If Bellevue is Brooklyn, does that make West Seattle New Jersey? Credit: Joe Mabel

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and other Seattle elected officials sharply questioned Sound Transit officials at a public meeting about the West Seattle and Ballard Link extensions yesterday.

Sound Transit convened the meetings to address the Chinatown/International District (CID) and Delridge stations. The agency probably hoped to lower heat on simmering discontent about the Seattle extensions’ most controversial segments.

Instead, residents of both neighborhoods offered more criticism—and demonstrated that they are organizing and have the ears of elected officials. In public comments, CID residents and activists continued to voice concerns about construction impacts on the neighborhood’s businesses and unique culture. Delridge residents objected to proposed residential demolitions, and accused Sound Transit of lowballing the number of households who would be displaced by Link construction.

Troublingly for Sound Transit, the Mayor and City Councilmembers shared similar concerns. Durkan said that Sound Transit would do well to build consensus before committing to a preferred alignment, pointing out that a failure to do so would bring litigation and delay project delivery.

“I’m reminded of the phrase ‘measure twice, cut once.’ …If we push forward too quickly on this phase, we will get resistance at all other phases. And I think that that could jeopardize the project more. …If you think about the number of condemnation acts we will have to do, both in Chinatown/International District and in Delridge, each one of those could slow those down if we don’t get them right at the front end,” Durkan said.

In extended comments, Durkan took the side of CID activists, citing a long history of segregation and institutional racism. Durkan suggested the planning process for East Link in Bellevue could be a model for controversial planning segments.

“I’m reminded that when we were in Bellevue we studied, before I was on the Board, but there were dozens of alternatives studied for various segments of Bellevue, and you ended up synthesizing to get the best whole,” Durkan said.

It’s an odd comparison. The ranking of Bellevue alignments came about in bad faith. Light rail opponents funded by Bellevue developer Kemper Freeman attempted to stop light rail altogether through electioneering, while also availing themselves of every possible veto point. That episode delayed Link construction by several years.

By contrast, Delridge and CID criticisms of Sound Transit aren’t about the project itself. Members of both communities frequently say that they are in favor of light rail, or at least resigned to it. Complainants in both neighborhoods worry—reasonably—that their businesses or homes might be condemned or damaged, and have lots of questions.

Comparisons aside, CID residents applauded at the end of Durkan’s comments. CID residents made up about three quarters of the attendees, and filed out en masse when the Delridge segment began. Meanwhile, Durkan huddled with CID community leaders outside the meeting room, as Alex Tsimerman spewed his ubiquitous, offensive bile during Delridge’s public comment period.

Seattle City Councilmember Lisa Herbold, who represents Delridge and the rest of West Seattle, took Sound Transit to task about displacement estimates, following up on public comments. Delridge residents accused Sound Transit of underestimating the number of families the West Seattle extension would displace.

“For the residential property effects, you are identifying that Delridge households displaced are pretty much the same across all alternatives. And the number that you’re using is less than 40. The number that we’ve heard from community members is more than 90 households,” Herbold said to Cathal Ridge, the project’s director.

“Right now—and, again, to point out this is a very early stage of analysis—but as we look at the alternatives right now, based on how they’re defined, we believe the property displacements, residential impacts are fairly similar across the alternatives. We will learn more as we go through this process and flesh this out,” Ridge said.

“Any thoughts as to the disparity between the 40 households and the 90 households, in the community estimates?” Herbold asked again.

“I don’t know—I know of where our number came from. I can’t really say where the other number came from,” Ridge said.

City Councilmember Mike O’Brien then asked Ridge to meet with residents and account for the gap.

Durkan’s comments about Bellevue are ironic. Sound Transit started planning for the West Seattle segment, which is slated to open in 2030, in an attempt to avoid a similar, process- and litigation-spawned delay. A sequel in Seattle became a little more likely yesterday.

69 Replies to “Durkan, Herbold criticize Chinatown, Delridge plans”

    1. Came here to say the exact same thing. It’s amazing to me how many voices are now calling to slow down the scoping period for the preferred alternative among many alternatives that will produce a draft EIS that will produce a final EIS that will select an alignment that will kick off 4 years of design and engineering that will kickoff hundreds of individual property negotiations that will begin 5 years of construction that will give us a train 11 years from now.

      1. Yep.

        Calls to slow this down are the exact opposite of what the public at large wants and against what West Seattle residents want.

