West Seattle Transportation Coalition: Light-rail hopes & dreams; Fauntleroy Boulevard side trip


By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

The West Seattle Transportation Coalition issued a “call for action,” and the call was answered.

Its January meeting focused primarily on sorting out what people here want to see in Sound Transit‘s upcoming ST3 ballot measure – with the “candidate projects” being reviewed for a draft plan that’s expected in March, followed by a final plan in June and a regional vote in November.

They’re planning to organize the feedback – and collect even more soon, via an online poll.

After gathering that feedback, the meeting took one side trip, into an update on the Fauntleroy Boulevard project, and another call for opinions.

But first, about light rail:

More than 50 people gathered in a lower-level meeting room at The Kenney (WSB sponsor) for a discussion that was truly all over the map, as WSTC leaders tried to set the stage by clearing up confusion over what’s being considered and what might happen.

By means of backstory, co-chair Amanda Kay Helmick explained WSTC had realized Ballard had lots of planning for its expected section of ST3 “but (West Seattle hasn’t) exactly had the same planning.” The area doesn’t just want light rail but wants planning for how it’s going to happen. “The reason that Ballard got all the planning is that Ballard neighborhoods got together and went to the city,” board member Marci Carpenter explained.

More backstory: WSTC made sure the meeting took into account the Move Seattle levy as well as ST3. Move Seattle projects of interest to West Seattle include Fauntleroy Boulevard and Delridge RapidRide corridor. WSTC is concerned about potential conflicts that no one will detect without a West Seattle-specific view.

Co-chair Tom Linde, describing himself as a lifelong transit advocate with involvement in Seattle’s monorail project a decade-plus ago, offered something of a primer in the possibilities for light rail – “at grade,” “elevated,” and “tunneled” version, as well as some monorail background. And as he described it later in the meeting, the light-rail decision is a “big thing to the community, going to change things in West Seattle for 100 years.”

He explained for newcomers that the final monorail alignment – before the project was scrapped – was going to come off the bridge, head toward Nucor, continue up Avalon – elevated – then at 35th head up to Alaska, west toward Jefferson Square, take a left, go up a block, turn down Edmunds, angle down California, still elevated, toward Morgan Junction. It needed air rights – “impactful on the streetscape,” he said of the monorail columns’ size and shape. And that shapes the questions now being pondered.

What about light rail “at grade” (on the surface)? Linde explained what he saw in Salt Lake City, where he had just traveled. The train was in the middle of a busy boulevard. It’s not an “insignificant” thing to ponder how those logistics will be worked out, he said. He said he believes a lot of problems will be solved figuring out if you could tunnel for a mile across the Duwamish to The Junction. Not cheap. But potentially effective, he said.

An attendee later clarified that the type of tunnel we’d be talking about here is not a Highway 99-type tunnel, but something smaller. West Seattle geology is relatively stable, Linde added. “How much more would that tunnel cost?” asked board member Mark Jacobs. “We don’t know for sure,” said Helmick.

Then, the options ST has publicly discussed so far – look for the West Seattle possibilities in this 90-page PDF.

What’s in the red, explained WSTC board member Michael Taylor-Judd, “is as much as ST has released publicly,” and has done some planning for, if light. What’s in blue, “other options they’re thinking about” but haven’t gone into any detail at all. “Options for the lines, basic route corridors” – without “what streets they would go on,” etc.

At that point City Councilmember Lisa Herbold spoke up from the front row to mention the “jurisdictional letters” sent to Sound Transit by the council (among others) – read theirs here. Taylor-Judd summarized that nobody seems to want a spur just to go to The Junction and stop there – they’d like it to continue on to White Center, Burien, etc. He says some advocacy groups have urged ST not to limit itself – “go to voters and instead of going 10 to 15 years like we’ve done for (previous levies), say you’re going to go (for longer) … propose a larger package.”

So if this passes in November, what’s the timeline for when construction could start? Taylor-Judd said he’s hearing a lot more talk lately of 10 to 15 years, if planning overlaps with the continuation of ST 2 projects.

“And,” interjected Helmick, “the key word is planning. All these questions could be answered with proper planning. … We don’t know all the answers; we’re volunteers.” She brought it back around to the “call for action emergency” – ST saying it’ll have a draft plan in March, a final plan in June, to vote on in November.

