Cup-half-full version: West Seattle could have light rail as soon as 2026.
Cup-half-empty version: West Seattle won’t get light rail any sooner than 2026.
That was the bottom line of a briefing that was part of the City Council Transportation Committee‘s meeting this morning. Potential West Seattle light rail wasn’t the only topic – in fact, it was the last part of the Sound Transit guest appearance, which in turn was only part of a busy agenda (above is Seattle Channel‘s video of the entire meeting – the briefing starts 35 minutes in). The briefing followed the order of the slide deck. And however you view that potential date, it would depend on West Seattle being written into Sound Transit’s Long-Range Plan when it’s updated later this year; it didn’t make it into the plan previously, ST reiterated today, because of the since-scrapped plan for monorail service between West Seattle and downtown.
The slide deck itself didn’t contain the potential 2026 date – West Seattle-residing Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, who chairs the committee, asked for a date, and all ST reps would give him was that 2016 would be the earliest a “Sound Transit 3” measure could go before voters. Perhaps a “board member” could speculate further, they said, with all eyes turning to Councilmember Mike O’Brien, a board member who happened to be right there at the table.
He then said that in the most optimistic of scenarios, it would take another 10 years to build potential West Seattle service, if it was on the plan, then on a ballot measure, and approved.
Making it clear he wasn’t just describing West Seattle but also including other not-currently-served communities, O’Brien said, “we know people out there are screaming for it.”
When they got to the WS possibilities, ST briefers again went over the scenarios that have been presented in recent months, dating back to this Executive Committee briefing and two briefings in West Seattle, including the WS Chamber of Commerce luncheon we covered last month. As pointed out at those discussions, if there is a West Seattle proposal, it wouldn’t necessarily be one of these scenarios, but could combine elements of them. And ST is considering “bus rapid transit” as well as light rail (LRT). Routes for LRT could just go into West Seattle and White Center, transferring people to buses to get to Burien, Tukwila, and Renton from there, or might go all the way to Renton, stopping in eastern West Seattle along the way – or options inbetween.
Rasmussen asked how the city could request that ST be sure to include West Seattle; staffers at the table verified that they already had sent a letter to ST asking it to include Seattle corridors including ours “and others that are consistent with” the city’s transit plan.
Once the Long-Range Plan is updated – with or without West Seattle – ST would be in a position to “move into system planning,” in other words, coming up with a proposal that then could go to voters for funding, and that process would be expected to run through most of 2015. ST also called attention to King County launching its own long-range planning and a directive from County Executive Dow Constantine – who currently chairs the ST Executive Board – to make sure that Metro and ST plans are “not just coordinated, but deeply integrated.” A report on that, it was mentioned, is expected to be out next month.
P.S. The meeting also included the committee’s first guest appearance by SDOT director nominee Scott Kubly, as part of his confirmation process. A vote isn’t expected until next month. (Among other things, Kubly asked Councilmember Rasmussen to give him a guided tour of West Seattle sometime soon.)