Never again. Credit: Wikipedia

Seattle and King County elected officials have asked Sound Transit to remove a moved bridge in Ballard from future Link plans. They also urged Sound Transit to ditch the elevated “Orange Line” alignment in West Seattle, which would require large numbers of homes to be demolished.

In other areas, the officials mostly declined to endorse other specific choices in the planning effort. Instead, at the final Elected Leadership Group (ELG) meeting for the West Seattle and Ballard Link extensions, elected officials preferred a full Environmental Impact Study (EIS) of nearly all the alignments currently under consideration. Comments by business and community groups from Ballard, West Seattle, and Chinatown-International District (ID) generally advocated for the same process.

Sound Transit asked elected officials to endorse specific alignments in the hope of speeding the EIS process and picking a preferred alignment early. Agency CEO Peter Rogoff and project director Cathal Ridge both emphasized in prepared remarks that selecting a preferred alignment would not actually lock the agency into building the chosen project.

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan rejected the idea that selecting a preferred alignment, particularly in the ID, would result in a speedier timeline than studying multiple options.

In impassioned remarks focused on the controversial ID station, Durkan again cited a history of institutional racism as reason for deeper study of the proposed ID alignments.

The Mayor also suggested that limiting areas of study would in fact increase risk of a delayed project, arguing that limiting study to one or two options would make a supplemental EIS or litigation more likely.

“We know that this whole system will probably have a greater impact on this community than anywhere else in the system,” Durkan said. “And so for us to move these things forward, it’s the right thing to do. I also think it’s the smart thing to do, because it will not slow us down. The worst thing that could happen to us is if we ended up going through an EIS and then had to do a supplemental EIS because we hadn’t considered things, or there’s too much resistance.”

Most of the audience for the meeting, which was rich with transportation civil servants, neighborhood activists, and transit advocates, applauded Durkan’s remarks. So did the elected officials—a group that included most of the Seattle City Council, and King and Snohomish County Executives Dow Constantine and Dave Somers. Somers suggested he spoke for the group when he offered his “violent agreement” with the mayor’s comments.

Earlier in the meeting, Durkan said that cost projections were too preliminary to serve as a basis for selecting one alignment over another. The Mayor said that the City was willing to find a way to pay for extras, perhaps by contributing property assets.

“There’s nothing at this stage of the game that requires us to be studying what requires more funding,” Durkan said. “I think what we’ve learned from staff is we don’t have enough technical information at this point to really know the cost available for anything. …The question of funding is something that is coming down the road. The City of Seattle understands, obviously, that if there’s additional funding required for an alignment, that we’re going to have to be a very active partner.”

Perhaps because of Seattle officials’ increasing public willingness to kick in more resources, Somers expressed support for a fixed link across Salmon Bay. A tunnel or fixed bridge would likely cost more than a movable bridge, but would allow for much faster and more reliable service on the Ballard line.

It’s welcome news for future Ballard riders. Somers and other Snohomish County officials on the Sound Transit Board have frequently said that Seattle needs to pay for enhancements to the Link system in city limits. The change in tone suggested that King and Snohomish officials are much more closely aligned (as it were) on the expense of the future system.

Meanwhile, Constantine—a West Seattle resident—again urged Sound Transit to end consideration of the elevated Orange alignment in West Seattle, and continued to support tunneling to the Junction. Seattle City Councilmember Lisa Herbold, who also lives in and represents West Seattle, asked Sound Transit staff to reconsider the Purple alignment.

The alignment would move the bridge over the Duwamish farther south than the options presently under consideration, and tunnel through Pigeon Ridge rather than running elevated track around it. The Purple alignment was eliminated at the end of Level 2 because Sound Transit estimated the tunnel through Pigeon Ridge would be cost prohibitive.

As Rogoff said, the electeds’ suggestions are not by any means binding. The Sound Transit Board will choose which alignments to study in the EIS process at the next full Board meeting, on May 23.

It also seems very likely, as Durkan suggested, that third party financing is coming from the City of Seattle.

There’s an old saying: if your choices are fast, good, and cheap, you have to pick two. If the electeds follow through on their bold talk, Sound Transit will be able to build a Link system that can leave cheap behind.

79 Replies to “Elected Officials Ask for More Light Rail EIS Options, Reject Movable Ballard Bridge”

  1. If Seattle can raise its own funds for a tunnel in West Seattle, the best use of those funds would still be extending the line or otherwise enhancing transit connections, not sparing a few houses and the “eyesore” of an elevated line. $700M is too much money under any circumstance for a cosmetic fix and saving a block or two of single family homes.

    1. Good point. How much does the full Christmas stocking cost? $3 billion for a Ballard tunnel, West Seattle tunnels, and the passenger-unfriendly Intl Dist options? If Durkan intends to raise supplemental money for Link. we need to have a citywide conversation right away on whether there are better transit uses for that amount of money. The argument against converting the CCC to First Avenue bus lanes was that the stakeholders wouldn’t approve money for bus lanes, only a streetcar. But in this case the money is all theoretical because the rest of the city hasn’t been asked about it yet. So we can’t assume the CCC’s answer is the same as this project’s answer. Even $700 million would be enough to finish several of the RapidRide line’s deferred from Move Seattle, or we could extend Ballard to 85th, or start planning the Ballard-UW line or a Metro 8 line, or finish the bike network, or ….