One attendee interjected – is anybody coordinating all the different transportation services?

Councilmember Herbold mentioned the Transit Master Plan.

“So shouldn’t they be informing this plan, then?

Welcome to our frustration, replied WSTC leaders.

Taylor-Judd to everyone in the room: “Here is the call to action we need from you. We need to gather information, we need your comments.” Butcher-paper sheets were up around the room, headed by questions such as “Do you support light rail to West Seattle?” “Triangle/35th Station – Yes, No, Defer?” “Do you support an Elevated rail line into Alaska Junction?” “Should we go south of The Junction with ST3?” Why? “Like/dislike” for each of three options.

For even more context, Chris Arkills, transportation adviser to KC Executive Dow Constantine, mentioned that Metro’s long-range plan will be coming out around the same time as the ST3 plan – “as you’re thinking about the kind of light rail you want, think about the power of buses and rail together,” especially with buses not having to go downtown.

Taylor-Judd mentions that Stadium/35th SW station is a possibility that wasn’t in the last public release.

And from there, it was time for everyone to circulate, writing on the butcher paper if they wanted to.

Just a few of the resulting sheets:


Watch for a followup with the compilation.

Also at the WSTC meeting:

FAUNTLEROY BOULEVARD: Herbold picked up a question that now-former Councilmember Tom Rasmussen had tossed out a year ago – regarding whether utilities should be undergrounded in the Fauntleroy Boulevard project (Fauntleroy Way between the bridge and The Junction). It’s not covered by the current funding. Her question:

Should they start Fauntleroy Boulevard now without undergrounding – since extra money is going to be difficult to come by? she said SDOT is still asking. A decision is coming up within a couple weeks. Herbold says she told SDOT they should come to the community and ask the question, quick. The undergrounding is still estimated to cost at least an additional $5 million – she said she’d be willing to try to find that money if the community wants it.

Susan Melrose from the Junction Association said she understood that the project could be started without the money and the city didn’t seem to be interested in seeking the money for undergrounding. “I would say that if you went for a delay while pursuing the money you’d need to get some assurances, because as has been pointed out before, the projects on the (Move Seattle) list can change,” Herbold said. She said she has an idea about some “one-time capital funds” that might be available.

If you have an opinion – to underground or not to underground – let your councilmember know, lisa.herbold@seattle.gov

Also, a few announcements:

TRANSIT ADVISORY BOARD: WSTC’s Carpenter is a member of this new city-convened group, one of two West Seattleites, she said. The public is invited to their regular meetings, which include comment periods – next one is 6 pm February 24th at City Hall. The board also has a retreat coming up. The board has met three times so far.

WSTC BOARD: There’s an opening on the WSTC board and Chas Redmond declared himself a candidate. There’ll be a vote next month.

GATHERING OF NEIGHBORS: Michael Taylor-Judd prefaced the transportation discussion by VIEWS reminding everyone about this year’s Gathering of Neighbors, coming up Saturday, March 12th, at Youngstown Cultural Arts Center – time not finalized yet but likely 9 am-1 pm. The theme: “Growing Pains.”

The West Seattle Transportation Coalition meets on fourth Thursdays, 6:30 pm. The location for February 25th’s meeting hasn’t been finalized yet. Keep an eye on westseattletc.org

40 Replies to "West Seattle Transportation Coalition: Light-rail hopes & dreams; Fauntleroy Boulevard side trip"

  • chemist February 1, 2016 (12:34 am)

    I do like the idea of a tunnel, but on a practical level, one going underneath the 40 ft deep navigable duwamish and then ascending to 300 ft elevation by the time you’re at Jefferson Square seems like quite a climb for light rail.

    • Jon Wright February 1, 2016 (8:39 am)

      There would be a new high bridge across the Duwamish for light rail (for just the reason you cited). The portion from landfall to the Junction (and potentially beyond) is where folks were advocating for a tunnel.

      • chemist February 1, 2016 (9:39 am)

        That makes a lot more sense. I spent a bit more time with the 90-page pdf (pgs 42-57 are West Seattle projects) linked in the article this morning. It’s a tough call… do you try to hit the urban villages of today or do you go a longer distance to stretch out the nework.

