6:17 PM: If you haven’t headed out for the West Seattle Transportation Coalition‘s light-rail-routing workshop at The Hall at Fauntleroy (9140 California SW) – you’re not too late. While the official start time was 6 pm, people are still milling about at tables with maps, talking about possibilities. Very informal – just drop in; there’ll be a presentation at some point, but otherwise, it’s not a major “sit down and listen” type event, definitely meant to be interactive. The goal: Gather community thoughts about station siting, routing, etc., before Sound Transit officially launches its work on the West Seattle project this fall – 13 years before the service is scheduled to start. Sound Transit reps are here, by the way, if you have questions for them, but this is a community-led meeting, so they’re here to observe and support rather than to present. We’ll be updating as the night goes.
6:25 PM: WSTC chair Michael Taylor-Judd has given the workshop intro, reminding people that this is a community group, not the ultimate decisionmakers. He’s one of two speakers before everybody will head to breakout tables to talk about routing and stations – the Sound Transit 3 ballot measure proposed three West Seattle lines for the 2030 spur from SODO. Here’s a ST document that WSTC provided, from 2016, showing “representational alignment” – sort of a draft version of where the stations might be:
There’s one table per station, as well as one for “the kitchen sink,” any related issues you want to bring up. He says WSTC will “collect and collate” notes made on maps at the tables, as well as whatever people write on paper comment forms that are available here. It’ll be provided to Sound Transit and SDOT as well as used for guidance in what WSTC does in the months and years ahead.
Taylor-Judd says Metro is represented here too, as the Sound Transit West Seattle line will affect future bus routes/service, too. He wraps his introduction by noting that WSTC is a volunteer community group (launched almost four years ago, originally the WS Transit Coalition) that doesn’t collect dues, so he’s circulating a basket if anyone wants to contribute (totally voluntary) toward the costs of renting this room and related expenses.
6:33 PM: He’s followed by former Transportation Coalition board member Tom Linde, who’s giving a sort of Light Rail 101 presentation – not what it is so much as how it’s planned.
This early stage of the West Seattle planning is “generating options,” e.g. the “representational alignment” shown in the embedded document above (or see it here, PDF). “Somewhere along the line there’ll be a preferred alignment generated by Sound Transit,” Linde continues. Options include at grade (surface), elevated, subway (underground), and Linde is detailing the pros/cons of each. (Since light rail has to cross the Duwamish, a separate bridge is expected, so far.)
After an explanation of those three routing possibilities, Linde walked through “what we know now” – the “representational alignment” (very early-stage) – likely an elevated station at the north end of Delridge, with the train continuing down Delridge, turning toward Genesee, up and across Avalon, then bending toward Fauntleroy, with an elevated station somewhere around 35th/Avalon; the train would continue along Fauntleroy, turning westward onto Alaska, and ending with an elevated station in The Junction. And he’s advising people to head on over to the tables and think about the challenges and opportunities: “As you ponder what (it) would look like – it’s a substantial change to our environment, if it ends up as something elevated or at grade – it will affect the functionality of West Seattle for 100 years.” He exhorts everyone to “build your own argument for your idea” and then head over.
In Q/A, someone brings up the Fauntleroy Boulevard project – “doesn’t make sense … to spend $14, $15 million and then tear it up again.” (That’s been brought up multiple times at discussions of light rail and of the Fauntleroy project, like this one last month at the West Seattle Chamber of Commerce meeting.) At that point, City Councilmember Lisa Herbold says she has been trying for more than a month to get that question answered; she was told the mayor and ST had a meeting today and she is hoping for an answer soon.
6:58 PM: Q&A continues. Marci Carpenter, a West Seattleite who’s on the city’s Transit Advisory Board, has just come forward to say she’s here to listen and observe tonight. The board meets 6 pm 4th Wednesdays at City Hall. Linde fields one last question – what do stations look and sound like? announcements? noise? – he said he spent hours at the Angle Lake ST station in recent weeks and the trains are quiet, “surprisingly pleasant experience.” Just after 7 pm, everyone is off to breakout tables; we will circulate to listen in. (About 50 people are here.)
7:42 PM: Seen at the tables:
What’s immediately above is a representation of what elevated track heading through The Junction might be like. Meantime, here’s our short walkthrough of the table zone:
Soon, everyone will regroup to “report out” on highlights from the tables.
8:05 PM: Those reports begin. WSTC’s Deb Barker was at the Junction station table. “A lot of talk about undergrounding,” she said. “The other themes that were voiced were a proposal for the above-ground seems to be ruining/impacting different things that you might not have thought out before – shadows, driving under these structures in a very tight area …”
WSTC’s Larry Wymer spoke for the 35th/Avalon table. He said there were many concerns about the coordination of the Fauntleroy Boulevard project and the possibility that light rail will go down Fauntleroy, more Sound Transit/SDOT coordination, “maybe push off the Fauntleroy improvement project until we have a better handle on that.” An elevated station like Angle Lake could be 400 feet long, Sound Transit says, they noted. Also: Maybe look at using part of the golf course, or at least tunneling beneath that area. And: This is a major entrance/exit to/from West Seattle- what will the construction timing be like and how will access be handled? Someone also wondered if the Alki Lumber site might be appropriate for a station.
The Delridge table was represented by Josh, who said people are concerned about “crossing over neighborhoods and houses, and if we can minimize that at all, it’s great.” They also talked about going over the golf course, and they wondered why it diverges from the existing bridge and why an established path isn’t what would be followed. Also, if a new bridge is to be built over the Duwamish, what about building it sooner and opening it to bus rapid transit even before light rail is ready?
Speaking for the “bird’s-eye view” table, Peter said concerns included the siting of the Avalon station where homes are now, the possibility that the track would be 150 feet in the air, and what about consolidating three stations into two stations and dropping the Avalon plan? Maybe a future station could be by West Seattle Stadium. And people were asking what happens south of The Junction.
Finally, the “kitchen sink” table: WSTC vice chair Marty Westerman said “there’s a lot of concern about construction, where are commuters going to park … During construction, there’s concern about using Alaska for bike and vehicle traffic … Second concern, eminent domain or homeowners being priced out … Third, this is the wrong technology, it will be obsolete in relatively short order … and, a lot of concern about why don’t the agencies responsible for planning work together?”
NEXT STEPS: WSTC will aggregate the comments “into some kind of functional format,” said Linde. It’ll go to Sound Transit, to Metro, to City Councilmember Herbold. And at 8:17 pm, the event concluded.