        When you don’t actually care about transit, it’s very easy to make this profess entirely about the people who might be impacted.

      2. I just wanted to add that West Seattle will never be satisfied. Not enough light rail, too much light rail, too long to build, too towering, too disruptive, too much growth, not enough free parking. Don’t forget it.

      3. So typical of this blog. Local residents are concerned about how the Link will affect their communities or if it will take away their home and businesses and the people here think that they are just stupid. Honestly most people on this blog would tear down the Space Needle or the Pike Place Market or Century Link Field if Sound Transit wanted to build anything on those spots.

      4. Thst isn’t what this is, Matt.

        In West Seattle, the conversation isn’t: Lets find an elevated option that works as well as possible.

        It’s: Lets dig in and demand a tunnel.

        In the case of the ID – cut and cover om 5th is the obvious best plan. We’re all for working with residents on mitigation, but again – that isn’t the rhetoric we’re seeing.

        We’re seeinf the rhetoric that preceeds a lwwsuit and drags this whole process out while gaining Seattle exactly nothing.

      5. They’re putting their concerns about house or business displacements or the character of the neighborhood before riders. It would be fine if they said “We think these concerns are somewhat more valuable than those”, but they completely ignore the impact on riders, or at least their aggregate complaints cause the politicians to make decisions that ignore and harm riders interests’ without acknowedging them as significant. That’s what the pro-transit pushback on these complaints is about. We’ve lived without a really effective transit network for seventy years while all other industrialized countries have raced ahead of us, and we’re finally doing something about it, and we don’t want to see it watered down to partial ineffectiveness the way many previous transit attempts have been (RapidRide, Move Seattle, the streetcars, etc). The number of directly impacted people and the neighbors on their block are usually less than 100, while the number of annual riders is tens of thousands, and the network as a whole benefits the entire population of the city. I want to see a more balanced approach to these issues. That’s why I’ve suggested extra mitigation to the ID businesses if it’s a way to make a grand bargain for the most accessible station. I’d like to hear the West Seattle complainers show that they’re trying to understand riders’ concerns and suggesting win-win compromises. We’re in danger of ST and Seattle siding entirely with peripheral concerns and shafting riders.

  1. Best hope is that a Democrat is elected president, Durkan gets her federal job, and new political leadership pushes for a good transit outcome, instead of pandering to special interest groups.

    Unless Seattle can come up with the extra money…. yeah right.

  2. Durkan’s point that the agency needs to build consensus on a preferred alternative is correct. That is why the EIS process is set up the way it is — with a public comment period after the DEIS is put out to the public. It shows all stakeholders and impacted property owners the impacts relevant to them, as well as why the agency chose one of the alternatives presented as the preferred one. Problem is, the cart was put before the horse with the West Seattle project scoping — the stakeholder advisory group, the elected leadership group, and the public all are commenting on alternatives BEFORE the DEIS materials are prepared. They are objecting based on fear, and not what they should be reacting to: the board’s determination of which alternative is best, and the criteria it used to evaluate among the several West Seattle alternatives.

  3. and you ended up synthesizing to get the best whole [in Bellevue]

    Does anyone really think think that the Bellevue alignment is ideal? I’m just curious. To be honest, I haven’t spent too much time following East Link. But my understanding (from lots of people on this blog) is that things got a lot worse than what they originally proposed. Am I wrong in that assessment?

    1. The Bellevue alignment is a dog’s breakfast and it’s not a good look for Durkan to use it as an example in a positive context. The stations are on the edge of downtown, not in the middle, and the tunnel is nearly pointless. As Peter writes, the result was a response to an energetic and well-funded campaign to kill East Link entirely in favor of more car infrastructure.

      I’m also distressed by the solicitousness with which Herbold and O’Brien are treating a made-up, conspiracy-theory displacement estimate. Incorrect rumors should be clearly identified as such, not indulged.

      1. RossB and David Lawson seem correct about East Link. It got delay, wide seams, and extra cost.

      2. The Downtown Bellevue station is in the middle of the CBD. The mall is at the west end of downtown. It would have been good to have a station nearer to the mall and/or old town Bellevue, but to refer to the DT Bellevue station as the ‘edge’ of downtown is simply incorrect.

        If Willburton gets 300′ towers, the Bellevue TC gets 600′ towers, and Old Bellevue gets 65′ mixed use buildings, I think the alignment will end up OK.