    2. If we find 700 million and spend it on a tunnel I’m going to be [language]. That could pay for the entire bike master plan and a a good chunk of missing sidewalks. The city already voted for those things and we’re being told we don’t have the money.

      Actually, I’m already [language], could you tell?

      1. My feelings exactly. The hypocrisy is ridiculous. Somehow we don’t have money for the bike master plan, or a station at First Hill, or the full implementation of the Move Seattle bus plans, but we have money for a tunnel that won’t improve the transit system one bit? It is crazy.

      2. “That could pay for the entire bike master plan and a a good chunk of missing sidewalks.”

        I think it’s really important to point out that isn’t the case. Money for streetcars and light rail get $1 for $1 match from Washington DC. The same isn’t true for other uses.

        There is a massive massive difference between the money spent at the federal level and the money spent at the local (state/special district/municipality) level. Local money has to be taxed first and then spent. Federal grant money is entirely new money imported into the community without a tax offset. Massively more stimulative for that reason.

      3. Yeah, but wouldn’t the bike network and sidewalks be a fraction of the $700M? It is embarrassing how many main thoroughfares don’t have sidewalks. Very evident when you cross from Shoreline in to Seattle on pretty much any route. Something’s not right when Seattle has to catch up to *Shoreline* on pedestrian infrastructure!

    3. Headtax, here we come?. If Big Tech opposes, does the council have the guts to say/bluff without it, we revote N.King with Ballard to UW instead of the Kubly special (built much sooner than a second tunnel? Sounds drastic, but Amazon has already moved jobs to the east side.

      1. Other companies will fill the offices if Amazon leaves. SLU is still the place where highrises are allowed. Companies that want to go to the Northgate urban center will have to go to SLU because the only lot zoned for highrises is the mall lot and the mall owner plans a lowrise building.

      2. I hope not. Property tax = wealth tax. It’s the most progressive funding option there is.

      3. Amazon is going nowhere. While they have opted to expand in Bellevue they still have several million square feet of office space under construction in Seattle.

        There is a huge gap between “slow expansion in Seattle”, “stop expanding in Seattle”, and “move out of Seattle entirely”.

      4. More likely, a special district property tax like with the waterfront. Gotta wonder how those area residents and businesses will feel when they get the bill for (mostly unnecessary) gold plating that *they* insisted on.

    4. The subarea budgets with updated projected revenues and projected expenses probably show — on the revenues side — almost double the estimate shown on the ballot measure. The board may need to spend about $34 billion In tax revenue in the North King subarea on ST3 projects and services, and the additional debt capacity could add billions to that figure.

      When will the Financial Plan the ST3 financial policies require be disclosed by the agency?

      https://st32.blob.core.windows.net/media/Default/Document%20Library%20Featured/8-22-16/ST3_Appendix-B_2016_web.pdf

      Let’s see how much $$$ the board has to “play with” in the North King subarea!

  2. If Dow and Lisa are going to come out in favor of a tunnel for West Seattle, they should have the courage of their convictions to put forth a levy or some sort of financing plan for the tunnel, and elected representatives and the Council person for Ballard should do likewise for a tunnel or a fixed bridge. They should not expect find some extra money laying around to play for them, nor should they pilfer other subareas for money, nor should they expect the Port of Seattle to make up the difference.

  3. This reads as if there is no consensus.

    If that’s the case, I have to wonder how well the current study feedback over the last 1.5 years has worked. It’s clear that the approach of rushing to project definition wasn’t the right one.

    I do think that the process gives too much credit to stakeholders rather than future riders. Even if stakeholders will someday ride Link, they are charged first and foremost to protect their interests rather than those of the riders.

    Imagine a world where a riders committee was chosen based on citizens being interviewed about their knowledge of both Seattle and of using rail systems elsewhere. Then, that committee would be honing alternatives before the stakeholders see it. If that had been done, I think the excitement for a great consensus solution would have emerged.

    1. “This reads as if there is no consensus…..It’s clear that the approach of rushing to project definition wasn’t the right one.”

      That was my take after reading this piece too. Additionally, the OP’s included commentary of ‘The change in tone suggested that King and Snohomish officials are much more closely aligned (as it were) on the expense of the future system’ is kind of a head-scratcher for me. Snohomish County officials’ position on funding things not included in the voter-approved plan has been very consistent from where I’m sitting.

    2. To say it another way, projects need fans! By having the focus on negative things like neighborhood impacts and huge extra costs, a project develops into a negative vibe. ST basically has cultivated a negative vibe here.

      Had ST had an active riders committee in on the project, they could have created a more positive vibe to then present to the public. A core group of excited advocates could carry the project past all the haters. By not building rider fans, ST set themselves up for this.

      Take the microcosm of the ID. Rather than inspire the neighborhood fans with ways to feature the community, they put the energy in discussing disrupting people’s lives.

    3. I absolutely think it was the correct approach. Getting NIMBY voices out there as soon as possible. We need to get all the community challenges we can out on the table.

      The Ballard Link drawbridge is dead for now, which I think is a win for transit advocates.