      • Joe Szilagyi February 1, 2016 (10:08 am)

        Just a point of reference from my own personal understanding up to this point… I don’t think the engineering if we come in off a high bridge supports a tunnel from landfall on the west side of the Duwamish River to the Junction. You would need to do in order: high bridge over the river, then a high/elevated station in Delridge, THEN you can tunnel by that elevated line presumably hitting the side of the hill maybe somewhere around Genesee (before anyone gets any knickers in twists over that location, please note I said somewhere around there and that this is my own personal understanding from lots of reading and meetings).

  • candrewb February 1, 2016 (5:33 am)

    Are they asking us to vote on this before all of the details are known?

    • candrewb February 1, 2016 (5:37 am)

      Never mind, missed the June date.

  • Brian February 1, 2016 (7:46 am)

    I like how people will take any and every opportunity to use the acronym SLUT now that it has entered popular parlance.

  • Eric February 1, 2016 (8:05 am)

    It’s depressing that even if all goes well and WS is included in plans, construction won’t begin for 10-15 years.  I’ll be retired (or have moved out of WS) by the time a functional transportation system comes into being.  Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for it – but the glacial pace of solving the area’s most pressing need is disheartening.  

  • heather February 1, 2016 (8:40 am)

    Agreed @Eric. I feel like the UW Stadium transit hub went up so quickly…. Sometimes I wonder, what would we do if the bridge was severly damaged in a quake?

    • Ricky February 1, 2016 (10:49 am)

      Construction actually happens relatively quickly… it’s the planning that takes a long time. The Capitol Hill & UW stations had the benefit that a lot of the planning was done in alongside the initial segment (Westlake-SeaTac/Airport). 

  • Tom February 1, 2016 (9:20 am)

    We need to future proof this idea, and that means it needs to be underground where it’s not competing with any other traffic.  No one’s going to remember that it cost more in 50 years, what they will remember is that they have a direct route to where they need to go that isn’t stuck in the ever worsening traffic mess we’re getting into.

  • Wakeflood February 1, 2016 (10:42 am)

    Confirm me as another for a short tunnel from the west side of the Duwamish to the AK junction.  It really is the only alignment that makes sense given the topography, the engineering, and the Right of Way issues you face trying to make elevated work.  All the same reasons they did it on Cap Hill/UW.  I’ll fight for a short tunnel until ST puts a stake through its heart or puts it on the options list.  (I suspect the only reason will be shortage of funds, since we have to have another bridge to get over the river, which won’t be cheap.)  If the tunnels dies, I’ll fight for elevated over at-grade, which would simply be a silly solution for the peninsula.  It might make sense once you get south of Roxbury but even then…

  • Aly February 1, 2016 (11:36 am)

    I live in Arbor Heights and public transportation is very limited in that area. There should be more options than just the 21X and 22 (which both rarely run) I understand there’s a budget and they cater to residents during peak hours, but it really effects my work schedule when the bus stops running at 6:09  from downtown. I would use public transportation all the time if it were available to me more frequently.

    • MH February 9, 2016 (7:50 pm)

      My sentiments exactly

  • TC February 1, 2016 (11:45 am)

    please something to alleviate the traffic on delridge in the mornings!! its bad enough traffic gets backed up pass the park delaying buses and cars alike. white center and burien have my vote. it will be easier for people to move especially when the light rail starts going up to the UW and capital hill. 

  • Will S. February 1, 2016 (11:51 am)

    I agree completely with Wakeflood: A tunnel from the west side of the Duwamish is the only sensible way to reach Alaska Junction. (Besides, if Sound Transit can dig a tunnel to preserve the character of downtown Bellevue, then it can also dig a tunnel to preserve a neighborhood with actual character.) Our representatives need to start pushing for this.

  • BlairJ February 1, 2016 (12:13 pm)

    I agree with the idea of a tunnel starting a few blocks west of the Duwamish, somewhere around Avalon Way into the hillside, and serving the Junction.  But light rail should also serve White Center; would that mean connecting the Junction and White Center, or would it mean a separate east/west line coming into the hillside somewhere around Meyers Way and running under Roxbury?