      3. @AJ: Falling east of the transit center, it’s closer to the east edge than the middle. Closer to the hard, dead edge of 405.

      4. I take it you’ve never walked to the Whole Foods during lunch? The city doesn’t end at the freeway. The Grand Connection plus the Wilburton upzone should extend the urban center to at least 120th.

      5. I used to walk to Uwajimaya fairly frequently during lunch (I was then at 110th/8th) – and let me tell you, that walk was horrible. That’s not to say that there is nothing on the east side of 405; quite the contrary – just that the freeway and its interchanges are serious barriers. You have to really want to make that walk, not just mosey over there, which is probably why there was almost never anyone else walking the same route. My guess is that people on one side of the freeway will continue to tend to stay there and not walk some distance past absolutely nothing but a car sewer.

    2. I take it mean the process led to an outcome where everyone got what was most important to them. ST got a station at BTC, City Council avoided a surface alignment through downtown, Surrey Downs and Kemper got to push the train away from them. I don’t think it’s an ideal alignment from a rider perspective: a station closer to old downtown / Bell Square would have been nice, as would 140th and/or something closer to the center of Overlake Village. But politics and horse-trading allowed all stakeholders to get to a minimally acceptable alternative.

      1. Surrey Downs did not get to push the train away from them. The train is adjacent to Surrey Downs, and closed off all but two access roads to the neighborhood.

        The businesses across 112th got to dictate what Sound Transit did.

    3. I pesonally like the Bellevue alignment. While the current density around the station are light Bellevue passed an up one and they are approximately (9) 600’ tower slated to go into DT. And walking to the mall won’t be that bad once the finish the ped trail that goes to circle park. Most of the alightment is off the freeway and Bellevue is working on Several TOD sites.

    4. The original assumption was that it would go up Bellevue Way with a station at Bellevue Square. But Kemper thinks trains are a waste and didn’t want them getting in the way of people driving to his mall. (There’s was a rumor he thought rains would bring gangbangers and thieves, but Kemper said that was false. And the 550 already runs directly from Judkins Park to his property, which he must know.) So he and the council got the alignment moved away from Bellevue Square to the current transit center. And later machinations got it moved a half-block further east, down a hill, and close enough to 405 to cut into the walkshed, especially because the hill shrinks the walkshed even further.

      Now, was this really better, worse, or the best location? I think we can agree that 110th would be better than 110 1/2’th for passengers. The city council didn’t seem to notice this. But is 110th better than 104th (Bellevue Way)? In some ways yes, because of all the density that has since spung up between 108th and 112th. The urban center ends hard at 100th, and that’s just four blocks from Bellevue Way. Current trends indicate Bellevue Way will remain less dense than 108th-112th, even if it’s remarkably dense and varied for the city as a whole, and even though the regional shopping mall and city park are on Bellevye Way. And from a transit shopper’s perspective, the station is not that much farther from the mall than Northgate Station is to Northgate, and much closer than TIB is to Southcenter. So it will be relatively easy for riders to get their shopping needs done, in an American sort of way.

      But there’s still the wide freeway and the stunted walkshed.

      Between downtown Bellevue and Overlake, everybody seems to agree Link is in the right place and has the right stations. I don’t expect the Spring District to be wonderfully transit-oriented or a walker’s paradise, but it’s an a major achievement for an Eastside city. There will be an emerging rectangle of density, coming from downtown Bellevue and spreading east to 120th and 124th, and moving north to the Spring District and northeast to Overlake, then south to Crossroads and, with perhaps a partial gap, south to the college and Eastgate and west to Factoria. Looking kind of like the ng symbol: ŋ.

      In south Bellevue, the P&R was about as good as we’re going to get. If a P&R is necessary, it’s better in the outskirts than downtown. Surrey Downs was a lost opportunity for an urban mixed-use neighborhood.And most of the debate was about Surrey Downs and the South Bellevue alignment. The ultimate alignment was a compromise for the sake of the line as a whole, And the East Main station location has the opportunity for multistory TOD on 3/4 of the intersection. (The fourth quarter with the tunnel portal will be a mini park.) West of the station, it is vaguely close to the Bellevue Way/Main Street development, but the hillside will hinder the walkshed. It will need a frequent east-west bus.

      1. I’d give the Spring District a higher score than what West Seattle currently considers a dense mixed-use TOD.

      2. Some of us on the BCC at the time fought the additional half block scootch of the Eastlink downtown station further east toward I-405. We lost the vote on that piece.