      1. NIMBY voices appear no matter what. The missing element here is the lack of cultivating the non-NIMBY people who can counter the negative NIMBY types to move the project along and make it better. This is the big mistake I’m talking about.

    4. The thing is the only stakeholders who are physically, materially losing something are the owners and tenants of the buildings in West Seattle that would get demolished. This factor could be eliminated by going elevated over Fauntleroy–which no one would argue is the most “scenic” part of West Seattle. It seems that most of controversy could have been avoided by just sticking with the original representative alignment and staying over the major roads. If you want it to point south for further extension (to what?), then instead of making the turn on to Alaska ST follow the curve and put the station just south of Alaska St. and people could walk 6 minutes to The Junction.

      CID issue is mainly with the construction, but if I remember correctly, the actual road closure would only be a few months (another streetcar construction, this is not), and construction staging and all that comes with it would still be necessary for building the deep tunnel station. And quite possibly a longer total period of construction!

  4. If West Seattle and Ballard get tunnels, they better upzone the whole area and triple the density.

    Spending an extra billion (or so) dollars to protect a few single famly homes is a ridiculous waste of money.

    Who are we kidding though? We all know exactly how this is going to end.

    #SeattleProcess

    1. Exactly! Seattle urbanists should start pushing NOW to require a quarter-mile walkshed upzone to at least 150’ if the tunnel to West Seattle is selected. The thought of having single-family homes literally a 200-foot walk from a subway station is certifiably insane.

      And given the Port’s concerns with regard to the impacts of any bridge on Fisherman’s Terminal, it should be funding the tunnel in Ballard.

      1. I’ve long said that optional tunnels should only be supported if tall buildings (over 150 if not 200 feet) are allowed. The question should not be tunnel or elevated, but tunnel+200-foot buildings or elevated+65-foot buildings.

      2. Tsk, tsk there are quite a few single family homes – some used for AIRBNB purposes – within a 15 minute walkshed of SkyTrain stations in the Metro Vancouver area ;-).

        I do believe strongly that upzoning is a must. Otherwise the suburbanization of not just poverty but the middle class is going to spiral and spiral making providing transit more inefficient, more polarization between the cities and the suburbs (never a good thing), etcetera. Housing for all who work for it please.

  5. The Weast Seattle, Ballard alignment is bringing back bad memories of the failed Monorail project.

    1. That $2.1 billion fixed price design/build/operate contract is looking better and better.

  6. It seems like the elected leadership group would rather delay the project and spend money on frivolous things than actually take a stand for transit. I’m all for raising revenue, but there’s no sense in throwing the money at upper middle class NIMBYs instead of the transit system as a whole.

  7. There’s an old saying: if your choices are fast, good, and cheap, you have to pick two. If the electeds follow through on their bold talk, Sound Transit will be able to build a Link system that can leave cheap behind.

    Which will also likely mean it won’t be good. Spending billions for changes that don’t improve the transit system means there is less to spend on things that do. The tunnels won’t make the trips faster if they go to the same stops. Moving stops to worse locations — like putting the I. D. station much deeper underground, or the Dravus station 3 blocks from Dravus — just shows that many of our leaders are oblivious when it comes to transit.

    1. Agreed. Also worth noting: We’re not going to spend billioms on those features. It’s just not going to happen.

      It’s just irresponsible pandering that will slow down project delivery.

      1. Eh, Seattle Subway could have fought harder for Ballard to UW, and avoided this inevitable cluster$#@& -. Gee, a dispute on how to cross the ship canal, who would have thought?

        Amazon is now moving jobs to the east side– will an SLU stop be important in 20 years (as opposed to Ballard and UW)?

      2. This comment contains a lot of why I stopped commenting here a while back (though I’ve dipped my toe back in recently.)

        You really think SLU is on the verge of implosion as a job center? If that happens the city will have far bigger problems than arguing over a transit line. Also: No, it isn’t.

        If you are under the impression that Seattle Subway didn’t go to the mat to get Ballard/UW included in ST3, you are either confused or misinformed.

        I, *personally*, managed to piss off quite a few people in power behind the scenes over that and over grade separation to Ballard.

        We won on one and not on the other.

      3. Implosion? No. But a stop that was never subject to public comment/open houses other than blog postings?

        As a former donater to Seattle Subway, I don’t have the power to lobby/interview SDOT heads– I entrusted that to Seattle Subway and this blog. This is what we got.

        So, will Seattle Subway release a copy of correspondence to Kubly discussing Ballard to UW prior to the SDOT proposal? A copy of meeting notes with Kubly?

      4. Seattle Subway definitely lobbied for a Ballard to UW subway. The fought hard, but they simply lost.

        Seattle Subway’s biggest failing is the same failing with leadership in general: they can’t seem to prioritize. The Ballard to West Seattle subway will be good. But it will be very expensive, and could be extremely expensive (if extra tunnels are built). By and large, Seattle Subway has lived the same ridiculous fantasy as much of the leadership, which is that we can build everything. We can’t. No city our size has ever done that. Even cities much bigger than us eventually struggle. A big part of getting the things that are really important and cost effective (like Ballard to UW) is rejecting things that are not (like West Seattle rail). To be fair, Seattle Subway — and Keith himself — fought for another bus tunnel. But the fight was halfhearted, and ended almost before it began. This is probably because Seattle Subway felt like a subway, by very definition, was better. More importantly, they assumed we would eventually have it all. This sort of thinking persists, as they have managed to eliminate (at least in the minds of the politicians) one of the few money saving options for Ballard: a movable bridge. A tunnel might be better for some, but it will certainly be more expensive. Of course the city could build an Aurora style bridge next to the Ballard bridge, but there is a reason why it was rejected before the vote: lots of people would hate it. The politicians understand this, which is why if they have their way, it will mean an underground line at the same mediocre stop (at 15th). That means no improvement in travel time for riders and, in my opinion, a degradation in the experience (I personally would rather ride above it all).