  • Gatewood Rob February 1, 2016 (12:14 pm)

    There is funding for burying the wires.  The developments that want the permit to jam in a high rise get to pay.  Tunnel?  They pay.  I believe every other developer has to pay for streets and what not in new developments, so why should these get a pass?  They spread over the units, and there you go, you get to jam a few thousand more people in where there was 10…  C’mon mayor and city council. Get out of the developers pockets!  Oh wait…

  • wetone February 1, 2016 (12:32 pm)

    I would recommend anyone interested in tunnel idea to get some maps and early pictures of  area ( downtown area, Duwamish corridor, and WS from late 1800’s and early 1900’s to truly understand types of ground soil the tunnel would be traveling through, a real eye opener for most. There was no Harbor Island or SoDo area as today. Could a tunnel be built ? sure but at what cost and real practicability. I would think a new elevated double decker bridge structure that could handle bus, light rail, cars, bikes, walkers would be a smarter way to go. Build right beside high bridge (WSFwy) we have now. Once built tear old one down as life expectancy would be close. Road alignment would be easy as it would plug back into existing road structure’s.  If West Seattle stadium were to be used as P/R type lot you could have elevated road structure that handles buses and light rail head out above golf course and Delridge   hooking into new bridge.  Just thinking…….   

  • TC February 1, 2016 (12:37 pm)

    with the tunnel i have to question will this effect the duwamish clean up?? will it be another bertha?

    • Mickymse February 1, 2016 (1:12 pm)

      The talk of the tunnel is WEST of the River, on the way into the Alaska Junction. The crossing of the River will be on a bridge 75-feet up or more. As for boring the tunnel, it will definitely not be like Bertha. Unlike other agencies around here, Sound Transit has an excellent record with boring tunnels and currently has two machines working underneath our city. In fairness, this is because Sound Transit is using much smaller machines to bore much smaller tunnels; but we’re talking something half the size of what Bertha is trying to bore along the waterfront, and in better soil.

  • flynlo February 1, 2016 (1:11 pm)

    Re Undergrounding Power on Fauntleroy:  Herbold supposedly said  ” she’d be willing to try to find that money if the community wants it.”  Why does she need to?  According to the seattle city light web site:  ” City Ordinance states that all electrical service, outside
    the Downtown, First Hill, and University District Network
    areas, be provided from overhead service. Underground
    service outside of network areas is to be installed at
    property owner’s expense and City Light’s discretion.
    All electrical equipment installed in the right-of-way
    becomes the property of Seattle City Light.”  Note the “PROPERTY OWNER’S EXPENSE”!  And who is going to pay for the extra cost of maintenance of the underground system – Oh wait – that’s years down the road, someone else can worry about that!  If there’s really $5M to be “found” in the current city budget, wouldn’t it make more sense to put it toward the homeless problem?

  • dcn February 1, 2016 (1:16 pm)

    I would love to see Light Rail come to West Seattle in my lifetime. I don’t know if we are in competition with Ballard for a light rail line. Ideally, of course, these lines would all get built. But if ST3 passes and only one candidate line can be built, it will be to Ballard. I say that because of their projected daily ridership numbers for 2040. The data below come from the 90 page pdf linked in the article. .For Ballard, the numbers are 35-43K for C01a line, 67-87K for the C01b and C01c lines, and 29-37K for the C01d line. C02 from Ballard to the U-District lists 19-24K riders/day..For West Seattle, it’s 23-29K for the C03a line, 11-13K for the C03b line (these are both to the Junction), 19-22K for the C03c line (Delridge to White Center), and 10-15K for the C-13 line (WS to Burien). .These numbers, are much lower than the Ballard to Downtown numbers, and from a usage standpoint, it looks like C01b or C01c from Ballard to downtown are the clear winners. My guess is that Ballard will get priority in the ST3, along with some of the less expensive options, like extra stations along existing lines, and West Seattle will get pushed to some future ST4 or beyond proposal. Meanwhile, they have projected quite steep increases in population to the West Seattle between 2014 and 2040.

  • Wakeflood February 1, 2016 (1:34 pm)

    DCN, I understand your thoughts re: WS vs. Ballard but there appears to be gaining momentum for an “all-in” ST 3.  Continue the bonding for 20-30yrs. and actually plan the whole system rather than piecemeal it.That idea is supported by Seattle Subway (Ballard proponents) and others who realize that doing it the way we have been is counterproductive as it continually pits one area of the county vs. the others and that’s just not working to anyone’s benefit.And a “thank you” for the reiteration that tunnel supporters are only talking about a short section that starts on the WS side of the Duwamish and goes to the AK Jnctn as an option.   Not talking at all about boring under the river. 

