Link train crossing the Duwamish (Image: Mike Bjork/Flickr)

Yesterday, the Sound Transit Board adopted a final set of options for the draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) for Link extensions to Ballard and West Seattle. After a contentious discussion that frequently focused on cost challenges, the Board voted down a Pigeon Point tunnel in West Seattle. Options for a central Ballard station at 20th Ave NW were not included in the DEIS either. Lacking support among board members, the central Ballard station was hardly discussed and it was not voted on. 

Two options were added to the DEIS. As expected, the Board approved adding an alternative elevated alignment in the Yancy/Andover corridor area of West Seattle. That would reduce the number of homes to be taken for construction, but also shifts the Delridge station north with inferior station access.

At the meeting, the Board unanimously accepted an amendment to add a partial elevated option in SODO. The added option elevates the new line and stations, with the existing line at grade. It also retains the E3 busway which would disappear with a fully at-grade alignment. A fully at-grade option was among those adopted in May.

In addition to the at grade option already in the DEIS, the Board added a partial elevated option, but rejected a double elevated alignment for the lines through SODO (image: Sound Transit)

Both added options cost no more than the representative alignments. The four options not added after study all had added capital cost (and the Pigeon Point Tunnel would also delay delivering rail to West Seattle).

King County Council Member Joe McDermott offered an amendment to add a Pigeon Point tunnel, citing potential risks to the other alignments in the DEIS. The Pigeon Point tunnel has a direct cost impact of just $200 million, but requires $700 million tunnels to Avalon station. Even though the Avalon tunnels are in the DEIS options adopted in May, suburban board members mostly voted against adding a Pigeon Point tunnel to the DEIS. The motion failed 9-6.

There was virtually no Board discussion of Ballard, though several public commenters advocated for a 20th Ave NW station and others warned against impacts to the industrial areas east of 15th Ave. Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said she would not propose an amendment for 20th Ave options because it lacked the votes to pass. She thought the 20th Ave station would be very beneficial, and decried the lack of time for study. The FTA warned this month about Ballard options with in-water construction (both the fixed and movable bridges). She reiterated support for 15th over 14th because of the latter’s proximity to industrial areas.

Despite the unwillingness yesterday to contemplate options that add cost, the Board had allowed options in May that require third party funding. Up to $1.7 billion of third party funding could be required depending on the option chosen. The Board required in May that any third party funding must be well-defined by end of 2020, and in place by mid-2022. In discussion yesterday, the “well-defined” 3rd party funding was clarified with an analogy to Bellevue. As part of East Link development, a term sheet identifying dollar contributions from City of Bellevue and sources of funding was created. These contributions were finalized after the EIS was completed within the memorandum of understanding (MOU).

Seattle’s determination to postpone third party funding conversations to 2020 was resisted by other Board members, despite a vigorous defense by Joe McDermott. Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier pointed out he was at the end of the line in Pierce County and worried about adding costs to the system. The Board’s priorities should be “ridership, cost and schedule” and any additional funding should go to where there would be new riders. Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling promised to vote against anything that required third party funding. Everett Council Member Paul Roberts described the additional options as not consistent with what the voters approved. They do not address or improve core priorities of the ST3 program, including completing the spine and adding ridership. University Place Mayor Kent Keel, referring to the $900 million total cost at Pigeon Point, said “my eyes roll in the back of my head when I think about that much money”. King County Council Member Claudia Balducci argued a Pigeon Point tunnel option would “create expectations that .. we do not have a path to meet”, and that West Seattle had an adequate number of alternatives for the DEIS.

Sound Transit is targeting a draft EIS by the end of 2020. With added alternatives, staff warned that may slip to the first quarter of 2021.

133 Replies to “Sound Transit Board resists adding Seattle rail options over cost concerns”

    1. That’s not what I read at all. Sounds like the 15th Ave station is still very much under consideration, with support from the mayor.

      1. Either way we get screwed. Either they build a station at 14th or they spend hundreds of millions on a station that is no better than the cheapest option (elevated to 15th). The best option — underground to 20th — is off the table.

      2. 15th has some advantages over 20th in terms of better bus access for people coming from north. Either one is much better than 14th.

        As long as we don’t end up with 14th I’m happy.

      3. From a bus perspective, 20th is a little bit better than 15th, and both are much better than 14th.

        It is complicated, and you have to assume a few changes to the bus routes. To begin with, no bus will go over 15th. A bus that goes down 15th, will turn and head towards the heart of Ballard, likely laying over where the 44 lays over. This will be the case if the station is at 15th or 20th. If a station is at 14th, then this becomes awkward and time consuming, which is why 14th is much worse (I won’t talk any more about 14th — since it is clearly inferior).

        So, with the 15th bus turning and heading towards Ballard, those riders are better off with a stop at 15th. They save a minute or two of sitting time. But they aren’t the only ones riding a bus to the station. You will also have serving on 24th (currently served by the 40 and 18). These riders would benefit if the station was at 20th by roughly the same amount of time that those on 15th are delayed. But there is a bigger issue. If the station is at 20th, then the 40 remains the same. But if the station is at 15th, then it would be modified to serve the station. This means that it takes longer to get to Fremont. It also means that there would be a coverage hole in Old Ballard.

        That is why the edge goes to 20th from a bus interaction standpoint.

      4. Of coursr there will be “changes to the bus routes”. It makes complete sense to truncate the legacy expresses (15X, 17X, 18X and 28X) at the Ballard Station, wherever it is located.

        The Rapid Rides (D and whatever follows the 40) are a different matter. There has to be service along 15th West and to Fremont so they will probably continue, perhaps with necessary reroutes to serve the station. The D would probably continue across SLU on the Republican busway and down Boren, maybe to Jackson. The 40 replacement might do the same down Boren or turn up to Capitol Hill.

      5. Metro’s 2040 plan keeps the 40 and upgrade it to RapidRide. The D is gone; there’s no route that crosses the Ballard Bridge to downtown. An 8 extension goes to just south of the bridge, and to Madison Park on the other end. The north part of the D is converted to a route from the Ballard Fred Meyer to the Lake City Fred Meyer.

      6. Thanks, Mike.

        So, no direct service between 15th West and Ballard except at Expedia and Interbay? Has anyone told Whole Foods about this? A pretty significant retail center is growing around Armory. Just looking at the map I’d bet a good portion of the business comes from Ballard. Not all by any means, but more than a little.

        I certainly recognize the reliability improvement achieved by not crossing the bridge, but these are neighborhoods with long-standing ties. If the D has to die, something should run back and forth, maybe hooking west to Magnolia?

  1. Can’t they just knock down the Walgreens at 15th and market and build the station on the Southwest corner of that intersection ?

    1. I mean, that’s pretty much the representative alignment (elevated West of 15th NW) which is still in the DEIS.

      And looking better and better despite Seattle Subway’s nonsense about a 70′ movable bridge being a “ridership killer.”

      1. Totally agree. The 15th elevated option is by far the best value remaining. It is actually the cheapest option — cheaper than elevated to 14th. It is much cheaper than underground to 14th or 15th.