        Spending extra building things that improve transit only a little bit (or in many cases, not at all) means you have less to spend on more important things. Seattle Subway has never seemed to understand that, although I give them credit for fighting for that concept recently.

      5. A subway, by definition, *is* better than a bus in any form. But like you said above, we can’t afford to put a subway everywhere.

    2. You seem to hate the Thorndyke Station as much as you do Fourteenth. Don’t you understand that the buses from Magnolia have to go somewhere else after they transfer passengers to Link? They can’t turn around at 14th NW and NW Dravus.

      Thorndyke allows a “straight shot” onto Nickerson or the Ballard Bridge using the Emerson interchange. There is a stairway in the Bertona right of way to the east of Fifteenth that could be connected across Fifteenth giving an peaceful pedestrian access from the westside slopes of Queen Anne Hill. There is already a large apartment building in the block south of Bertona, and north of the street is empty. There is some TOD opportunity in the triangle of Bertona, Thorndyke and Fifteenth NW.

      I grant that riders from the eastside slope of Magnolia Hill would suffer from a two block longer walk, but your vitriol about the bus access seems, bluntly, way out of proportion to the problem.

      1. Thorndyke allows a “straight shot” onto Nickerson or the Ballard Bridge using the Emerson interchange.

        No it doesn’t. This is where Thorndyke ends: https://goo.gl/maps/A7BK4gEdN7JeMvhf8. As you can see, it is well below, and completely disconnected from the Emerson interchange. It is a dead end from both a pedestrian and bus standpoint. A walk from Magnolia takes longer,and a walk from Queen Anne takes longer. Yes, theoretically could build a pedestrian bridge. But they probably won’t. The city has no history of correcting station placement mistakes made by Sound Transit. There is no pedestrian bridge from the Mount Baker transit center to the Mount Baker Station. The only elevated pedestrian walkway is the infamous one further south, forcing pedestrians to go up, down and then back up to catch a train (unless they want to risk getting punched by a cop).

        No, it wouldn’t be the end of the world if people have to walk an extra four blocks, every time they transfer from the bus to a train (https://goo.gl/maps/U6RAfG2XvJyLeoun9), or walk an extra four blocks every time they walk from Magnolia or the side of Queen Anne to the station (https://goo.gl/maps/1BYjZzU9eEyhW5fa8). But it is still worse, and we get nothing out of it. If you told me that the plan was to move the Ballard Station to 20th, but that we had to move the Dravus station blocks away from Dravus, I would say it is worth it. But in this case, that isn’t the plan at all. The plan is to have the Ballard Station in the same weak location (or even worse, at 14th) while the Dravus station will be significantly worse, while still spending hundreds of millions more!

        This is what happens when politicians are clueless to the realities of transit. They propose ridiculous ideas (like a tunnel to 14th) while ignoring cost effective improvements (like a tunnel to 20th). They ignore important details, like the time it takes to actually get to the station, while they focus on who knows what.

      2. Oh, for Heaven’s sake, Ross get real. They’re going to spend north of a billion and a half dollars on Ballard Link north of Smith Cove, even for your Chicago El plan down the middle of 15th West. They can spend $40 million on a bus ramp.

        The Nickerson west to Fifteenth south ramp is right behind those two yellowish containers against the hill directly ahead in the photo you linked. It rises from below the far crossing beyond the middle tree in the photo. It’s absolutely easy and almost no cost except for paving to connect it to Thorndyke in which the Google truck is driving. And right next to it there is plenty of room to build a bus-only two lane ramp up to a junction at the apex of the west side curve on “Nickerson Street” (the overhead). That connects Thorndyke to the Ballard-Bridge directly in both directions and to Nickerson eastbound.

        Because of that Nickerson west to Fifteenth South ramp you wouldn’t even need a new left turns on the Nickerson Bridge Buses from 15th southbound get off at the Emerson west ramp and turn left onto “Nickerson” then turn right onto the new ramp to the station. Returning they go up the ramp and turn right onto Nickerson. It would be a good idea to have it right turn only with a widened merge section. The same path would be followed by buses returning to Nickerson.

        If the left turn at the Emerson/Nickerson intersection, which is a three-way stop, is questionable, then southbound buses from 15th can just turn at Bertona to get to the station. Then you only need a single-lane ramp up to Nickerson.

