Link service to Everett remains 17 years away from its estimated completion date, but the narrowing of station options is already progressing at the county level. Snohomish County is soliciting another round of public comments for its light rail station subarea plans, which cover the two stations in unincorporated area between Lynnwood and Everett: Ash Way (164th Street Southwest) and Mariner (128th Street Southwest). These two stations mark the end of the “easy” section of Everett Link, with an opportunity to open early if the stars align.
The second open house, which we reported on in November, drew 3,000 online visitors and narrowed down the set of options per station from three to two. Respondents to surveys about both stations also ranked their priorities in choosing station options, placing Swift and bus connections above the likes of sidewalk/trail access, TOD opportunities, and bike access. The responses from this third open house will be used to shape the subarea plan that will be presented by the county to Sound Transit for further consideration, which will likely involve a good deal being lost to the Seattle process.
The remaining options at Mariner Station are at 8th Avenue West and the yet-unbuilt 130th Street Southwest, leaving out an option that was deemed too close to Interstate 5. The 8th Avenue concept places an elevated station that is parallel to the north side of 128th Street Southwest, which would be crossed by a pedestrian overpass to reach the south side of the street and its southbound Swift Green Line station.
Both options have a park and ride garage would be built up against the freeway interchange and require a short walk along a new east-west circulator street, named 130th Street Southwest. Bus connections would be moved on-street or the new circulator to facilitate re-use of the current transit center for new development. The county’s concept also envisions a central park or greenspace surrounded by multi-story apartment and condo buildings, along with a bike-and-pedestrian trail underneath the elevated tracks.
The other Mariner Station option, at the new 130th Street Southwest just south of the 8th Avenue option, would be more pedestrian-friendly at the cost of bus connections. The north-south station would have perpendicular connections to buses, which would stop at 130th. The concept also proposes a new overpass along 130th to the east side of Interstate 5, which would carry a connection to the Interurban Trail as well as Swift Green Line buses without the burden of crossing interchange traffic. As a bonus, it would also provide better connections to a local medical clinic and newer apartments that were recently built on the southeast side of the interchange.
Overall, both options present a very attractive plan that looks quite similar to some of the suburban stations on Vancouver’s SkyTrain in Burnaby and New Westminster, which utilize mezzanine-level bridges to cross wide streets and connect to nearby development. While not at the same scale (Burnaby’s stations famously have clusters of 40-story residential highrises), it would be a welcome addition to the area, which does have a relatively dense collection of housing around the existing retail center. The 130th option would be more expensive and complex due to the need for a new overpass, but would have greater long-term benefits for both sides of the freeway while also shielding bus transferees from waiting along the six-lane stroad on 128th.
Ash Way Station
Further south at the future Ash Way Station, half of survey respondents chose the existing park-and-ride on the west side of Interstate 5 as their preferred location instead of a similar spot to the south along 164th Street Southwest, which was environmentally challenging and had poor walkability. The other, more radical option on the east side of Interstate 5 also made the cut for the next round, with 31 percent of respondents marking it as preferable.
Both of the remaining options also propose completing the existing HOV direct access ramp, which currently only points south towards I-5 and west to the park-and-ride. Adding a north connection, which had been proposed in the early stages of ST2, would eliminate the long and pointless journey around the 164th Street interchange for Routes 512 and 532, which would become especially important once the Everett routes are truncated for Lynnwood Link. The eastern connection, which would also include a pedestrian/bicycle path, would connect to townhomes and retail on the east side of the interchange while also providing a better route for buses bound for Mill Creek, including the future Swift Orange Line.
The park-and-ride option envisions an elevated station along the edge of the freeway that is located at the far reaches of the current parking lot. The bus bays would be moved closer to the freeway under the new platform, subjecting bus riders to even more noise, while the park-and-ride stalls are reorganized between surface and structured parking, possibly in tandem with TOD. As part of the plan, the section of Ash Way south of 164th Street Southwest would be realigned to the west to eliminate turn movements on the street that cause backups through the interchange.
The east side option shows a cut-and-cover tunnel for Link trains and the platform, which would be at the west end of a small collection of multi-story apartment buildings with a small-scale street grid. The parking garage would be on the west side of the cut-and-cover tunnel, while the bus bays would be relocated to the station entrance on the new 162nd Street Southwest, which would continue east towards Martha Lake. Interestingly, this concept also proposes an underground crossing of 164th Street for the Interurban Trail, which would travel directly to the station.
The choice of an ambitious cut-and-cover tunnel is a welcome way of reducing some of the impacts associated with stations next to freeways, namely noise and air pollution for those waiting on the platforms. This option would provide better access for Mill Creek, especially with frequent bus connections via the Swift Orange Line, at the expense of several apartment complexes that were built along Ash Way in the last decade. The Ash Way corridor, however, should still have frequent bus connections of some kind, and would also be served by the pedestrian and bicycle portion of the HOV direct access overpass, so the net benefit would be beneficial for the area as a whole.
The public comment period for the online open house closes on July 31. At the end of the evaluation period, Snohomish County will submit a locally favored option to the Sound Transit Board for their station scoping process, which is set to begin next year for Everett Link. There will be plenty of time to debate and dream about the fates of these two stations, along with those in Alderwood and Everett, before a final decision is made.
Snohomish County is also hosting two in-person open houses that will present the same concepts and content. The first will take place on Thursday, July 18 from 5 to 7 p.m. at Mariner High School; the second will take place on Thursday, July 25 from 5 to 7 p.m. at Oak Heights Elementary School (three blocks north of Ash Way P&R).