      3. Oh yes, Claudia, you did the most to make East Link the best it could be, and to get Bellevue on with a great transit master plan and better urban planning. I was going to mention that the council changed in the middle of East Link planning and the second mayor (you) and council were significantly better. I have much respect for you and I’m glad you’re on the county council now where you can have more of an influence over our transit policy. I grew up in Bellevue but live in Seattle now but still have relatives in Bellevue.

        I’m hoping the entrance design will mitigate the walk down the hill.

      4. Oh, and you’re on the ST board. I forgot about that. My relatives are your constituents, and we’re all glad you’re there in all the positions you’ve been in. Thanks also for reading STB and engaging with us occasionally.

        Since you’re here, the two things I’m most concerned about in this Ballard-West Seattle alignment are: 15th not 14th. (Or even better 20th.) And there must be good train-to-train transfers at ID and Westlake. Both to different platforms and to opposite-direction trains, since Bellevue to SeaTac will be opposite-direction.

      5. The freeway can be lidded if land directly adjacent to the Link station becomes sufficiently valuable. Buildings can be that lid.

        Sure, it’s more expensive than an “all around” foundation, but the entire LIRR yard west of Penn Station is being covered as we write, using the same sort of “bridged” foundations.

        The freeway is just a “cost”, not really a barrier.

    5. It’s a good question Ross. I’d say it was a classic political compromise that succeeded in advancing the project but forced the parties to accept less than they considered ideal, respectively. I think ST would have preferred a north-south tunnel alignment with two station entrances along 110th instead of one. They probably also would’ve preferred a station at SE 8th instead of E. Main, and no doubt would’ve wanted to avoid all those residential takes along 112th.

      The city council under the skeptics’ control at the time would’ve preferred the B7 alignment with no residential takes or impacts, an elevated downtown station along 112th, and no financial skin in the game.

      ST’s strategy of trying to deliver ST3 projects with less delay in the planning stage — by picking the preferred alterative now — is a response to Bellevue’s delays. What I see Durkan doing is questioning that strategy. It brings up a legit question: does reasonable schedule performance depend on having a preferred alt now? Or would further study of several alternatives increase the odds of reaching agreement after the draft EIS comes out?

  4. Durkan and Herbold seem pretty committed to turning this into a long delay.

    Sides are starting to dig in. The Sound Transit Board, particularly suburban members, would do well to put this to rest now.

    Neither are acting in the best interests of transit riders – which should come as no suprise at this point.

  5. At this point, tunnel both segments and call it good. Let Seattle come up with the extra funding for the tunneling and speed up the timeline.

    Or just don’t build it.

    1. The ST3 placeholder revenues estimates for N. King were $16 billion. That number will be much higher, for several reasons. What makes you think sufficient N. King revenues won’t be available to fund a tunnel as part of the West Seattle Link extension project? If you’ve seen updated revenue projections from the ST3 ballot measure placeholders for G*d’s sake post the link!

    2. I think it’s pretty telling that “just don’t build it” seems like a reasonable option for tunnel boosters.

      Fund it how, exactly?

      1. My understanding is the Port is in for $0 for a West Seattle tunnel.

        Back of the napkin math puts this at about 6x the cost of Move Seattle per WS resident.

        I’d assume people who live south of the line might wonder why they should pay that vs paying for a Link extension instead.

    3. “What makes you think sufficient N. King revenues won’t be available to fund a tunnel as part of the West Seattle Link extension project?”

      Rising real estate prices will swallow the windfall. Even fi they don’t, we can’t be guaranteed that now, so we shouldn’t make the plan dependent on having a significant extra. There’s also a good chance of a recession in the next fifteen years. And the possibility of a crisis due to national issues, international issues, climate issues, Boeing hiccups, or tech hiccups.

