Brown Line’s surface station at Galer Street does just that.
In Interbay, there appears to be an opportunity to both save money and improve transit access. We would like to see a version of the brown line that moves the Thorndyke Station to Dravus Street west of 17th Ave for much better access. Elevated/surface variations of the BNSF alignment (brown line) should advance with a focus on as much surface rail as possible without traffic crossings for both high & low options.
The most essential feature that has been left mostly unaddressed is building for the future. ST3 must be built for expansion. That means expansion for a future Aurora Line, a future Madison Line, a future Airport Bypass, a Ballard/UW Line, a Ballard/Lake City Line — all the lines on our vision map. We implore the Sound Transit Board to look past the typical planning skirmishes and think about how this plan will be future proof and best serve riders.
Last week Sound Transit released another survey. It’s an opportunity to tell planners and the Sound Transit Board what you think.
Our suggestions for the comment section:
- Ballard: Include a fixed bridge crossing at 14th NW with a 15th NW elevated station
- ID/SODO: Include variations of a cut/cover 5th for both high and low cost options
- West Seattle: Study multiple affordable options with south rail bridge instead of a tunnel
- Midtown: 5th Avenue alignment and study pedestrian access for high/low options
- SLU: Harrison is the best for transit and non motorized access
- Denny: Station oriented mostly south of Denny best for walkshed with Harrison
- Westlake: The best possible transfer environment for riders should advance
- Seattle Center: Republican station for high/low options
- Smith Cove: Galer is best presented. Helix as high end only if Expedia intends to fund
- Interbay: Study Dravus alignment west of 15th with BNSF-adjacent variations
- Expansion: New tunnel must be built assuming future Aurora and Madison expansion