In our last post we asked the Sound Transit Board to focus on elevated West Seattle options for ST3. A tunnel would lessen impacts but $700 Million in Seattle transit funding is far better spent on transit expansion. The focus for the ST3 planning process should therefore be to craft the best possible elevated option.
There are two elevated options presented by Sound Transit:
- The representative alignment on Fauntleroy with a station to the east if the Junction and tail tracks nearly reaching the junction.
- An elevated alignment that curves through the neighborhood north of Fauntleroy in order to orient the station north/south on 41st.
Both options will score high on reliability and, with details done right, high on accessibility.
Unfortunately, the first option has a fatal flaw on expandability. Expansion to the south would require crossing California for elevated tracks continuing south on a street to the west. Per Sound Transit, the line would then need to cut back across California at some point to continue south. The property impacts are big enough to make this extremely unlikely. The Junction stop would become the permanent end of the line.
The second option orients the station north/south on 41st (good) but instead of being on an arterial, cuts through the neighborhood at an angle which requires the line to impact the most existing housing of all the proposed alignments. Though we prioritize transit and future transit riders above all other concerns – we can understand why people would not be excited about this option.
With those things in mind, we’d like to put forth a third, “mix and match,” alignment that addresses the weaknesses of both options.
The new elevated option would follow the Fauntleroy alignment to Alaska but take a sharp turn onto 41st. Though sharp turns are generally not ideal, they are part systems worldwide (check out the NYC Subway south of Central Park) and one right next to a station where the train will already be moving slowly will have minimal impacts on operations.
We need to think about the future when making an investment of this scale. Looking at the Sound Transit’s HCT study work, an elevated line to the south of The Junction is likely to be a better investment in terms of capital cost per weekday rider than the line to The Junction itself. It would be an entirely separate process, but see C5 (pages 10-11) in the HCT study for a sense of what that extension could be and how it would perform.
It is our strong opinion that funding a West Seattle tunnel is both a poor use of transit funding and, to put it bluntly, not going to happen. It’s time to look past that distraction and find an elevated option that works for West Seattle transit riders – both now and in the future.