        P.S. Sorry to break this news to you, but the Chicago El ain’t gonna’ happen. There is no way the City of Seattle is going to settle for two years of building pylons down the middle of 15th West and putting an elevated station over the Dravus overpass when there is a crossing-free, grade level right of way available two blocks to the west. So the station is going to be at 17th West even if it ends up being just north of Dravus to improve walking access. I agree that generally speaking, the closer to Dravus the better because of that walking access from East Magnolia but I still think that West Queen Anne hill residents would rather cross 15th on their own pedestrian bridge and approach the station from Bertona. At least, those north of Dravus. There is a caveat though. Dravus is one level above the trackway; I’d personally like to see the station between Dravus and Bertona, but that would mean completely removing five or six businesses in the trapezoid shaped block between Dravus, the railroad tracks, Bertona, and 17th West.

        But whether the station is north (as shown in diagrams) or south of Bertona, it will not be at 15th West. Period. So “the walk from Queen Anne” won’t be “four blocks farther. It will depend entirely how far from Bertona or Dravus a given home lies.

        Unfortunately, one of the best properties in the southeast block of 15th and Dravus is occupied by a stupid self-storage mid-rise. What a waste.

      3. I just realized that you don’t understand that the buses from Magnolia will turn on 17th; that people will have to walk from 17th and Dravus to the station. You believe that they’ll stay on Dravus to 15th and turn north there. You know, there are new things being built in Seattle that don’t have steel rails these days, right?

      4. By the way, I do happen to agree that in the best of all possible world, putting an underground station at 20th West and Market (or even 17th West) would be better than either 14th or 15th NW and Market. I even agree that 15th would be marginally better than 14th because of the all-day nature of the ridership to the Ballard Triangle.

        My argument about 15th is the existence of the two buildings north of Market. They make a station above the intersection impossible.

      5. This discussion illustrates the problem with the entire current study effort. The maps keep showing just where the platforms are proposed. There are no station layouts. I don’t think there has been any visualizations made either (noting that visualizations from Fife have been created even though that segment is not as far along in the study process).

        This study process and deliverables is the core problem here. Entire conceptual stations should be laid out and refined —complete with cost estimates. Doing it this way is as bad a planning a complex urban freeway with just a dot for each interchange.

      6. @Tom — You could easily connect the southbound ramp to Thorndyke. That much is true. It might cost some money (the city doesn’t own the property) but probably not a lot. But northbound you are talking a major overpass, in an area that can’t even afford a new bridge. Seriously, how much enthusiasm do you think there will be towards building an expensive bus-only bridge (largely for Magnolia), right after a new bridge is built for Magnolia? Again, this is in a city that has done nothing about the fact that the Mount Baker Station is also about four minutes away from the buses (at a much bigger transit nexus). Oh, and do you think that Sound Transit, after blowing its wad on tunnels, is about to chip in for a new bus ramp? In your dreams, dude.

        No, Metro will either just let people walk, or make a 50 style detour. If it is the former, then people walk an extra four minutes (like they do at Mount Baker and UW Station). If it is the latter, then Metro spends extra service hours on the bus route, people wait an extra couple minutes to get on the train (while the bus waits to turn left), and through-riders endure extra time looping around the station. Either way it would mean once again shooting ourselves in the foot, even if it only takes out a toe.

      7. Oh, and beyond the cost, the overpass idea has other flaws. You create another service hole. I know you really don’t seem to care that people have to walk an extra five minutes, but it really is important (you can read various studies about it). Anyway, if you live on west Queen Anne next to Dravus, right now you can walk down the street and catch a bus to the U-District, downtown or Ballard. You will still be able to do that, but need to walk an extra five minutes (https://goo.gl/maps/pFgrMV9F6GZDwnYu5). Likewise, if you live up the road, and your closest stop is Emerson, you have to just keep walking before you can catch a bus (https://goo.gl/maps/pFgrMV9F6GZDwnYu5). That is assuming that Metro can find space for a stop there. Your little detour added nothing, but subtracted two very good bus stops.

        Meanwhile, what happens when the bridge goes up? You may not know it, but the Emerson overpass is routinely congested when a bridge goes up. In contrast, the right lane of northbound 15th (which consists of drivers headed towards SPU and Fremont) is not a problem. The only existing problem is Dravus itself.

        But that can be solved when they build a new Magnolia Bridge. It is quite likely that the new bridge will be built just a little bit south of the Dravus bridge (since that is the cheapest option). At that point, the new bridge could be general purpose two lanes each direction, while the new bridge (the one with buses on it) could have one general purpose lane, and one bus lane each direction. Once you did that, a bus could avoid all congestion, whether it is caused by rush hour traffic, or a bridge going up. It would be ironic for the bus to then avoid the nice bus lane just so it could get stuck in Emerson overpass traffic.

      8. Yes, the bus service is “mostly just for Magnolia”; that’s certainly true. And you may be right that Metro will refuse to divert to serve a Thorndyke Station and folks would have to walk. That’s pretty self-defeating, but entirely possible. But the example of Mt. Baker isn’t really all that germane. Metro can’t do anything about the lack of a pedestrian bridge there, and it can’t divert into the station northbound because there’s no access to the north behind the buildings fronting Rainier.