  • Roxy February 1, 2016 (1:41 pm)

    Rail should go south thru West Seattle to the airport where it can connect with other rail lines. It’s  just not smart to send airport employees and other folks working south of us over the WS bridge. The busses heading south have serious efficiency problems. South of Roxbury is undeserved especially heading south. The 120 and 560 are running the same schedule so you can’t  use the 120 to climb the hill on Roxbury to get to the 560 stop at the top of the hill. People can’t get to REI headquarters, FedEx or other major employers in Kent from Westwood. 

    • Joe Szilagyi February 1, 2016 (4:16 pm)

      The long term what-if scenario I’ve most commonly heard is rail from West Seattle to White Center, south to a possible Ambaum stop, then Burien downtown/transit center, then intersecting with the Tukwila station on Central Link (there is your airport transfer) then eventually onward to Southcenter Mall and Renton. 

  • Wakeflood February 1, 2016 (2:02 pm)

    Folks who live south of Roxbury shouldn’t be going down Delridge to Seattle, to be sure.  They have a more direct line down/up to 509 and across the 1st Ave. Bridge.  And yes, folks should end up with an option to get to the airport from WS BUT don’t assume that folks who live in Burien will want to come north THROUGH West Seattle to get downtown.  That’s what Hwy 509 is for.  And they have a bus P&R to use that route as well as the many folks who go east on 518/405 to Bellevue and work places south of Tukwila. The question of how to best serve the folks who live more than a few blocks south of Roxbury will likely always be Hwy 509 to 1st Ave. bridge.  It’s going to be faster (assuming reasonable bus service) than trundling down Delridge and  stopping every few blocks.  

    • Wakeflood February 1, 2016 (2:05 pm)

      If they sort out a Light Rail line down Delridge with a stop at the north and south ends, it might end up faster.  There’s some, shall we say, difference of opinion regarding Metro’s plans to do Rapid Ride down Delridge that’s being discussed currently.

  • dcn February 1, 2016 (2:31 pm)

    Wakeflood, I hope you are right. I support Seattle Subway’s “all in” philosophy. It’s just not how Sound Transit has operated to date, so I’m skeptical that West Seattle will see anything before the Ballard-Downtown line is built. Even if it is all passed in ST3, my guess is that the Ballard line would be built first. Whatever happens, I will vote for any/all light rail propositions, since even if West Seattle gets nothing for another 30 years, any new rail lines to downtown should help relieve congestion on I-5 and our beleaguered 99. 

  • JK February 1, 2016 (3:49 pm)

    I don’t understand the gentrifying argument against C-03c in the charts. Lets make sure the minority/low income  neighborhoods don’t get transportation and that will keep the white/rich people away? Quite patronizing and similar to the “lets keep the black people in slavery so they don’t have to worry about food”. If you want to solve gentrification then give  incentives  or make rules for developers/builders to sell/rent to existing residents. Not by keeping transportation away from minority neighborhoods. The C-line and buses from the junction are poorly used compared to the 120 line which overcrowded throughout the day. So just having density doesn’t guarantee usage. The cost benefit analysis has to compel people to use public transportation and that is far more difficult in the wealthy areas around the junction.

    • Joe Szilagyi February 1, 2016 (4:18 pm)

      The C-line and buses from the junction are poorly used compared to the 120 line which overcrowded throughout the day. 

      All else aside, while the 120 is a stupidly busy line, the C line is especially at commute hours absolutely jam packed most days as it leaves the Junction.

      • D. Radke-Bogen February 1, 2016 (9:09 pm)

        Yes the 120 is hauls the freight, a passenger base for building on Delridge. The C is intermittent, more of a subsidiary line. Delridge’s gradient is easier than the climb up to the Junction.  To combine these two needs an elevated light rail line on Delridge through White Center and Burien turning East to connect to SeaTac at Tukwila. There could be a West Seattle station at Genesee St. with a siding to layover rush hour trains. For connector service, copy Portland’s gondola line with a sky train along the north edge of the golf course to a condominium station US post office on California.