      2. It is actually the cheapest option — cheaper than elevated to 14th.

        Ross, you keep posting this “14th Elevated costs $100 million more” trope without acknowledging WHY it costs more. The reason is clearly that it accommodates the neighborhood’s nearly universal demand that Link not use an opening bridge.

        Yes, you also “demolish” the need for a high bridge by saying that a 70 foot bridge would almost never open, but the neighborhood remains unimpressed. Read the comments from the occasional commentors from Ballard. They want a high bridge or tunnel, not unreasonably. They’ve been dealing with transit on opening bridges for more than a century.

        If 14th had a 70 foot bridge it would be considerably cheaper. The bridge structure itself would be 1/3 shorter, and there would be NO need for land acquisition north of the Ship Canal. A small parcel would be necessary on the south approach, but it would be an order of magnitude smaller than the linear park that will be required for 15th Elevated (the “Representative Alignment”). A similar small parcel would be required for the RA, and “the seller” has already registered its “unwillingness to sell”. Vociferously.

        The station would fit entirely within the envelope of the 14th Avenue right-of-way.

        Now I grant that if the Green Line were ever extended northward in the future, transitioning to the 15th right of way would be costly. But you have cast doubt on any such extension as unworthy so using that as an argument is disingenuous.

        If 976 passes and is not annulled by the courts, and then the inevitable recession arrives with a stronger bite than expected, Ballard will be lucky to get even a 70 foot opening bridge at 14th. Even that would probably require State highway funds in the form of a joint highway/Link bridge and a 14th/15th one-way couplet between Emerson and 65th.

      3. Read the comments from the occasional commentors from Ballard. They want a high bridge or tunnel, not unreasonably.

        Yes, my point is that those comments are made by people who are apparently as ignorant as you. I’ve read the comments — they make no sense. Your comment captures such ignorance well:

        They’ve been dealing with transit on opening bridges for more than a century.

        What nonsense. Using that logic, we should tunnel all the way from downtown. After all, those riders have been using above ground transit for over a century. You are ignoring the fundamental differences between a bus/car bridge and a train bridge:

        1) There will be no traffic with the train.
        2) Trains don’t come that often, which means that operators will of course open the bridge after they pass.
        3) The bridge will be much higher.

        The point being that it is unlikely that a bridge like this will delay riders in a month, even though the current bridge delays riders every single day. Five minutes after the bridge has opened *and closed*, a bus is delayed by traffic. That won’t happen with a train.

        If 14th had a 70 foot bridge it would be considerably cheaper.

        Maybe, but it would screw over riders in that area. Look, you could have put the U-District Station here: That could have saved a lot of money. People would argue that it integrates better with buses. Others would claim that in twenty years that area would be just as big — if not bigger than the heart of the U-District. They would see one big building in the area, and proclaim that TOD has worked its magic. But of course, that would all be bullshit, just as saying that 14th is as good as 15th or 20th is as good as 15th is bullshit. Keep in mind, that the imaginary “U-District” station is actually *closer* to the real station than 14th is to 20th.

        Look, 15th is a compromise. 15th is the cheap option, for the cheap route. The main reason that the subway line is going through Interbay (one of the longest low density stretches in the city) is because it is cheap. They could have saved money by running on the surface, but running elevated is still a lot cheaper than building a tunnel through Queen Anne, even though such a tunnel would get a lot more riders. Adding a station at 15th means that the vast majority of riders will have to walk a considerable distance, but it is what was planned, and what we could afford. Moving the station east (the wrong direction) is a giant insult to the Ballard community on which this line was named. It would push many riders to simply abandon the line, for all but commuting.

        I don’t think you, or other 14th advocates quite get this. There are always edge cases, where someone essentially says “to hell with it, I’m driving”. We can see that with every study on transit use. Blog posts have been written about the geometry that comes from this reality ( Of course everyone has a different “breaking point”, but no one with any sense has argued that “it doesn’t make a difference how far it is — people will just walk it”. Yet that is the basic premise of 14th. That it doesn’t matter that most of the growth is west of 15th, or that most of the employment as well as cultural attractions are on are around Ballard Avenue.

        It is these edge cases that determine a transit systems popularity and ultimately, its viability. Someone commuting to a clinic or the hospital just drives. Same with the patients. Someone out for a night of revelry just calls Uber. Someone in the neighborhood visiting a friend in upper Queen Anne just drives. They don’t want to deal with the long schlep to the station, or a three seat ride for some place that is a mere ten minute drive. The result is an inner city mass transit system that resembles commuter rail. Oh, those in Ballard headed to work will find a way to use it (though they will waste a considerable amount of their life getting to the train) but very few will use it in the middle of the day.

        This difference is important. Go ahead, ride any successful subway line in the world, in the middle of the day. New York, Boston, D. C., you name it. In the middle of the day, there are lots of riders. At every stop there are people getting on and off. Sure, at rush hour there are a lot more, but there are still plenty of people riding it all day long. Since all of these systems are fare driven, this is a great benefit. Frequency increases, because you can afford it.

        But not all systems are like that. We can see how various agencies struggle with non-peak ridership. This, in turn, leads to infrequent service outside of rush hour (which in turn, hurts ridership even more). A station at 14th would be just as bad — if not worse — than other station snafus (like Mount Baker and UW). It will hurt riders in the area, and hurt riders who visit the area. But it will also hurt ridership in general, which will in turn make the system worse for everyone. Some guy in Lower Queen Anne will wonder why the trains run every ten minutes in the middle of the day instead of every six, and part of the reason will be because they put the station in the wrong place.

      4. You have finally admitted the reason that 14th is more expensive. Thank you. But then you dismissed the reasonable skepticism of an opening bridge the neighborhood has cinsistently expressed as “ignorance”.

        No wonder the reactionaries’ claim of “elitism” gets such a positive response. That was a pretty undemocratic wording.

        And I did NOT say that 14th is “just as good” as the other locations. I said in my challenge to you about costs at the end of the comments that “15th and especially 20th/22nd are better”. I just want you to stop lying that 14th is more expensive for no good reason. The high bridge is better. Period. And that is the ONLY reason 14th Elevated is more expensive.

        You can keep calling the public “ignorant” and start losing elections. Or you can start acknowledging the reasons for their preferences and work to include them in the final plan.

        There is a real hazard that “Old Ballard” will get bulldozed if the station is at 20th. There are only landlords in the neighborhood south of Market. They aren’t going to get a “bogus historical district” designation if they can make more money building new. Bank on it.

        There was another famous railroad builder who had a dim view of Democracy. IIRC, he said “The public be damned.”

    2. The location of the station isn’t the problem with 15th. Its how you get from the bridge to the station. There are brand new multistory buildings on either side of the Ballard bridge now that essential block an easy path north up 15th.

      1. Not true. You go over the short buildings, and then skirt by the others. The only place where you need significant width is by the station itself.

      2. tell me how how a 4-5 story building is a short building?

        It’s not. You go around those buildings. For example, from the waterfront, you would be high — higher than the existing Ballard bridge. This puts you above the warehouses, even this one, with the billboard: You go west of this building: That puts you above these buildings: (spin around to see the other side). Those are fairly short. Continue north, then cut across the dirt place, and Mac’s upolstery to get close to 15th ( Now you are over Brown Bear Carwash, and other small buildings until you are next to Walgreens.