        But I don’t think you’re giving enough importance to the simple fact that the City of Seattle is not going to agree to building an elevated railroad down the middle of Fifteenth West when a perfectly good and less-expensive right-of-way which is largely already publicly owned exists two blocks to the west. Rather than decrying the station location at Thorndyke, you should be agitating to get it placed underneath Dravus, straddling the street so that people heading into Magnolia climb up the north side set of stairs and those heading toward SPU and Fremont climb up the south side set. Vice-versa and down for folks heading to downtown of course. That’s the best station location of all, though it still means that people from West Queen Anne have to cross Fifteenth at Dravus, with two stoplights, instead of on their own bridge a (long) block away.

        Yes, they will have to walk two blocks farther, but folks from Magnolia will have to walk two blocks less, and there’s plenty of opportunity for big apartments on the east slope of Magnolia. There’s not much of a view to be obstructed and apartments are already springing up as far west as 22nd.

        You will not get your cherished Chicago El on Fifteenth West. I’ll bet you $100.

  8. Sound Transit entered this effort with clear eyes and a fine goal: Speed up ST3 delivery, which is a very popular outcome, by limiting EIS optioms in advance.

    Sadly, Seattle process killed it. We’re headed for full EIS and post EIS wrangling and hand wringing.

    On the plus side: The drawbridge is dead: Hoorah!

    1. I wouldn’t celebrate the death of the drawbridge unless you know what is replacing it. If the drawbridge is dead, then we will likely spend a lot more money on things that won’t make a bit of difference to transit users. The station at Dravus will likely be three blocks away from Dravus, which means that the system, overall, will be worse. There is a reason why cities like New York, Boston and Chicago don’t replace their mass transit movable bridges, even when they make major changes to them. There are better things to spend money on.

      1. A high bridge is alive, affordable within the ST3 plan, and will make a positive difference for transit riders. Particularly future transit riders as the system expands.

        You can poo poo the impact of regular/random 5 minute delays and an occasional long/breakdown delay all you want but you can’t deny it’s an impact and a risk.

        Places like NYC and Boston don’t replace things because their systems have been chronically underfunded this last half century or so.

      2. What five minute delay?!! This is exactly the type of unfounded fear mongering I’m talking about. It doesn’t take 11 minutes for a fifty-foot sailboat to cross! Not even close. Look, I’ve seen it. I used to work at the former lumber mill (as a security guard). I’ve watched the Ballard bridge open literally hundreds of times. Years later I worked in Fremont, and saw that bridge open hundreds of times (by the way, it opens a lot more). Most of the time, the bridge is open for way less than six minutes. The rare occasion when it wasn’t, was when a little boat arrived a bit late, and the operator decided to let him in. That would never happen with this bridge. All but the biggest sailboats will just go right under it. The big ones that do cause an opening will be all alone, and have plenty of horsepower to get under the span quickly.

        Places like NYC and Boston don’t replace things because their systems have been chronically underfunded this last half century or so.

        You are missing the point. New York City, Chicago and Boston *do* make major investments in infrastructure. This includes subway infrastructure. But they don’t bother replacing movable bridges because it isn’t that important. Even when they have to do a major rework on a bridge (like in Chicago) or a major new set of rail lines (in Boston) they just work with the old bridge. That would be a wonderful time to just dig a hole, and not worry about the issue. But in both those cases they realized it simply isn’t worth the money. They — like us — have better things to spend their money on.

        Oh, and if they built a big, giant bridge I will be thrilled. But it is crazy to reject a sensible idea, when there are so many ridiculous ones on the table. It would be great if the last three options were a big bridge to 15th, a movable bridge to 15th, and a tunnel to 20th. Then we could talk about the big bridge. But misinformed fear mongering — specifically the ridiculous idea that delays will be common and significant — has emboldened those that want to dig a tunnel, even if the tunnel is at the same spot (or worse)! That is what happens when you fight for the wrong thing. It becomes even more likely that we build something that isn’t as good.

    2. People support speeding up ST3 delivery because they assume a good ST3 alignment. It slows down once people are faced with details. I’m happy to slow down delivery if it results in a better alignment. They delay is only bad if it results in a poor alignment decision.

      1. There is some time available because ST was trying to rush the process to make a decision right away. Not many people here would mind if the West Seattle stub slips a few years. It was alway sfolly to open a West Seattle stub to SODO five years before downtown was ready.

        A high bridge might led to 14th Avenue station. This needs to be addressed directly if we’re advocating against a Ballard tunnel.

      2. We did some polling on our Facebook page and requested that only West Seattle residents/workers/frequent visitors respond. It’s non scientific and I’m sure some people cheated but it’s still notable with over 500 respondents in under 24 hours.

        4-1 favored elevated in 2030 over tunnel in 2040.

        If we only poll people who are impacted (which is who shows up with pitchforks when plans are being made) you get a pretty different answer including many who don’t care about the transit at all acting in bad faith.

        Pandering to that might be good politics, but it doesn’t help anyone.

      3. “If we only poll people who are impacted (which is who shows up with pitchforks when plans are being made) you get a pretty different answer including many who don’t care about the transit at all acting in bad faith.”

        The design of the decision process does exactly this. Impact-focused stakeholders. Few crowded public meetings where the few transit advocates that suggest rider- focused choices are drowned out by a tidal wave of impacted people. Alternatives that don’t come with visualizations unless it’s to inform about identified negative impacts.