  • natinstl February 1, 2016 (5:42 pm)

    Hope I’m gone before I have a train running above my home.

  • wsn00b February 2, 2016 (1:48 pm)

    SDOT can’t do Transportation 101/basics like picking up garbage from Fauntleroy/35th and will take a decade to start rebuilding major arterials. Instead, let’s do shiny underground boulevards and buy failed bikeshares.  SDOT/WSDOT/ST taking decades to put in basic transit is laughable. Keep talking and planning till everybody today dies of old age. 

  • Commuter February 2, 2016 (2:48 pm)

    Light rail to West Seattle??? Haha, don’t hold your breath! A tunnel underground to replace the viaduct??? Haha, don’t hold your breath! Improved roads throughout King County??? Haha, don’t hold your breath! Help for the homeless and the neighborhoods affected by their derelict vehicles, trash, etc??? Don’t hold your breath! Less crime, shootings, burglaries??? Don’t hold yo…well you get the idea. **Also, what’s with the photographs of hastily scribbled comments above? I don’t understand the purpose of doing that. Are people meeting up to exchange post-it notes regarding change they wish to see? 

  • RossB February 8, 2016 (11:22 am)

    People want light rail because they want speed. This is understandable. Our buses are slow (even the ones that are supposedly “rapid”) and our light rail is fast. But there are other ways to achieve speed.One would be to just build a brand new freeway. Create another West Seattle Freeway, but this time only for transit. Run an additional tunnel through downtown and this solves the problem nicely. You would be able to serve every major corridor in West Seattle (Delridge, Fauntleroy, Admiral, Alki) with direct, frequent bus service. This would not be cheap, but it would still be cheaper than adding just one light rail line to West Seattle. Of course, we could save even more money by leveraging what we already have. This means adding lanes to the West Seattle freeway (and the Spokane Street Viaduct). You would still need to spend a lot of money for that, but not billions. The big money would be spent on another transit tunnel that would serve Ballard/Queen Anne and Aurora buses. Such a plan — costly but not as expensive as rail — has been proposed here and here.

    Unlike RapidRide, this sort of investment is not cheap, but leads to the type of speed that Link is known for. At the same time, you directly serve more areas.  We aren’t going to build light rail to more than one West Seattle corridor, so most of the riders would be forced to make a transfer to a train that won’t run as often as our buses (Sound Transit has said they plan on running the trains every ten minutes at most). But with infrastructure improvements designed for buses, the transfer is avoided (on all the corridors) and the buses run just as fast.

  • mkn73 February 8, 2016 (1:26 pm)

     Light rail to West Seattle does not pencil out…plain and simple…..and the transit planner’s know this. BRT makes much more sense here. WS has less than 1/3 the population density of Ballard and has way fewer people and destinations within walking distance of a possible rail station.  While WS has fought hard against development and density, Ballard has grown exponentially in it’s urban core yet received pretty much nothing in terms of transit investment.  WS also is more isolated geographically (and by land use patterns), so the cost-benefit ratio is poor as well. ST3  funding should be prioritized towards Ballard.

  • Thomas M February 9, 2016 (8:32 pm)

    the password is “parking”.  It’s half  of “park & ride”.   Lack of parking at train stops is the reason the whole thing flopped 20 or so years ago.  Have we learned?  Can we face the truth?  What the hell.  Build it and when nobody rides it will be the amazing discovery that parking is necessary to make the existing rail viable that gets it built.  Geniuses.  I shake my head. 

  • jb February 15, 2016 (1:58 pm)

    Elevated light rail from downtown  into West Seattle and connecting to Westwood and beyond to the Burien transit center, absolutely yes! I’ve lived in WS for 25 years and Seattle all my life…the growth is only going to continue so let’s keep planning and building.

  • Alan Gunsul February 19, 2016 (2:13 pm)

    I have lived in Seattle since an infant and the South End since age 8 and now at 89 are enjoying driving over to Tukwila Station to use the light rail to go down town to meetings, to shop and to the Theatres.  I believe the time is right to plan an extension of light rail to West Seattle , White Center and Burien much like the Interurban Light rail did in history, tho that line came up Delridge instead of truly  entering  West Seattle. The line should go up to Alaska Junction, then on to White Center and Burien.  If it arrived while I am still alive I would us it.  Dr G

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