        Anyway, that’s the basic idea.

      3. Sound Transit clearly doesn’t like doing elevated constitution so tightly around buildings (just look at West Seattle, where they don’t want to consider the Seattle Subway proposed Fauntleroy-California elevated alignment). They also seem to want to pick station locations that are the easiest to build (probably NIMBY lawsuit fatigue), so unfortunately if I were a betting man my money would be on underground to 14th.

      4. You go over the short buildings, and then skirt by the others

        I thought ST had a firm policy of not allowing any structures under their ROW.

      5. “if I were a betting man my money would be on underground to 14th.”

        Then why was the representative alignment in the ballot measure 15th? The reason it was, is that 15th is a six-lane expressway and it was assumed it would be cheap to build there, plus the fact that 15th has decaying lots ready for new development. The 14th Avenue option was added mainly at the insistence of the Port, to keep it away from Port property and Fisherman’s Terminal. I’ve heard that 15th is more expensive than 14th but I’m not entirely convinced of that. If so, why didn’t ST realize that in early 2016?

      6. This!!!!!!! I’ve been arguing this for three months to silence. Thank you for coming to the same conclusion.

        If the alignment is 15th, it must be elevatef in the middle of the street OR Seattle builds a car bridge at 14th and creates a two-way couplet with the LRT structure on obe side of 15th.

        Bulldozing half of every block between 15th and 17th from the Ship Canal to Market is crazy.

    3. That was going to be the monorail station. After the monorail fizzled, Walgreen’s built a store there. Chain store buildings are so cheap and throway to keep short-term profits high that I don’t have a problem with taking the lot for a station. Although an elevated station may not need the whole lot, just a corner of the parking lot nearest the intersection.

  2. Super disappointed by the lack of a 20th Ave station. That’s where all the density has been focussed

    1. 20th would only happen if built underground and an underground alignment won’t happen unless we can materialize billions of extra dollars. I also don’t think 15th is nearly as dire as some people seem to think.

      1. No, but they are still considering elevated to 14th, which would be dire (and more expensive). They are still considering underground to 15th, even though it would be very expensive, and no better (and likely worse) than elevated to 15th. They are even considering the mother of all terrible ideas –underground to 14th — lots more expensive, and much worse for riders.

        There are only two options they should consider: the cheapest (elevated to 15th) or the best (underground to 20th). Now they have ruled out the best, and are considering options that are terrible, or pointlessly expensive (or both).

      2. In my mind historically Sound Transit only really throws options on the table to make it look like they’re taking public consideration into account. They know what they’re going to build and it’ll be almost entirely determined by budget. If someone else wants to pay for a tunnel they’ll do it otherwise it’s simply not going to happen on 14th, 15th, or anywhere else.

      3. I wouldn’t expect ST to pay for a tunnel. But I can easily imagine the following scenario:

        Board members go with 14th in Ballard, and a south facing elevated train in West Seattle (that wipes out plenty of houses). Everyone hates it. So Seattle comes up with a levy. It includes money for underground in West Seattle as well as underground in Ballard. But the underground station in Ballard is at 15th, not 20th, even though it is quite possible they would cost the same. It also include various other important improvements to the bus system (things that Move Seattle was supposed to pay for) as well as the streetcar, and a few bike lanes and sidewalks.

        The same stupid political lines are drawn. After much hemming and hawing, this blog supports the levy. After all, 15th is better than 14th, and look at those bus/streetcar improvements. The Stranger supports it, while The Seattle Times opposes it. It passes easily.

        We get a mediocre system that costs billions more than it should. There is no light rail from Ballard to UW, no Metro 8 subway — heck, we still don’t have a station in First Hill. Bus lane violations are still common. Bus ridership still greatly exceeds rail ridership, but the vast majority of people in Seattle still take a car for most of their trips.

      4. Ross what you’re describing is pretty much exactly what happened in Bellevue. Instead of the clearly better alignment down Bellevue Way ST was bullied onto 112th by downtown interests because (perhaps rightly) they didn’t want traffic disrupted downtown with a surface alignment.

        This sparked YEARS of intense hemming and hawing from Surrey Downs. They were finally able to push it through anyway but Bellevue decided, you know what? We want a downtown tunnel. So they offered to pay for one.

        Wouldn’t it have made so much more sense to go down Bellevue Way and enter a tunnel under downtown at Main St? What purpose does this tunnel even serve? Why loop around under downtown just to pop back out onto 112th for a surface station? Absolute utter insanity people will be paying for with their time for decades to come.

        It could absolutely happen again but I’d place my bets on it happening in West Seattle. And don’t even get me started on the ridiculous ping-pong action between Pacific Hwy S and I-5.

      5. “But the underground station in Ballard is at 15th, not 20th, even though it is quite possible they would cost the same.”

        Exactly. We need the 20th Avenue option in the EIS so that ST will consider it if we find the money. ST can’t legally build something that’s not in the EIS, and adding it to the EIS in the middle or afterward would require time and money. The risk is that ST would just say no rather than adding it to the EIS because “we already decided not to”. Then we’d get stuck with an underground 15th station when an underground 20th station could have been within budget.

        The south Bellevue situation had a lot of alternatives — a dozen or so — and downtown Bellevue had a few. The Bellevue tunnel was a late addition at the insistence of the City of Bellevue. I don’t remember where in the EIS process these alternatives came: whether it was during the alternatives analysis (which is what Ballard just finished), or during the first EIS draft or during the final revison. I don’t think it was after the final. Basically ST and Bellevue agreed to do the tunnel and each paid half of it.

        The problem for Ballard is that the Bellevue situation was right in front of City Hall so it was the council’s top priority. And the council was concerned about preserving Surrey Downs because single-family neighborhoods make a lot of noise and get a lot of deference. Ballard is neither downtown nor a single-family neighborhood, so the City of Seattle may not prioritize it as much, and not push the 20th Avenue tunnel enough to make ST change its direction as Bellevue did.

      6. Fourteenth is “more expensive” as explained above. It’s actually much cheaper in every way except the high bridge.

    2. I would argue that most of the density has actually been centered around 15th/Market. That’s there most (almost all) of the high density apartment buildings have been built. There’s also more room (somewhat) to continue that density. Versus downtown/historic Ballard, which is confined more so to the historic buildings there.

      1. 17th and 20th-to-24th is where more people go: to Swedish Ballard, the farmers’ market, shows and bars and boutiques on Ballard Ave, the old city bell, the jobs and retail at 22nd & Market, the library, to the Ballard park, a long walk to the Locks, to the 4×4-block concentration of apartments west of 20th, and to the hardware/industrial businesses. In contrast, 15th has two rows of apartments and a much smaller variety of businesses. One street can’t have as much as a 4×6 block area.

      1. See my previous comment. It isn’t that 20th has all the tall buildings, it is that it is closer to the tall buildings.

  3. 14th Ave Station should have died the moment it was born.

    If the Board chooses 14th Ave, they should resign in shame and exile themselves to Antarctica.

