By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
They’ve been working for months on a light-rail extension we won’t see for years, but had just minutes to decide which rough-draft alternative concepts should move forward and which shouldn’t.
The process already has been billed as hurried so that the 2030 target for opening West Seattle’s ST3-decreed line can be met or maybe even exceeded, but this stop along the route was the most rushed of all we’ve covered so far.
The meeting had begun with facilitator Diane Adams telling the group (see its membership here) being told, “Tonight you won’t need to make a ‘preferred alternative’ determination,” followed by ST executive Cathal Ridge adding, “We would at least like to make some progress down that road.”
That they did – but with little time for detailed deliberation. Here’s the bottom line for the West Seattle segment, after the tables’ discussion toward night’s end:
Sorry for the fuzzy image – the checklist slide was created on the spot, so there’s no digital version, but here’s the pre-yay/nay version of the same list so you can read and compare:
And here are the maps from last week showing details on each:
Here’s how those decisions were reached (again, the group had to decide yay/nays on the other parts of the West Seattle/Ballard extensions too, but for obvious reasons, we are mostly just reporting WS details):
The SAG members were broken into four tables as they had been one week earlier, and they were given materials focused on the roughed-out alternatives that were shown at that meeting, as well as an explanation of why some of them were described as having less potential than others. The West Seattle alternatives were used as an example here. You can see that toward the start of the meeting’s full slide deck (also viewable here in PDF):
The ST explanation also singled out the concept of consolidating or eliminating a station as “potentially not consistent in the ST Plan.” Ridge suggested “the easiest part of the meeting” should be deciding whether any of the least-practical (as identified by ST) suggestions should be carried forward. And as for the ones identified with “more potential,” the question to address, “How might these alternatives be refined?”
And then the table discussion began, roughly 15 minutes for discussion of each segment after a brief recap by a ST staffer, this time moving east to west, Ballard/Interbay, then Downtown, then SODO, then West Seattle.
WEST SEATTLE SUMMARY: Before the tables bit into the West Seattle possibilities, ST’s Stephen Mak provided an overview of the alternatives that debuted at last week’s meeting, shaped by what ST had called the “themes” they noted in the “early scoping” public comment phase:
He also showed again the slide showing how they all shook out in evaluation (see above), calling out the “golf course” option as “performing similar to” the original draft alignment (route). But, he said, that one has the “section 4f” challenge, and would eliminate the Avalon station. The eventual summary, as noted above, was that the Pigeon Ridge and Oregon Street alternatives could move on. The table where we were listening in had some extra notes about the former:
… but had barely seconds to discuss the latter, as the groups had been instructed to move from bottom (ruling out the “less potential” alternatives) to top (vetting the “more potential” ones) and Oregon was last; the table we were observing had just gotten to it when discussion was shut off.
Around the room, there was a bit of disagreement on whether to carry forward the option that would have involved the West Seattle Golf Course – one table suggested a “hybrid” that might include some elements of it. Ridge said he had listened in on the discussion and the positive element seemed to be going into a Junction-bound tunnel from the golf course area, so perhaps that could be a modification (or “refinement” as potential changes had been labeled at the start of the night).
Two tables said that for SW Alaska and SW Oregon, they’d like to see elevated and tunnel versions for a comparison. Some participants voiced concerns about port impacts and how to minimize them.
Concerns were also voiced about whether SAG members had enough information to fully rule some options out or in – this in particular emerged in reference to a mention of U.S. Coast Guard policies and how they related to possible north-end options. Ridge said he agreed they need to explain better why certain things “don’t work.”
In case you’re interested, we took a couple notes from the other segments, and photos too:
SUMMARIZING BALLARD/INTERBAY: Everyone agreed not to carry forward the “not practical recommendations” except one table thought “the multimodal bridge should be studied” and that it is too soon to “shut down” that conversation. Ridge said that they really wanted to move forward what the ST3 funding would cover and if other modes were going to be involved, they’d have to understand “where the money would come from.” One lady said it feels “fake” that the alternatives identified as having “more potential” aren’t even “up for discussion.” Ridge said they ARE open to some discussion if there’s a strong observation about one of those. Another group member, in discussing another possible alternative, said he felt they don’t have enough information right now to fully evaluate possibilities. Another person noted that “it’s hard to discard anything” because one currently defined alternative might be good for Ballard and not for Interbay, or the other way around.
DOWNTOWN NOTE: Two tables disagreed with the suggestion that a First Hill station would be inconsistent with ST3. Among those arguing in favor of it, former Mayor Greg Nickels, who noted that it was part of the Sound Move plan, and that First Hill is a major job and residential center. Otherwise, the two butterscotch-shaded “not practical” suggestions were unanimously deemed “don’t carry forward” by all four groups.
SODO NOTE: All tables agreed not to carry forward the idea of “design for potential extension south to Georgetown.” One table disagreed with everyone else agreeing that the idea of a “First Avenue alignment” shouldn’t carry forward. One person observed that the SODO plan doesn’t really serve SODO, but is more laid out to serve people transferring through SODO.
WHAT’S NEXT: The West Seattle “neighborhood forum” is your next chance for comment – 10 am-12:30 pm Saturday, May 5, at the Masonic Center (4736 40th SW). Then the Elected Leadership Group has its second meeting on May 17th. Ridge says the results of last night’s meeting will go to that group, and by the time the stakeholders meet again May 30th, they’ll be on to talking about “what our alternatives are” for Level 2 of screening, to “start this process all over again.” Final decision, though, is in the hands of the Sound Transit Board, which is expected to choose a “preferred alternative” by spring 2019.