      1. Look, Mike . . . you need to understand about how subarea equity revenues allocation works. All projected ST3 revenues are allocated by the board to one of five subareas. The board has to comply with the subarea equity spending requirement of determining a project’s capital costs can be covered by a subarea’s allocated revenues. It also will need current estimated costs of the Ballard extension as that is the other big ticket item for the North King subarea revenues to absorb.
        While the board will be budgeting for the EIS preparation in 2018$, it also will need to comply with the subarea equity terms and budget separately using a different future cost measurement construct, called YOE$. The ST3 revenues projections were presented in YOE$ — $16B for N. King. Can you post the URL with the updated N. King ST3 revenues figure? TIA

      2. Property acquisition costs are rising in all subareas so I don’t see how subarea equity limitations are relevant. ST is clearly getting more money than expected because of the booming economy, but the cost of land and labor and materials are increasing as well. I don’t have the North King revenue figures, I’m going by what someone else said above. In any case, we don’t know what future real estate costs will be so we have nothing definitive to compare the revenue to. But we know that prices have gone up some 20-40% in ten years while inflation as only been around 8%. Even if it doesn’t rise as fast fast as it had been it will still probably be well above inflation, and that’s where the value of the revenue won’t buy as much as it might appear.

      3. For anyone who might be interested, here are Sound Transit’s subarea equity budgeting requirements: https://www.soundtransit.org/st_sharepoint/download/sites/PRDA/FinalRecords/Resolution%20R2016-16%20Appendix%20b.pdf

        That requires Sound Transit produce, an its board use when planning and scoping rail projects, a subarea budget showing projected revenues and projected expenses. if anyone can link to the updated version (the last one I’ve seen was in the ballot measure text) it would be appreciated by many people. TIA

  6. Sorry, I’m kind of slow. Can someone lay out for me what the options and trade offs are for the CID? What is ST pushing for and what are community activists pulling for? Which is better for riders and why?

    1. What ha[[ens in Chinatown/ID when light rail is under construction?

      Durkan asks FTA for Chinatown/ID comment extension

      ST made a matrix of the tradeoffs, and the first article summarizes it pretty well.

      We don’t know what ST is pushing for, and it’s not supposed to push for anything at this point; it’s supposed to be gathering public input on its modified proposals. The default assumption is a shallow cut-and-cover station on 5th. The other three alternatives are deep and shallow stations on 5th and 4th. As the matrix shows, there are tradeoffs for all of them. But the default alternative is clearly best for riders and taxpayers.

      ID is a critical multimodal station with transfers between the Eastside, SeaTac/Tacoma, and West Seattle; and Sounder and Amtrak and BoltBus; and more indirectly Greyhound; and Jackson Street buses and most of the north-south buses; and tourists, shoppers, workers, and residents in the ID and Uwagimaya. So it must have good access to the street and transfers to other lines. A shallow 5th Avenue station does that best. A shallow station means it takes less time to get to the surface. It can make the difference between 30 seconds (TIB to the street) vs 2 minutes (UW escalators) vs 7 minutes (UW Station to the Campus Parkway bus stops). These minutes add up when you accumulate them every day, and if it’s just one part of a 2-4 seat trip.

      Even better, this alternative is the cheapest. It’s $200 million less than ST estimated in the ST3 budget. We could spend a substantial part of the savings on extra mitigation for the ID businesses that are worried about the construction impacts, above and beyond the standard mitigation that’s built into all project budgets.

      The 4th Avenue alternatives force a longer transfer walk to the existing Link platforms (Ballard-SeaTac-Tacoma), cost substantially more, have a longer construction time, and require rebuilding the 4th Avenue viaduct (which is a viaduct above the railroad tracks).

      The opponents don’t like the default alternative because of the usual objections to cut-and-cover construction: it blocks the street at least partially for several months or years, which makes it harder for people to get to businesses, which discourages them from doing so, which shrinks the company’s profits and may force them out of business. 5th Avenue is the edge of the ID urban village, which is the densest (lowrise) shopping district in Seattle, and home to many low-income and minority residents. 4th Avenue is a block outside the village and a stroad, so it doesn’t matter as much. Also, they’re angry that they’ve been through so many construction impacts, with the building of I-5 in the 1960s, and the building of the DSTT in the 1980s. They rightly point out that 20th century infrastructure projects often gave the worst impacts to inner-city minority working-class neighborhoods and the biggest benefits to suburban white middle-class neighborhoods. They see some parallels in this project and want an alternative that’s the least disruptive as they define it.

      Missing from their position is any consideration about the impacts on riders. There are 100-200 people directly impacted by 5-10 years of construction, vs 730,000 Seattle residents and 1.4 million regional residents who are benefitted by excellent transit access to the International District and transifers, for a hundred years if the optimists’ hopes are fulfilled, and many of those will be customers for those same ID businesses. Excellent transit access may increase the number of walk-up customers even more than the number of drive-up customers might decrease. And these businesses sell things people can carry on transit, not big pieces of lumber of furniture.

