By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
The timeliness is because there’s a week and a half left for you to comment in the current stage of ST’s Long-Range Plan Update process – which could ultimately pave the way for light rail to/from West Seattle – and if you would like to see that, she said, you really need to speak up now.
She reminded the Chamber attendees first that LINK Light Rail – 16 miles with 13 stations so far, and partnering with Seattle on the First Hill Streetcar to open later this year – Sounder commuter rail, and ST Express buses are Sound Transit’s three “lines of business” around the three-county area they serve, and that the board is chaired by a West Seattleite, King County Executive Dow Constantine. (Another West Seattleite, County Councilmember Joe McDermott, is on the board as well.) “Ridership has just been going through the roof,” she added.
70 percent of Sound Transit’s revenue comes from sales tax, and it’s “down $4.7 billion” through 2023, she said – that’s a 30 percent drop over the lifetime of the 15-year plan running through then. But the system has bright spots, $100 million under budget with University Link and six months ahead of schedule. (This is a “twin-bore tunnel project,” she adds.)
Now, for West Seattle: ST is currently in its Long-Range Plan Update – the current LRP is from 2005.
(Click image for full-sized ST 2005 Long Range Plan map)
“The key thing is that … you need to let (Sound Transit) know that you want to be on (its) map … if you do,” she noted, standing in front of a slide showing the current ST map (part of which is shown above), which is devoid of West Seattle light rail.
At this point, she mentioned the corridor studies that are “helping us understand what the options COULD be,” stressing that they don’t represent anything that WILL necessarily happen without further discussion, acting, funding, etc. Right now, West Seattle is part of the South King County HCT Corridor Study – we showed some of that here two months ago:
Its key findings, she said, were “strong overall ridership” in the West Seattle to downtown corridor, also stretching to Burien and beyond, but “market characteristics vary” between those areas. And for “realistic headways” with bus rapid transit, you’d have to have a bus arriving almost every minute. Also big:
High potential right-of-way impacts for the surface and elevated segments from West Seattle to Burien and in Renton because of existing development patterns.
They didn’t find any major effects on the “natural environment,” but they did find a “high potential for equity issues given diverse population groups.”
Then she showed the routing possibilities that came up in the study, as seen here. The A5 option, which would include a tunnel but would not serve the Delridge corridor, would be “100 percent exclusive running” on its route, she said. Overall, she said, the possibilities shown there are mix-and-match and “information that can be used to ultimately put together a project that is feasible, affordable, supported by the voters …”
So, now what? She mentioned that after “scoping,” ST released its draft supplemental Environmental Impact Study a month ago – you can see it here – and is taking comment until July 28th – that’s a week and a half. It’s been having open houses around the area and the last one is tonight at Everett Station. You can comment through this survey, or by e-mailing or sending comments (this page shows how – e-mail, postal-mail, phone info are on the right side). The feedback will be evaluated, and shared with the ST board;
In a brief round of Q/A, Smith was asked questions including, what about parking? “That’s a question that we as an agency answer very differently around the region,” she replied – for example, Sounder commuter rail has parking at every station, and “the demand is huge.” In the city of Seattle, city government does not favor parking in connection with stations, but she says people do use a variety of modes to get to transit so “it would be a community conversation that we would need to have.”
Asked specific questions such as “could you build elevated rail down the middle of 35th,” the reply boiled down to, too soon to tell. Could rail go on the existing bridge or would it have to be a new one? Most likely, if they built a new bridge, it would have to be one that can open – but using the existing (high) bridge has not necessarily been ruled out, she said.
In the end, the Long-Range Plan Update will result in a map – and anything that would go to the voters would have to be on that map. The more people who speak up saying they want West Seattle to be on the map, the “bigger impact” will be made, Smith said.
OTHER CHAMBER ANNOUNCEMENTS: Board chair Nancy Woodland announced that the Chamber has upgraded its software in the “members area.” And it’s now offering stickers that Chamber members can display in their office windows (or on their cars, or …), with an online counterpart so that members can display it on their businesses’ websites. The Chamber also is distributing the newest copy of the “community resource guide” that it publishes each year – maybe you picked up a copy at the Info Booth at West Seattle Summer Fest last weekend. … No monthly Chamber lunch in August but the September lunch will be an update from the Port of Seattle.