    1. The worst part about 14th is how do they expect it to continue beyond 65th? Are they even considering that? I want to know who exactly thinks 14th is a good idea so they can explain themselves.

      1. I asked at one of the meetings and they assumed it would go underground before the highschool and then continue up to crown hill and northgate….

      2. ST has a hard time anticipating extensions that aren’t on the Everett-Tacoma spine. It refused to build a transfer stub into U-District Station for the east-west line that’s in ST’s long-range plan. It will probably do the same in Ballard, and punt on how it might extend north.

    1. The bigger problem is that the city leaders are so ignorant of transit. The actions and statements by our mayor are especially galling. These are quotes from the Seattle Times article:

      “With Jim Ellis dying, we should be bold, not timid in thinking about the next generation,” [Durkan] said after the meeting.

      That led Durkan to not even put the central-Ballard tunnel to a vote, citing an obvious lack of support. “We’ve got to keep this moving and not slow things down,” she said.

      Absolutely ridiculous. She thinks it is OK to spend a lot more money building an underground station to 15th — or even 14th. It won’t be any better for riders — it would likely be worse. Yet she won’t even study a station at 20th, and won’t even let people vote on whether they should study it. That is being timid.

      1. I don’t understand why you’re beating on Durkan of all people. We did study a station at 20th, and Jenny Durkan was the only Board member to speak approvingly of it, and to say it should have gotten more time and a place for further study in the DEIS.

        She didn’t push it to a Board vote for DEIS study because she knew she didn’t have the votes to win. It would have been just for the optics.

      2. She showed a complete lack of leadership on the issue. I realize it costs extra money to study options, but then drop the options that don’t make sense. Drop both options for 14th. Hell, drop the option for underground at 15th. There are really only two options that make sense: Underground to 20th, and above ground to 15th.

        If we can’t afford underground to 20th, why can we afford underground to 15th? Why are we dropping 20th, because the initial estimate is 100 million dollars more, when the initial estimate for elevated to 14th is 100 million more? Why are even considering underground to 14th, which is clearly worse and clearly much more expensive than the proposal the voters approved?

        If I’m wrong on my assessment, please correct me. If I’m wrong on Durkan, please show me where she said this. I haven’t seen anything from the mayor. It really isn’t that complicated. I can write a simple paragraph explaining all of it, yet she doesn’t even bother to make the same statement.

      3. Somebody pointed out to me that the usual suspects on transit twitter are also blaming Durkan for the non-inclusion of a 20th Ave station in the DEIS.

        Hard to know where to begin with this. The one member of the Board who spoke up for 20th Ave is to blame? Really? Please don’t anybody tell me reflexive and unthinking Durkan-hating isn’t a thing.

        The fundamental problem in Ballard, and West Seattle, is that the ST3 representative projects are underfunded relative to what the pols really want. Hard to believe a $54 billion program could underfund anything, but they somehow went to the voters with a representative alignment that wasn’t what Seattle really wanted to build. They figured they could fix it by talking the Board into adding back high bridges and tunnels later. But the third-party funding promises are increasingly not hiding the lack of funding to do any of that.

        What happened yesterday was a demonstration of the limits of the approach taken in 2015/2016. The suburban members are holding today’s Seattle reps accountable for the cost over-runs vs the representative alignment their predecessors signed on for. It’s not pretty, but today’s representatives don’t have any leverage to spend money they don’t have.

      4. Watch Jenny Durkan’s remarks at 1:52:00 and again at 2:01:50. This is the entire Ballard discussion other than staff presentation. Seattle has four members; Constantine and McDermott were entirely West Seattle focused and Juarez did not speak as far as I recall.

        Why the inconsistency between what got in the DEIS in May and what didn’t make it yesterday? The Board was more inclined to cut Seattle some slack on potential 3rd party funding in May. It wasn’t flying yesterday.

      5. Did she speak up for 20th? Did she reject 14th? Again Dan, I didn’t see it. If she did, my apologies. But here are things I didn’t read:

        “There is no reason to consider an underground station at 14th. It is clearly worse than an underground station at 15th or 20th and yet clearly more expensive than an above ground station”.

        “An underground station at 15th is no better than an above ground station at 15th. In fact, the user experience is worse. We shouldn’t study it.”

        “If we are going to study an underground station at 15th, then we should study an underground station at 20th. For all we know, they cost the same, yet the station at 20th is clearly better. It would generate higher ridership, which in turn would mean a better return.”

        All of these statements are true. Yet she didn’t say any of them. It is easy to blame suburban representatives, but it makes no sense to study things like underground to 14th. The main thing is, we are talking about *studying* something. We know very well that an underground station to 20th would be expensive, but so too would a station at 15th and 14th. How is it she was able to convince the board to study an underground station at 14th, but not 20th?

        It doesn’t make any sense, except in the context of simply not understanding the situation. Someone in Everett doesn’t know any better — it is up to Seattle leaders — especially the mayor — to lay out the sensible options *for further study*. She didn’t, and we are getting crap as a result.

      6. The Board was more inclined to cut Seattle some slack on potential 3rd party funding in May. It wasn’t flying yesterday.

        Then why are underground stations even being considered? If the board is so opposed to more expensive options being studied, don’t you think the mayor could have easily killed off 14th?

        More than anything, it just doesn’t make any sense. If you want to save money, then of course you run it elevated on 15th. Of the remaining options, it is both the cheapest and the best! Yet they are studying options that are worse, while the one option that is actually better is ignored.

      7. ST defers primarily to the cities. If the Seattle mayor and council were united and prioritized a 20th Avenue tunnel or anything else, it would be a game-changer. Seattle was insistent about the SLU reroute, and got it.

      1. Maybe the South End should stop electing pathologically anti-tax, anti-transit, anti-housing chuds into office. You not being heard seems to largely be your own goddamn fault, bucko.

      2. []. Our county councilman Dave Upthegrove is very pro transit. Finally, yes we don’t just rubber stamp every tax increase. Our community it hurt by our current property taxes.

      3. Fair question. She is a voting member of the Sound Transit board. She has a say in all Sound Transit measures even if Seattle is not affected by them.

      1. I haven’t seen a poll but I can read the tea leaves well enough to know this will pass, no problem. Hopefully the courts throw it out but I’m not so sure. I cannot believe a criminal grifter like Eyman has managed to stick around and wreak havoc for so long. I wish he’d just move to rural Kansas where he’d clearly be happier. They love bankrupting social services there.

  4. What a shame that they threw out 20th Ave without exploring other sources of revenue — additional taxes, for instance, or redirecting some of the current tax revenue to cover a substantial part of the 100M cost differential in comparing with the 15th Ave tunnel. Shortsighted especially, because we might likewise receive further help from a pro-transit federal govt after 2020. Is there any possibility this decision could be revisited?

    1. They threw out 20th while continuing to study other underground options that need third party funding. That is the big failure. It would be one thing if they basically said “sorry, we aren’t to study something we can’t fund”. But that isn’t the case. They will even study an underground station to 14th! For all we know, a station at 20th is actually cheaper than a station at 15th — but we will never know, because it isn’t going to be studied!