  7. I read the request for more time as a response to the inadequate (bad) public input process and materials with this study. Here are a few items jump out to me:

    1. No rider group endorsing alternatives. The use of only a stakeholder group looks like that ST believes “consensus” is only at an stakeholder organizational level. No input from drivers or security specialists.

    2. Public meetings designed around just a single portion of the route. A person must attend three to comment on them all — and they only have one round. Each meeting is also rather rushed. Having just one single two-hour meeting to spend billions is frankly nuts!

    3. Terrible supporting materials. I often hear things like “I don’t understand”. Visualizations are limited in angle and number of stations. Diagrams just show platforms and not conceptual station entrances or layouts . Connecting bus routes are never shown.

    4. Lack of discussing substantive public feedback. The summary reports mostly contain “what we did” rather than “here’s what changes we could make”.

    5. Oddly grouping rail-rail and rail-bus transfers together qualitatively, and never disclosing how many there are. We don’t know if the splitting of the South Seattle lines creates a small number or large number of transfers.

    6. Having no discussion or meeting about how the route reconfiguration affects other areas. North Seattle will lose direct Seatac service. Eastside residents will have to transfer to a new platform location at ID.

    7. Committee presentations that are so packed with details that even committee feedback is hard. There are dizzying amounts of slides at every meeting. The resulting setup appears to want to discourage any questioning or changing of them.

    That’s just a few. I’m sure there are many others.

    Even if all of these things are handled well, it’s quite a shock to someone only tangentially involved. They need time to fathom how their world will change.

    I fully understand why these officials think more time is needed. I see this as a reaction to such a lousy feedback process without admitting that it’s been as lousy as it has (and they bought into it at the outset).

  8. This is seattle area business as usual, everybody has a vote and a veto, witn the goal to make everyone happy all the time. it’s a hard process but part of our culture. in the end we make a choice, not always the most enlightened, but we trudge on.
    Build The Rail.

  9. Sigh, the focus is still on the number of houses displaced and the construction impcats. What about the riders who will be able to get into and out of the neighborhood more easily? Do they not matter at all? That’s what bothers me about Durkan. She supports transit in an American sort of way, but she can’t find even one thing to champion that demonstrates “thinking like a rider” or impoving the situation for riders. And isn’t that why we’re building light rail in the first place, to improve the situation for riders and increase transit mode share? So why aren’t we doing it in the details? Why do the detail recommendations of stakeholders groups and politicians often ignore riders’ concerns or recommend even counterproductve things?

    That’s a rhetorical question of course. They don’t understand the benefits of a comprehensive transit system, or they don’t care about them because they don’t expect to use it, or they have unrealistic expectations of it.

    The Bellevue comparison is partly apt but there were a lot of differences. The majority of the city council and Kemper Freeman were against light rail or wanted it along the freeways where it could do the least harm. (And Wallace wanted it near his redevelopable properties.) That’s what led to the dozen alternatives. That and the Surrey Downs opposition and the guy who threatened to sue ST if it crossed Mercer Slough unless it as underground. Those dozen alternatives added an extra year and significant cost to the planning process. What ST told the community in ST3 was, “Please agree among yourselves on one or two alternatives, and decide relatively quickly. And cities, please expedite the permitting.” That was an attempt to get the projects delivered as soon as possible and at the lowest possible cost. If we’re now going to get caught up in several alternatives and deep controversies in ID, Delridge, and Ballard, then it will become more like Bellevue. But not all the way, assuming it doesn’t get a lot worse.

    “the stakeholder advisory group, the elected leadership group, and the public all are commenting on alternatives BEFORE the DEIS materials are prepared.”

    The EIS process is working as it was intended. This is the alternatives analysis phase, when ST must consider all reasonable alternatives without bias. A failure to do that is grounds for a legal challenge. ST must consider all alternatives the community in aggregate thinks are worthwhile before deciding on a preferred alternative. Then the DEIS must be prepared comparing the preferred alternative with a no-build alternative and one or more others. That’s when all the detailed engineering and studying are done that would give you all the details. If ST did that studying now, or before the ST3 vote, it would be spending a lot of money on alternatives and designs that may never be selected. We don’t give ST enough up-front money or a mandate to do that. If that happened, the first thing conservatives would say is, “That’s a waste of taxpayer money, to spend it making detailed studies of things that won’t be selected.”

