By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
If you have something to say about West Seattle light rail – ANYTHING to say – say it now.
Or should we say, NOW. In capital letters. Shouted.
With the “online open house” that you can use for feedback starting today, and the in-person open house in West Seattle tomorrow, these next three-plus weeks are when your comments, suggestions and concerns matter most in the year-plus process of getting to a “preferred alignment” for the West Seattle line (and Ballard too).
Sound Transit reps have made that point at various meetings (we’ve covered them all) and made it again this morning with a media briefing at their HQ downtown.
So, we asked ST executive Cathal Ridge – who’s been leading all the briefings lately – this is the time to throw out anything and everything you want them to consider?
Yes, he affirmed. “We’re really trying to encourage people to throw out the ideas now and we will evaluate it now … rather than wait a year to bring them up in the environmental process because then we will have wasted a year .. that’s really why we’re making a superhuman push to get out there (and hear from) the public. People often don’t engage in a process until it’s much closer … (but) the only way to meet the timeline is to start the process now. … We want to have people weigh in on the ‘representative alignment’ and also on the purpose of the project – let us know what concerns them about the project, what excites them about the project.”
The “representative alignment,” if you’re just tuning in, is the draft plan that envisions extending light rail this way from a new second station in SODO, across the Duwamish River on a new elevated bridge, continuing, elevated, to The Junction with three West Seattle stations along the way. Here’s ST’s Chris Rule showing it with a Google Earth map at this morning’s briefing, as he’s done at other recent meetings:
When you provide feedback on that and anything else you want to comment on, Sound Transit stresses that this isn’t just about big-picture ideas/concerns. Even the sort of thing that otherwise might not come up until the environmental studies, such as construction or noise impacts – the more they hear now, the better the chances of speeding this thing up (and 2030 is already sped up from the original timeline).
We also asked about the format for the open houses – tomorrow’s is 6:30-8:30 pm at the Masonic Hall in The Junction (4736 40th SW). If you can, get there toward the start, because there will be a presentation at about 6:45 pm. That’ll last about 15 minutes. They don’t expect to have a group Q&A after that – instead, Ridge said, lots of ST staffers will be there for you to ask questions one on one and to take your feedback.
Wondering what happens then? Good question. Feedback from the in-person and online open houses, plus a round of “neighborhood forums” in March, will be collected for an “early scoping report” that then goes to the Stakeholder Advisory Group – whose first meeting we covered last week. They will be involved in “screening,” and in turn providing their feedback to the Elected Leadership Group (whose first meeting we also covered). Then there’ll be second and third rounds of screening before the “preferred alternative” is settled on in spring 2019. Here’s the slate of how that all goes:
The final decision is in the hands of the Sound Transit board, but that’s after all those multiple rounds of feedback. Again – we have to say it again – NOW is the time to get everything out there on the table that you want to say, ask, etc., in the interest of acceleration. Ridge said that “a lot of the delay we’ve had in the past (on other light-rail projects) is when technical issues and stakeholder issues weren’t identified early on” so they have to retrace and redo some steps – “you think you know what you’re doing, and then you run into some kind of roadblock.”
So as distant as 2030 sounds, there’s a lot of deciding to be done right now, but this is the time to speak up.
HOW TO COMMENT: In-person open houses (you can go to the Ballard and downtown ones too – they’re all for the West Seattle to Ballard extensions, which are being planned in tandem though Ballard opens five years after WS):
Tuesday, Feb. 13, 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Alki Masonic Center, 4736 40th Ave. SW Street
Thursday, Feb. 15, 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Leif Erikson Lodge, 2245 NW 57th Street
Tuesday, Feb. 20, 5:30-7:30 p.m. at Union Station, 401 S. Jackson Street
Online ‘open house’: wsblink.participate.online
You can also comment by e-mail – email@example.com – phone (206-903-7229) – and postal mail, c/o Lauren Swift, Sound Transit, 401 S. Jackson St., Seattle 98104
BACKGROUND INFO: Here’s how the project was outlined before the Sound Transit 3 vote in 2016, including some cost information; we’re asking for more and will add it when we get it.