        I appreciate Seattle Subway’s willingness to vision an operating system and make that the primary purpose. Without that, there would be no group building excitement for a useful system for riders. (TCC and TRU seemed to be compromised by other priorities.) Thanks for being there!

      4. Thank you Keith. I am deeply upset with those spewing paranoia about an elevated line. TransLink in Vancouver, BC does elevated lines with housing right next to the lines and businesses both next to and under the SkyTrain lines – such as around Nanaimo Station: https://flic.kr/p/2fGxN7x . This is just straight paranoia that any good public servant should be able to rebut with vigor.

        In an era of great transit power friendly competition between at least TransLink, Sound Transit, Community Transit, and BART this is the time for courage my friends. Courage.

  9. A tunnel or fixed bridge would likely cost more than a movable bridge, but would allow for much faster and more reliable service on the Ballard line.

    Have you bothered to do any research to back up that claim? I realize you are not a reporter, but that just seems like a very lazy comment. You didn’t even bother to find a picture of a light rail or subway bridge.

    Here are some questions to get you started: How often will it open? How long does it take for it to open and close? How long does it take for a tall ship (the type of ship that would cause this to open) to pass through the span? We know that a tall ship won’t go through the span during rush hour — when do large ships typically go through? What are the planned headways for the train? From a bridge operators perspective, wouldn’t it make sense for the trains to be timed so that they cross the bridge at roughly the same time (a northbound train would leave Interbay at the same time a southbound train would leave Ballard)? That being the case, an operator would simply wait for the trains to cross, then have a gap equal to the train headways (e. g. six minutes). It seems like just about any boat that size can get through the gap in six minutes.

    In terms of maintenance, what has been the record of subway bridges over the years? How does a bridge compare to other projects, like simply maintaining the track. Speaking of which, didn’t we have a reduction in service because of track problems a little while back? Is it easier to work on track that is above ground, or underground (or does it not make a difference)? The escalators have broken down a lot at times making stations useless — how much would it cost to upgrade all the escalators compared to building a tunnel?

    1. Ross, do you know why we stopped building drawbridges in favor of taller bridges or tunnels?

      I could be wrong, but wasn’t 520 the last new movable bridge built in WA?

      (Hood Canal and Spokane Street being rebuilds)

  10. Before anything more happens, the City of Seattle needs to decide whether it is going to become a city of more than a million residents or not. If it doesn’t want to do so, then why do any part of North King’s ST3 project list other than the second downtown tunnel? Seriously. Once all the express buses from Snohomish County, East King and South King west of the Green River Valley are gone, there will be plenty of room on downtown Seattle streets for buses to and from Ballard and West Seattle.

    Removing West Seattle means that the Red Line doesn’t need to take the Busway, so the “100’s” from east of I-5 could still run into the City Center relatively easily.

    The only real justification for spending the $5 billion or so for Ballard and West Seattle Link is to allow the neighborhoods north of Smith Cove and west of the West Seattle Bridge to become more dense and urban. If they choose not to do so, it’s money pissed away.

    If the City is willing to upzone — seriously upzone — the station end-points, then the Red Line from IDS south and west should be built. It should be “stacked” at the two turns west for possible future extensions to South King and White Center/Burien. But if West Seattle says “No deal” to ten story buildings for three blocks on either side of Fauntleroy Way and Alaska between the Avalon and Junctions Stations, then just don’t spend any of the money south of IDS.

    Similarly, if Ballard is not willing to scrape the small-bore industrial muddle between Eighth and Fifteenth north to 60th and put fifteen story buildings there, don’t go north of Smith Cove. Instead build an elegant bus-intercept there and send the D Line through SLU to First Hill.

    So far as a Fourth Avenue alignment at IDS, Fourth is simply not reasonable geometrically unless the existing tunnel is re-routed through the new western platform, and that makes connection to the Eastside ramps a whole lot harder to accomplish.

    The platforms at Midtown must be higher than Pioneer Square and University Street in order to make access to the street far up the hill reasonable, and there’s a pretty sizable grade already on the DSTT. If the new tunnel has to underrun the existing trackway somewhere north of Jackson and then climb to an elevation at Midtown that makes access practical, the grade would be on the order of seven percent. That IS doable with Siemens LRV’s, but just barely. It’s a poor design that assumes daily operation at the extreme capabilities of machinery.

    First things first. Decide what Seattle wants to be and build transit to serve that vision.

    1. Um, er, ah, I guess you didn’t read that ST3 passed. Link in Ballard and WS is a forgone conclusion.

      1. Not if it costs too much. The ends of the new lines, at a minimum, will be trimmed, because getting to the end points requires a water crossing in both extensions.

        It doesn’t make sense yo go to Dravus or Thorndyke if the line doesn’t also cross the Ship Canal. But there is a case for going to Smith Cove, Expedia. So put a decent bus intercept there.

        West Seattle is a bit less black and white, because there are three stations ob the destination side of the water crossing.

        Ending at Avalon might be perfectly acceptable. Buses from farther west would just go through The Junction on their way to Avalon, doing “double duty” by performing the local shuttle service to the neighborhood core along the way.

        But that probably would not be politically acceptable. So if the budget won’t “stretch” doing anything south of IDS becomes fruitless.

        IDS to Smith Cove is essential for the continued health of Downtown Seattle which pats for everything else.

