By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Will West Seattle really get light rail someday?
We have new information today about a study taking a serious look at how it might happen – a precursor to determining if the money, and the will, exist.
It’s in the slide deck above, part of a progress report on Sound Transit’s West Seattle and vicinity light-rail (and more) study, presented to the ST Executive Committee, chaired by King County Executive Dow Constantine. The presentation was given a week ago, but we only heard about it last night, courtesy of Charles B, via Twitter.
To follow up we obtained the slide deck today from Sound Transit, which has the entire meeting on video (not embeddable but you can watch it here – this discussion starts just before the 51-minute mark).
Before taking a look at the toplines – which include four possible light-rail routes and two possible bus routes – consider some context from Sound Transit spokesperson Geoff Patrick, who explains that they represent “high-level, conceptual information on the potential alignments, cost ranges, travel times and ridership levels of future high-capacity transit extensions, including light rail as well as bus rapid transit services.”
The discussion in the video elaborates on what you can see in the slides – among the most interesting points, ST has been studying the possibility of light rail generally assuming a new bridge across the Duwamish River would have to be built for it, instead of assuming it could study one or both of the current West Seattle Bridges for repurposing – not that the latter has been ruled out.
West Seattle is part of what Patrick explains is the “corridor between downtown Seattle, West Seattle, Burien, Tukwila and Renton (called the South King County HCT Corridor Study),” with funding for the study provided by the Sound Transit 2 ballot measure, adopted in 2008, provided funds to complete. It’s under way now, he says, “as Sound Transit moves forward with a process to update its Long-Range Plan, which will update the projects that may be included in future ballot measures.”
For further context, Patrick explains:
When the Long-Range Plan was last updated in 2005, the Seattle Monorail Project was assumed to provide future service to West Seattle. With the cancellation of that project, the Board is expected to consider adding a high capacity connection between downtown Seattle and the West Seattle Peninsula to the plan. In June Sound Transit will publish a Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the Long-Range Plan Update, and kick off a public comment process.
That update will be done later this year, and could pave the way for a November 2016 ballot measure if the Sound Transit board decides to pursue one, though it would not be obligated to include anything on this particular route or any other; Patrick says that part of the discussion would likely begin in 2015 – and that there’s a catch: “Sound Transit would need to secure additional authority from the Washington State Legislature for funding sources that could be part of a ballot measure before moving forward with any major package.”
One last word from Patrick at ST: “It is very important to note that the Sound Transit Board would not select a detailed project or alignment until after a public vote providing the engineering and construction funds, as well as completing a detailed environmental process that would involve the public in examining the benefits and impacts of different options.”
This, by the way, is the study that was mentioned last June by former Mayor Mike McGinn when he came to West Seattle for a media briefing on the area’s potential transit future. In all, ST has been studying nine corridors, shown on a map included in our story last June. This is also related to the survey linked here last November, which is reported to have received a strong response from West Seattle.
NEXT STEP: As ST’s Patrick mentioned, a public-comment process for the long-range-plan update is expected to start next month; we’ll publish updates when that happens.