      1. We can raise a big fuss but this decision makes it unlikely. As the process goes through EIS and construction approval the tendency will be to narrow options, not widen them. It will take a lot to widen them. The most effective thing would be a mayor and city council that prioritized it and insisted on it. But it will be a lot harder after yesterday’s decision.

      2. But what would be some avenues to overturn the decision? Would starting a petition be at all effective in your opinion?

      3. Seattle Subway is better at organizing action than I am. I’ll let them say, if they agree it should be done. But a petition sounds like a good idea. It would document that it’s not just a few people but hundreds of people.

      4. I guess we should wait to see what happens with I-976, but if it fails, we should proceed with a petition demanding that 20th Ave be at least studied as an option. If the it gets enough signatures, hopefully it will persuade the ST board to take it up again, but also would demonstrate the popular support that 20th enjoys when making the final selection. It’s crucial that the right investment for the long term be made, even if it’s more expensive. Seattle will find a way. At the very least, we the public deserve to know the full range of options and have a clearer idea of what each would entail, as only fuller study can demonstrate. The Ballard stop is estimated to open in 2035– there’s plenty of time to do the studies required to determine the superior option and to come up with the funding to shore up the difference.

      5. What bothers me, more than anything, is that they are studying options that are worse, as well as studying options that are more expensive, and no better. If we don’t have the money, we don’t have the money. I get that. An elevated line to 15th may be all we can afford. It is what people voted for. I have no problem with that.

        But it would be nuts for Seattle to pay for a very expensive underground station at 15th, when for all we know, a station at 20th would be cheaper, or the same price. It would also be nuts to build a station at 14th, when 14th isn’t close to the heart of Ballard. It is in West Woodland . By the way, that image is an unaltered one from the West Woodland Blog ( They might as well put the station in Loyal Heights.

      6. We gave a lot of feedback on 130th Station, the Aurora alternative for Lynnwood Link, and the Anne/Fremont tunnel alternative for Ballard. In the round that refined the I-5 alignment of Lynnwood Link, ST said the second-largest number of comments was for 130th Station, at around 500 or so. The largest was for one of the Lynnwood station alternatives, boosted by a some 600-person petition. We never ran a petition but we had a lot of people speak up for those views in the feedback and at open houses. We failed get 130th in the first round but we got it later, and now ST is trying to fit it into the ST2 construction schedule. We failed to get the Aurora alternative or the Queen Anne/Fremont tunnel. So we’re not very successful, but a petition is one way to show that a large number of people want the same thing.

  5. Just build a station and bring light rail to Ballard. You may be surprised how Ballard will morph and change depending on where and how the light rail stations are created. We are years away, imagine the Ballard Market being gone and that is the site of the station. Ballard would change dramatically, more development east of 15th, and north of Market. You would have more density. People can walk a few blocks to the station. People in Chicago do it every single day.

    1. Jimbo, you are right. The 15th area corridor from the canal to 85th is going to be unrecognizable in a few decades.

      I give credit to many of STB’s bloggers and commenters for having certain areas of wonkish transit knowledge, but I think where they are really lacking is long range vision.

      1. Again, Sam, the problem is not 15th itself. You can walk from 20th to 15th. The problem is what lies to the east of 15th: Practically nothing. In contrast, what lies west of 20th is the largest concentration of housing in the area.

      2. Ehh… but clearly east of 15th is where the future development opportunity is. With upzones there very well could be more housing east of 15th than west. Also 15th is much more suited for development through the entire corridor north. Can’t believe I’m agreeing with Sam but there we go.

      3. It wasn’t that long ago that South Lake Union was low-density industrial land and Downtown Bellevue was blocks of one-story retail spaces with big parking lots. Change will certainly happen adjacent to whoever the station goes.

        Something else to ponder:
        Because the densification happened first in those areas, light rail has ended up as tunneling with costs lots higher than they would have been if light rail stations were added first.

      4. So from an existing density standpoint, 20th is best. From an existing zoning standpoint, 20th is best. But somehow that doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter where we put the station, as development will just naturally occur around it. That is the basic argument, and it is nuts.

        If that is the case, why is there no station between Northgate and Roosevelt? For that matter, why is there no station between Capitol Hill and the UW, or Rainier Beach and Tukwila? Shouldn’t we just randomly pick a direction, place stations about a half mile apart, and let those areas just grow into gigantic urban wonderlands, like a row of carrots?

        Because that would be nuts. It wouldn’t happen. Besides, even if it did, you are screwing over places *that already exist*. That is the issue. If they build a station to 14th, you will screw over Ballard. If they build an underground station to 15th, you are wasting money that should go into actually improving the system. Sound Transit has a long history of mistakes — from skipping First Hill to most of the projects in ST3. Screwing up Ballard would just be another in a long list.

      5. Ross, that’s the vision I’m talking about. Where others see a permanent sea of single family homes, I see future density and multi-families. When the zoning laws change, and the land becomes too valuable to keep hundred year old homes on it, they’ll start falling like dominoes to development.

        I’m curious why you, and others, see the old single family home neighborhood east of 15th as this immutable thing that can never evolve?

      6. There really should have been stations between Capitol Hill > UW and Roosevelt > Northgate. I don’t think anyone here would’ve objected to stations near Volunteer Park or Maple Leaf.

      7. Ross, do you believe Amazon is buying and leasing millions of square feet of office space around the Bellevue Transit Center area, in large part, because East Link is coming to Bellevue?

      8. Density can happen outside “Ballard” if the City makes it so.

        Either the City consumes all the very low job-density land or it will be overtaken by Bellevue.

      9. They could have built a line under Capitol Hill and not a second tunnel under downtown with the “Density will eventually be there” argument.

        An awful lot of MAX was built with that in mind. Some places development has sort of come, but nothing like would have happened had the line been built into old population centers.

      10. Glenn, you are completely ignoring West side MAX from Beaverton Creek west. Without MAX would all those apartments been built there and if not there, then where? The land was essentially empty before the line was built.

        Maybe those apartments would have been scattered all over washington County, but then few people living in them would be rising transit.

      11. You’re also ignoring Interstae Avenue which is almost entirely built out in only 20 years.

    2. I too feel that 15th or 14th is reasonable for the future even if it has disadvantages given 2019 land uses.

      Adding a station entrance west of 15th Avenue (in addition to ones east of 15th Avenue) would save a walking Central Ballard Link rider 2-4 minutes of time — or about the equivalent of walking at least one of those long Ballard blocks.

      Consider this extreme example: Would underground or aerial moving sidewalks under Market all the way between 14th and Leary Way be more cost-effective? No one wants to ask that!

      It feel like the ST approach of “where should the platforms go?” should be replaced with a “how will riders get from the surrounding destinations to the platform?” as well as “How many riders get to the station using the various options they will have available?” When all of the feedback materials concentrate on platform rectangles and a few fuzzy station sketches, the public is left to argue about those only and we think of the system as a mere physical creation and not how riders will use it.

      1. Most of the industrial land is to the east. Most of the new, high end townhouses are to the east. The area to the west has a bigger cultural history — it is more attractive for living and will attract more visitors. Seattle has a long history of locking down land that is within a five minute walk of a station, let alone seven or eight minutes. That has happened in Roosevelt and Rainier Valley stations.