    1. Durkan seems to throw a monkey wrench into everything. Whenever she gets involved projects seem to fall apart, get delayed, get cancelled…

      1. She is a totally worthless incompetent politician. This city churns through clueless politicians like we are making butter.

      2. I won’t be that sad if that’s the outcome for WS rail. Maybe the neighborhood would like an enhanced bus option?

      3. Enhanced Bus option sounds like famous last words, i.e., Rapid Ride with limited right of way that drives amongs the SOV’s, and is subject to SOV traffic. Business as usual.

        WS isn’t just a neighborhood, it’s a bunch of neighborhoods, with a small majority engaging in wishful thinking for funds to be found under a tooth fairy for a tunnel if not taken from other subarea projects. Some of us want WS rail period, even with an unsightly bridge.

      4. Probably. During the election they mentioned she lives downtown.

        I don’t know that she’s anti transit exactly, but I think she’s really on top of the job. Mayor of a major city is a complex political and administrative job, and Durkan only has experience as a lawyer, so it’s not totally surprising.

        By comparison, Murray had 20 years in elected office before he became mayor.

  10. The way to have done this would have been to have four separate studies:

    2018-29: A detailed systems plan. That would reveal to everyone the general number of transferring riders, station specific hoardings and train operations. The region should be commenting as a whole. ST announced their new system with no public debate on the middle of the 2016 referendum after the list had been set. That plan can have several alternatives — so that any design can accommodate those. Without Station ridership, there is nothing to justify why any station is even needed! We are all left speculating.

    2019-2021; separate studies by segment. The project should have been set up as three studies. North (from the portal near Elliott), South (from Holgate) and a Central Subway. The design and environmental issues are completely different between the ends and the middle. Except for ID and the First Hill thing at the outset, the most expensive subway part is getting almost no discussion. Three studies would create more focused stakeholders and elected officials, and enable better community consensus.

  11. My take is that Durkan trying to delay unpopular choices until after re-election. Maybe I’m too cynical. She hasn’t been kind to transit.

    We could always save the pristine sanctity of West Seattle and build the 8 subway instead (and serve more people)

  12. All I see is white people with money arguing over specific alignment, trade-offs, etc. more than a decade after the brown part of town got screwed with surface alignment and massive impacts. The lots are still empty on the south side where ST bought them up during construction.

    But I’m sure, as always, this is just a coincidence. Like always. Nobody MEANT for it to happen this way. When it comes to under- or over-serving certain parts of town, we always talk about intentions instead of results. It gives people less feels that way.

    1. Not a total coincidence, Rainier Valley got a surface alignment mainly because it was first. ST’s intention was a lot more surface like existing light rails, from Mt Baker to SeaTac and beyond, so that the cost would be like those Portland, San Diego, and San Jose. But one by one as the segments went through design, the community said they wanted it grade-separated and were willing to pay for it. Tukwila was first. It didn’t object to surface per se but it didn’t want it on just-rebuilt 99 or grazing a certain corner of Southcenter’s property. So ST moved it, and the only way to get it around the freeways without excessive inclines was to elevate the whole thing. Later as other segments went through design, it was clear they would all be grade-separated, but by then the Rainier Valley decision had been made and it was too late to change ti. Tukwila got favor partly because it’s more middle-class and white (although not so much really) and so people defer to it more, but mainly because it’s a city, meaning it’s a separate stakeholder with permitting power, while Rainier Valley is part of Seattle without its own government, and Seattle’s stakeholder vote is focused on downtown.

      I think they should lower the MLK track into a trough with overpasses. That would be the least expensive way to get rid of the level crosses and collisions.

      1. But also the most disruptive to existing service. I don’t see how you can lower the track without closing it for years.

      2. It also means completely rebuilding any water and sewer lines that go under the track.

        Dropping roads under railroads is fairly common. BNSF through Tukwila and Kent were separated that way, and countless others across the country. This would be disruptive to the intersection where the underpass was being built but not disrupt the whole corridor at the same time.

      3. For the track in Edmonds, you can’t dig under the track because the resulting pit would then become part of Puget Sound. Options such as what they did in Kent are not as easy there.

        Similar undercutting has been applied in Bend, where they went under both a highway and a railroad.

        It does mean that the intersections would become a lot more involved.

      4. I’m not a construction designer, but lowering an existing track would mean several years of closing the light rail route. It’s not going to happen.