  11. Wow, they want an option that avoids taking away people’s homes. The horror. How evil.

    1. Oh look, a politician who wants to spend someone else’s money to benefit a small but vocal group of people.

      No one is celebrating the taking of people’s homes. It’s just the cost per dwelling saving (~$7M/home per The Urbanist) is simply irresponsible.

    1. Um, er, ah, since the “tunnels” are to be for trains, they do already charge a “toll”. Only it’s called a “fare”. I gather you intend to add a surcharge for going to West Seattle or Ballard? I think you’d be cutting off your pantograph to spite your windshield.

      1. Um, er, ah, since riders are paying tolls, oh excuse me, fares, maybe they can increase the “fares” for those lines. Transit lines charge more on different routes all the time. Go figure Einstein, you learn something new everyday.

      2. Generally they charge differential fares for different levels of service or have distance-based charges for everyone. Transit systems don’t usually penalize riders of a particular line, be it bus or train.

        I doubt the legislature would allow that, Less.

  12. Excellent news. This is just one step on the way to getting the LR system that Seattle deserves. I have absolutely no objection to a tunnel on the east side of the Ballard bridge. Dig it and put the station on 14th and watch the TOD begin.

    If the city needs to chip in some of its own funds to make this happen then so be it. Just do it right, and do it right the first time.

    1. A station at 14th is a horrible idea. A Ballard station should actually serve Ballard. Furthermore any attempt to upzone east of 14th is going to run into a huge fight.

      If there is a tunnel the station worst case needs to be near 15th with entrances on both sides of both 15th and Market. Even better would be one further west.

      As far as I’m concerned if the station ends up at 14th it would be better to stop the line at Smith Cove and call it good.

      1. A station on 14th has a lot going for it. Less construction disruption, lower traffic disruption, better transit integration, better potential for future TOD.

        Yes, putting it at 14th is one block further from the current center of Ballard, but when building a transit system for the future, you really need to consider the FUTURE. You can’t ignore the past, but that can’t be the only thing you consider. You need to consider the future!

        The future of Ballard is east of 15th.

      2. I broadly agree with Lazarus, in part because the intersection of Fifteenth and Market is so enclosed to the north that providing any sort of elevated access to the north side of Market is probably not possible. Further the station shown in the Level 2 visualization in the southeast quadrant appears not even to have an elevated crossing of 15th NW. That means that folks headed to Central Ballard will have to walk from the station straddling 54th either south to 53rd or north to Market. The station entrance at 54th even shows the stairs pointing northward so folks headed for 53rd from the middle of the train are starting almost at Market. That’s not as far as from a station straddling Market at 14th, but not that much closer. So everyone’s paeans to being closer to “Old Ballard” fall on rather deaf ears at Sound Tranist.

        Then, too, a station in the southeast quadrant absolutely cannot turn east to become “Ballard-UW”. The visualization shows stub tracks to the north, but I’ll bet $50 that if the station is placed there the apartment on the northeast corner of the intersection will sue to get the stub tracks eliminated because the east side one will be ten feet from the front of the building, and so the station will forever end at Market.

  13. After reading this and waiting for the video, I think Seattle is going to have to have its own substantial transit taxing authority that the rest of the state cannot touch but apply to have for their municipalities. Frankly what I dream of is this taxing authority eventually allow Seattle to pay for its own MUNI-esque lines without having to beg state legislators from Cowitz and Island Counties for permission.

    Also obvious but worth stating: I have little faith in our Congressional Delegation to give Sound Transit its fair share of federal aid and stop the accretion of wealth to the 5% via tax cuts instead of paying for building world-class transit. Frankly our Congressional Delegation should have the federal government pay 25% of the ST3 bill instead of paying a future bill to widen I-5 – and while we’re at it cut the size of the tax code so Amazon pays its fair share of federal taxes to pay for all this transit and law enforcement and fire protection Amazonians truly, genuinely need.

    1. Joe, I truly appreciate your comments (and have over the years), but don’t you think it’s a bit unfair to ask Seattle residents to pay taxes to build roads in Spokane, Ferry, or Clark counties but then also have to tax ourselves in addition to that to pay for a transit system that meets our needs? I honestly don’t mind the second part and have supported local taxation authority to do so, but it’s only fair then that if counties outside the Seattle metro area want to build roads they can also pay for them themselves. The state has abrogated its responsibilities when it comes to funding transit (we’re somewhere on the level of Mississippi where it comes to that), and we need to find ways to work with other areas of the state to fix that – or to make them pay for their own goodies too. Much of the state operates under the toddler principle of “what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is mine” when it comes to getting taxes approved and projects paid for on the backs of Seattle-area voters and taxpayers.

  14. Problem could be solved if ST backed away from their no buildings, no how under our tracks policy.

  15. In the grand scheme of thing why not take all the options through the EIS and then When you go to select the final alignment you will have that much more information to make a final decision. At this point there is going to be a fair amount of price change based on how preliminary every thing is and with more information you have a better chance of a voiding litigation from a community group.

    1. That seems to be Durkan’s strategy. It’s unclear whether the politicians really want the tunnel options and more expensive Intl Dist alignments, or whether they just want to study them now so they can say we studied them but they weren’t persuasive.

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