        Even if they build the station at 14th (or even 15th) it is quite likely that the area around the station would still not be as good as a station at 20th.

    3. That is a myth. There are plenty of areas that have existed for years, but haven’t changed. Even Roosevelt — known for the major developments going on — is locked in for now. Areas that are very close to the station are still zoned single family, despite a bitter fight over areas that have changed. This is a four minute walk:, yet nothing has changed, nor is it going to.

      In the case of Ballard, there is also industrial land to consider. Most of it is east of 15th, not west of it. The areas east of 15th have grown, but mostly they’ve built town houses. These are fine (better than nothing) but fancy, expensive, relatively densely populated town houses are not going to be replaced by more densely populated apartment buildings. 20th is also the cultural heart of the area. It generates trips all day long. It is worth reading this post, especially the section “20th Avenue is centered on the urban village”.

      If they decide to go the cheap route, that is reasonable. But don’t kid yourself into thinking that it is just as good, or better.

      1. In the city’s defense, I’m pretty sure that part of Roosevelt was originally slated to be upzoned, but it was removed from the urban village area after the homeowners got together and got a sham Historic District designation from the NRHP (there is absolutely jack shit that is historic about that area), and then Rob Johnson folded like a cheap suit and accepted their amendment to the MHA upzones removing those blocks without argument.

      2. Yeah, and I remember what city councilman Conlin said about the whole mess. He basically said that ST should not move the station to an area that is low density unless the community agrees to increase density close to the station. That didn’t happen there, and it isn’t happening here.

      3. Roosevelt has the most TOD right now of any Link station. I would call it an overwhelming success. And the station is not even open yet. Plus it is still walkable to the existing density in Green Lake. The urban villages will be expanded at some point in the future.

        I don’t see the big deal with Ballard being on 15th or 20th. The difference is marginal and to go to 20th would be to commit to hundreds of millions of additional ST4 costs to continue the tunnel. No thanks. If I’m going to take light rail to Ballard an extra 1/4 mile walk isn’t going to stop me. I can walk 1/4 mile faster than going up 3 escalators to get out of the underground UW station. And half the time I go there for the breweries which are more-or-less centered on 15th.

      4. “If I’m going to take light rail to Ballard an extra 1/4 mile walk isn’t going to stop me.”

        It will deter to some other people. Every little inconvenience adds up. At every level there are people on the verge of deciding one way or the other, so every block you move the station away from the center or away from bus transfers, you lose some people. Our goal should be the maximum useful network for the widest cross-section of people.

        UW Station is an extreme example. It’s four levels down. The 65 stop is two blocks away, further than it should be. The 44/45/71/73/373 stop is across a wide busy intersection. The 48/271 stop is across two wide busy intersections. The 75/372 stop is a 5-minute walk away on Stevens Way with no place to sit or shelter from the rain while you’re waiting 10-30 minutes. (The stop to the west of it has a covered bench but you can’t see the bus approaching if you’re sitting on it.) All this deters some people, and even those who make the trek anyway are dissatisfied with it and have a negative impression of the transit network, and are less likely to recommend it to others. This is a temporary situation until U-District Station opens (except for 48/255/271/542 riders), but it’s the kind of inefficiency that may be permanent in Ballard and Bellevue TC and is already established at Mt Baker. It hinders the stations from reaching their potential.

      5. “that part of Roosevelt was originally slated to be upzoned, but it was removed from the urban village area after the homeowners got together”

        That’s exactly what happened: the city let a few single-family homeowners stunt one of of only three station areas on Northgate Link. It could have been a small highrise cluster like in Vancouver. It could have been a larger midrise-lowrise urban village. Half the people who could have within walking distance of the station won’t be able to, and they have only a few walkable station neighborhoods to choose from. The cost of apartments near Link stations will be higher because there’s so few of them relative to the demand. The activists were motivated partly by anti-density concerns and partly to prevent Seattle’s worst slumlord Sisley from making a huge killing on the properties he let run down. We shouldn’t harm Seattle’s hundred-year future for short-term concerns like that. Still, we got a partial upzone, so that’s a good thing. it’s just a missed opportunity to do more, one of Seattle’s many missed opportunities.

      6. “Roosevelt has the most TOD right now of any Link station.”

        Only because U-District and downtown Bellevue aren’t open yet.

    4. ST4 will put a station some where between 20th and 24th on route to the U. Nothing to sweat here.

      1. Yes, it should be built just in time for the tricentennial celebration of Seattle’s founding, in 2151.

      2. When has ST ever built stations so closely together? They might build one between 20th and 24th if this new station is put at 14th, but if they have one at 15th I think they will save the money and say one station for Ballard at 15th is good enough.

        Too, assuming it ends up being built, what if they want to interline UW-Ballard with UW-Downtown? They might have to so that the trains have access to the maintenance yard. This would kill outright a station farther to the west.

        No… ST has lost me on this one. Even if it’s true that they didn’t want headlines right before the election saying something like “ST board votes to spend additional hundreds of millions of your car tab money!”, they should have studied all of the better options available.

      3. Stations in SLU/LQA on the Ballard line will be pretty close together, as they should be. I just hope ST can actually deliver what they’re promising. Ross is right that any Ballard>UW line is unlikely to be completed in any of our lifetimes at the current pace of things unless there is a miraculous healthcare advancement on the horizon.

      4. Personally, I think we should finish what we started before we start new projects.

      5. Well Mathew that’s generally what we’re doing because we wouldn’t have been able to build LRT to Everett without building to Lynwood first. Nor could we have voted on LRT to Tacoma without voting for LRT to Federal Way first.

      6. Mattie, when your sub-area starts cranking out the MAGABucks we’ll all be glad to let you set the size for ST4.

    5. Developers can build new density but they’ve repeatedly failed to make pedestrian areas as vibrant and inviting and with the variety of businesses as pre-WWII neighborhood centers. If Old Ballard were to be replaced with the kind of new development on 15th or Roosevelt (U-District part), the result would be fewer people going to Ballard or wanting to linger there.

      1. Mike, “Old Ballard” is a hell of a lot more likely to be “replaced” if the station is at 22nd and Market. A hell of a lot more likely!

      2. No, Tom, it is protected. Jeesh.

        My God, the insane attitude towards urbanism on this blog is baffling. It ignores real cities that are really densely populated AND charming. They didn’t achieve such density by destroying the charming neighborhood (OK, some of them did — but that was often because some other country bombed the hell out of it) but rather by adding lots more people next to old buildings. Paris, Amsterdam, San Fransisco, Brooklyn — hell, even Manhattan. Of course Manhattan has changed over the years, with gigantic buildings. But there are still places like this: this: or this: These are places that people write songs about. They are old; they are charming; they have lots and lots of people around them. They achieve such density because they don’t have big parking lots, or big houses with big lots with only one “family” in them (often consisting of a couple and a dog). They don’t achieve such density by wiping out the most interesting, historic area within miles, and then replacing it with a six story building.

      3. The landmark District stretches from the alley between Shilshole and Ballard to the alley between Ballard and Leary between Dock Place and Market. So, yes, you are right that that streetscape is protected.