        My suggestion would be to close one side of MLK and put the trench there. The other side of MLK would operate with one lane in each direction during construction. The project could be built in sections of about 1/2 to 1 mile.

        Then , put the traffic lanes on MLK where the Link tracks are today. That shortens the time to cross the street making MLK easier to cross as a pedestrian.

        A pedestrian trail and cycle track could then be above the tracks on a partial or complete lid.

      5. Even single tracking for several years would be brutal for existing service – after most SKC & Pierce commuter buses are truncated at Federal Way, the peak ridership on Link will be high. We’ll see how Connect 2020 goes … any major single tracking on the RV will more disruptive than single tracking the DSTT for ~10 weeks.

        I’m with Glenn – burying the major road crossing seems much more straightforward than burying the rail, particularly because you can close the cross-roads one at a time with only a local impact, whereas closing Link will have a regional impact.

        With a huge budget, a good option would be to first build the Dwamish bypass and then close the RV for grade seperation, but that seems like overkill.

  13. “Delridge residents accused Sound Transit of underestimating the number of families the West Seattle extension would displace.”

    On this point, these residents may have a valid point. There’s a history here of ST behaving similarly with the Lynnwood Link project. For a long time ST staff told us that the number of residential displacements for this project should be under 100 households. Then came the FEIS with its estimates for the 2015-identified project (107 to 208) and the subsequent SEPA addendum in May 2018:


    “The FEIS disclosed that the 2015 Project would displace 129 residential units and nine businesses. This SEPA Addendum analysis focuses on the change in residential units due to project refinements. There would be no changes in business displacements.”


    “The 2017 Refinements include seven single-family residential properties not previously considered in the 2015 Project.

    “The 2018 Refinements would require the acquisition of 35 properties that were not considered for acquisition under the 2015 Project. Of the 35 properties, 24 would be full takes and 11 would be partial takes. Each property owner has been notified by Sound Transit in writing of the potential for acquisition
    of their property. Of the 24 full takes, four properties are vacant and 20 properties include single-family residences that would be displaced. No businesses would be displaced as a result of these additional acquisitions. See Attachment B for a list of parcels potentially affected and a map of their locations throughout the corridor.”

    So, to summarize, we were initially told the number of residential displacements would be less than 100 households. Then the 2015-identified project put the total at 129. Then the 2017 project refinements added an additional 7 properties, all displacements. Then the 2018 project refinements added an additional 35 parcels that would need to be condemned, increasing the replacement number by another 20 households and bringing the new total to 156.

    From my perspective, the Delridge residents have reason to push the agency for more forthrightness on this particular issue.

  14. Fine. Run Link down Delridge and just extend the streetcar over the same bridge to Alaska Junction.

    1. It’s probably cheaper to just build a whole separate streetcar system in West Seattle, but in principle I think it’s fine to run Link down Delridge and have a spur to the Junction by a separate mode.

  15. I’m actually glad that the Delridge taking issue has emerged. I have felt that the remaining alternatives were badly limited in that all of them were similar in that they took out mostly the same blocks of this neighborhood.

    A Nucor or parallel to Fauntleroy path seemed less disruptive and should probably be in the EIS. Maybe the Pigeon Point tunnel should have also remained on the table into the EIS. As it is, the remaining alternatives for the Delridge area don’t profoundly vary (even though the profiles do further west).

    I also think that a new community vision that combines land use, park use and transit use (all modes rather than just rail) is badly needed. Repurposing the Golf Course (creating a new course at the South Seattle college hilltop) could so fundamentally change the vision, creating an amazing new neighborhood with a signature large active community park built on top of a surface line. I’d love to see all this West Seattle energy be focused on opportunities rather than the obsession with protecting life from a bygone era. Creating a new West Alaska City Center with a Pigeon Ridge Tunnel is the kind of significant revisioning that is needed.

    Leaving people to respond to a stand-alone project with minor variations pretty much forces a yes/no choice. ST somehow thinks that the current process saves time. In the long run, the future court battles and possible funding battles easily could result in more years lost than a more sincere process in 2018 would have.

  16. Given what we’ve seen from Jenny Durkan on multimodal transportation, from the Streetcar to the 35th Ave bike lanes, I highly doubt that she’s being genuine with the residents of Chinatown. A truly productive approach would be to give economic assistance to Chinatown in every way possible, instead of sandbagging the entire project.

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