        But everything around it is Industrial, Commercial or. “Industrial Commercial” and can be changed. Indeed, should a station be placed at 20th, it should be changed. As should everything around a station at 15th or 14th, elevated, at-grade or subway.

      4. So who proposed big houses or big parking lots? It looks to me like what is happening to SFH Seattle is “big houses” NOT your precious ADU “middle”.

        So where are you going to put twice as many people except on top of one another in “West Woodland”, “West Licton Springs”, North Rainier”, Lake City and Delridge? Because there ain’t gonna be room for ’em behind the 2500 square footers going up ALL OVER THE PLACE.

        SOME ADU’s will happen east of I-/ south of Dearborn, but the lots up north are just too small.

        Unless you were thinking of Broadmoor?

  6. I think it’s important to highlight the SODO testimony around minute 48-49. As is calmly explained by the speaker, Sound Transit greatly inflated the cost and the construction disruption of this option.

    I’m not commenting on the merits of this specific option, but I am commenting on routine decision-making without inquiries into and a realistic check on the technical conclusions of staff. This explanation is deeply troubling. It implies that staff has much less certainty of their conclusions than they convey.

    ST has already notoriously underestimated contingencies in the ST3 program. We still don’t know how the pedestrian and bus transfer systems will work inside each station and how much they will cost. No one is asking what percentage of riders going into each station are forecasted to walk, use a connecting bus, get dropped off or use a bicycle.

    This process frankly seems like mere political theater and not public investment or rider use and benefit. It’s interesting to debate the merits of options amongst ourselves, but it’s masking what appears to be a media/ management approach to create an appearance of accuracy beyond what has been studied or asked to date.

    So what’s the problem? I would point to the promise in 2016 to shorten the EIS process. Trying to force choices with easily refutable conclusions is like advertising for a lawsuit in flashing neon lights. The likely legal process will turn the shortened timeline into a much longer and more expensive litigious future. I see years of lawsuits coming — and painful choices about not having food station design for the many ways people get to, from and around stations.

    Is anyone willing else to stand up and call this shortened EIS process a “bad idea” yet?

    1. The ultimate decision makers are the ST board, and most of the boardmembers are suburban and have other priorities than the most urban alignment in Seattle.

      The attempt to shorten the EIS process was admirable but it turned out there were a lot of thorny disagreements in Ballard and West Seattle. The 15th station in the representative alignment was, for urbanists and those who most understand rider dynamics, a compromise. It’s not great but we could live with it, and we didn’t think anything further west was politically possible. We’ll have to remember that if ST ends up leaning toward 15th: we accepted it in the run-up to ST3. The 14th alternatives are worse than the representative alignment, and we didn’t vote for them, they were never mentioned before the vote, and they weren’t what the Ballard-rail activists who worked long and hard to convince ST and the cities to even build a Ballard line envisioned. What we envisioned was a station in urban Ballard, or at worst 15th.

    2. There’s a discussion during the staff meeting too about why Sound Transit staff are sticking by their numbers. (for those who haven’t watched the video, the consultant thinks the double-elevated option would be cheaper and less disruptive than Sound Transit have been saying; Sound Transit disagrees).

      It’s hard to arbitrate. But rather like Mayor Durkan’s comment re late-breaking news that the FTA doesn’t like permanent in-water construction in Ballard, it all feels like the shortened EIS process is leaving a lot of diligence undone.

      1. I was truly amazed at the flat-out LIE about the Crenshaw project. The Green Line was built in the 1980’s when there was no plan to build Crenshaw. (Further, the wye is completely aerial.) The fact the staff said that was appalling and unprofessional to the point I’m tempted to request that the staff’s PE license removed.

      2. I’ve walked the Crenshaw from north of the airport to that eye. The tracks descend into a trench which is covered across the ends of the south runways, presumably to protect them if a crash occurs. It’s not done in a half-way manner at all.

  7. I know I’m repeating some of what I said up above, but I just want to summarize things. There are really only two good options: An elevated line to 15th, and a tunnel to 20th. An elevated line to 15th is not ideal, but it is the cheapest option. A tunnel to 20th is the best option, but it costs more money. Both are reasonable. Both deserve more study, even though the station at 20th would require more funding.

    Unfortunately, the 20th option won’t be studied any further. That means that even if it turns out that it is actually cheaper than expected, and Seattle somehow comes up with more money, it won’t happen. In contrast, here are some things that will be studied:

    1) An elevated station to 14th. Just as a station at 20th is better than a station at 15th (for the reasons explained in the “20th Avenue is centered on the urban village” section of the post I referenced) a station at 14th is much worse than a station at 15th. Making matters worse, the tentative estimate is that it would cost 100 million dollars more. Yes, you read that right, ST is going ahead with a study of a station that will likely cost more, but be significantly worse.

    2) An underground station to 15th. This is significantly more expensive than an elevated station at 15th, yet likely worse for riders. The rider experience is worse — you are in a tunnel, instead of high above one of the prettiest cities on earth. Instead of enjoying sunset views of the Olympics, you are in a hole. It is also quite likely that the platform will be farther from the street. A tunnel will have to be deep, but that part of Ballard actually rises up to meet even a high bridge. It is quite possible that an elevated station will be high enough to clear traffic, but no higher.

    3) An underground station to 14th. This is the worst of both worlds. It is much more expensive than an above ground station, yet much worse than the station at 15th (the cheapest option according to current estimates).

    So, basically, ST killed off one of the only two reasonable options, yet they continue to study three options that make no sense.

    1. Ross, admit that the 14th NW option is more expensive because of the high bridge that Ballard residents want if they can’t have a tunnel.

      Everything about 14th would be cheaper except the high bridge. There are few land acquisition costs, and the station fits within the 14th Avenue right of way. The relatively small parcel of land on the south bank that would be needed is no bigger than what would be required for the RA.

      If the bridge were an equivalent 70 foot opening span it would be 1/3 shorter and probably about that much cheaper.

      No, it’s not as good a walkshed as 15th or even better 20th/22nd. But you are giving the pro-976 forces talking points and refusing to acknowledge the reason that it’s in the list. It’s dishonest in a far too familiar way.

      1. I won’t admit to something you theorize. Maybe it is cheaper, maybe it is more expensive — you simply have no data to support your case. If you want to complain about the lack of study for a 14th draw bridge, be my guest. I think it would be a waste of time just as I think studying any option at 14th is a waste of time. I think studying the omission of the South Lake Union stations because “Westlake and Lower Queen Anne Stations are close enough” would be a waste of time. I have no idea if they did it, but studying a station at 45th and I-5, and calling it “U-District” station would be a waste as well.

        They all suffer from the “close enough” fallacy. They treat subway stops like they are ferry terminals. If I’m headed to the Kingston, it really doesn’t matter if the ferry leaves from Edmonds or Mukilteo. But if I’m on the 7 headed for downtown or Beacon Hill, it matters a lot that the Mount Baker station is awful. A station at 14th would be worse.

  8. We have the ability to influence the development on 15th and 14th Avenues. We’ve never tried that anywhere else. We don’t have to settle for it turning into another Roosevelt. We could suggest some kind of attraction or institution that would draw people from other areas, like the farmers’ market and library do in central Ballard. What would we want?

    It would be wonderful if the Safeway turned into a multistory building with housing on top and hiding the parking in back. It would also have room for an “institution” like I suggested. That would bring more customers to the Safeway too. Will the lot owner take advantage of the best TOD opportunity in Ballard, or will they leave it as an awful automobile wasteland?

    The area between the station and Fred Meyer also has possibilities. Something halfway in between would be a short walk from the station.

    1. I completely agree Mike. Whether the station is at 14th or 15th, the City should Kelo the property owner if it doesn’t build that tower over Safeway.

      1. Yes, that’s what “to Kelo” means. That is, to exercise eminent domain in order for the City to pave the way for greater private re-development

      2. If you are referring to the Kelo vs. City of New London ruling then you should know that it does not apply to Washington. After the ruling it was revealed that it does not effect Washington because our state’s Constitution has much stronger restrictions on Eminent Domain.

      3. Also, in response to the overwhelming negative response from the people, the Washington state legislative passed stronger restrictions on Eminent Domain to make sure Kelo cases never happen in this state.

      4. Kelo? My lord no, No and NO!

        And for the record, eminent domain is not a verb. The proper term is condemn, as in executing a condemnation action following eminent domain principles.

      5. Verbifying nouns is a feature of English. And “condemn” makes it sound like it’s so decayed uninhabitable.

      6. Matthew, if that is so, then of course it would not work. Thank you for the clarification.

        I do expect that the lease-holder would want to build that tower above and around the Safeway to make more money and it wouldn’t be necessary.

        And of course the City can — and should — just tax the parcel as if the tower were there.

      7. “Verbifying nouns is a feature of English. And “condemn” makes it sound like it’s so decayed uninhabitable.”

        It’s not done in legalese and that’s my point. Condemn is the proper term for describing the underlying intent/action involved in a governmental taking. Having been on the receiving end of a condemnation action for a property I own, I can state for a fact that nowhere in any of the documents is eminent domain ever used in the manner you’ve asserted.

      8. “And of course the City can — and should — just tax the parcel as if the tower were there.”

        Are you talking about property tax? What levy authority specifically are you suggesting in your comment? Fwiw, Washington already utilizes a “highest and best use” standard in real property assessments.

      9. Tlsgwm, are you saying that if “X” owns a single-family home in an area zoned for multi-family structures or even more radically, commercial use, that the “comps” on the structure will be ignored and it will always be taxed as if a multi-family structure existed on the site?

        If that’s the way things work, then how do ANY legacy structures survive in transitioning areas? Taxes would soar.

      10. (Continued)

        Whatever it might take for the City to force the replacement of the single-level structure and parking lot there should be done. Not to remove the Safeway. It’s great to have a supermarket next to –or in — a transit hub. And I know that keeping the store open during reconstruction would be a feat.

        But it should be undertaken. If it means the City has to raise the zoning on that block to force it, it should do so.

      11. In King County (don’t know if other counties follow the same rule) the land is valued to it’s best and highest use. Structures/improvements are valued separately but take the zoning/best use in consideration. It’s not unusual for structures to be valued at next to nothing if in all likelihood they would be demolished if the land was sold. So a house may have a tax assessed value of say $30k if it’s sitting on a lot zoned for commercial. An identical house down the street that’s on single family zoning might have an assessed value of $250k. But the total assessed value of the commercial property will likely be higher.

      12. Thanks, Bernie, for a complete and clear explanation. Perhaps that is a State standard. But it certainly does hold back the process of revitalization and renewal.

        I can see the democratic value (small “d” intended) for owner-occupied homes. But properties which are already classified as “commercial” but are not using the full zoned capacity of a parcel — unless they are historically protected — should be taxed as if a structure using the full zoned capacity were already there.

        That would rapidly result in replacement. No condemnation would be required. Properties which have been given a high density zoning would migrate quickly to ownership with the capital to realize the City created value.

        I am not an “anti-capitalist” by any means, but I don’t appreciate people standing on valuable land “as an investment for the future” when artificially protected by a legal system designed to protect owner-occupiers.

  9. So the mixed SODO option would give West Seattle riders fewer level crossings than Rainier/Tacoma riders? That means West Seattle trains would run faster, which sounds like more West Seattle privilege. They’re already getting a direct line to the U-District and Lynnwood, while Rainier/Tacoma isn’t.

  10. What total bullshit is the assertion that the Pigeon Point Tunnel “requires $700 million tunnels to Avalon station”. The RA turns the corner at Delridge and Genessee, right where the Pigeon Point option would place the station, then rises to the elevation of Avalon Way.

    If there would be some difference in height a half block west of Delridge because the RA ascends through the curve, just make the Pigeon Point station a bit higher so that trains exiting it are high enough.

    What disingenuousness. Pigeon Point would put the station directly across Delridge, which allows bus stops in both directions access to the mezzanine with no road crossing.

  11. Here is a possible solution to the weaknesses of each of the above-ground options which would actually give two stations. It builds on Al and I think AJ’s idea for turning east-west along Market but also allows for a north or east extension (or even conceivably both).

    First, save a lot of money and a nasty litigation by the Port by choosing the 14th NW crossing, but do it with the mid-level bridge. Perhaps add five feet of clearance to reduce the openings just that much more to reassure Ballard residents of its reliability.

    When descending on the north approach, wrap the northbound track under the southbound, making the gradient of the “climbing” track less steep to save energy. By the time they clear Leary Way, they would be fully “stacked”.

    Place a two-level station between 50th and 52nd. Make it long enough that there can be a non-fare-paid “mimi-mezzanine” at each end of platforms on either side of each level. This allows access via overhead walkway from both sides of the street.

    Three blocks north curve into the Market Street right of way westbound, leaving “stubs” for tracks to both the north and east for possible future expansion. It’s just a few yards of structure each way on each level. It might cost $15 million to save billions in the future. The two-level structure must be in the middle of 14th and the land on the southeast quadrant should be obtained for the possible future use for an east-west line.

    I realize that the curve to the west and any future curve tu the east would be sharp, but they’re very close to the station so trains would not be unduly delayed. The “through” extension to the north could of course attain full speed immediately, should it come to pass.

    Continue the west branch toward 15th, unwinding the stack so that by the time the tracks cross 15th they are separated laterally, though they can’t be level until at least 17th. As soon as they are level with each other, place a scissors cross-over and immediately at its end begin the platforms. That can probably happen before 20th.

    Now obviously this has the big draw-back of putting an elevated station right in the heart of Downtown Ballard. It would have to be done very aesthetically. But…it would almost double the walkshed served, especially opening up the district around 11th and Leary.

    If the elevated station is just too horrid to contemplate, put it at-grade! As long as it doesn’t protrude beyond Leary at 22nd, it shouldn’t be too great a traffic problem. It’s the end of the line; so what if it’s limited to 30 mph? As long as both tracks are at the same elevation, the scissors can be on the grade.

    With the savings of the considerably shorter 14th NW Crossing — look at the map; it’s significant — this could probably be done within the RA budget.

    And it makes provision for the future as 15th Elevated does not.

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