WEST SEATTLE LIGHT RAIL: Seattle City Council resolution would urge Sound Transit to consider WS tunnel


As proposed in the draft plan for Sound Transit 3 – the 25-year outline for expanding light rail around the region, expected to go to voters in November – West Seattle would be served with an elevated line. Some community advocates think a tunnel would be better, once the line gets across the Duwamish River (currently envisioned as happening via its own new bridge). With the proposed final plan just weeks away, the City Council is expected to pass a resolution shortly offering its feedback to ST. Here’s what’s mentioned about that in the draft of the council resolution, which you can read in full here:

The ST3 package should include a light rail extension from Downtown Seattle to the West Seattle Junction, including a grade-separated alignment through West Seattle. The ST3 package should allow for future consideration and evaluation of a tunnel alignment through West Seattle, if cost savings within the ST3 program or additional funding resources become available.

We asked City Councilmember Lisa Herbold for comment on whether she supports this language; she is the “alternate” member on the City Council Transportation Committee, which will consider the resolution at its 2 pm meeting tomorrow (Tuesday, May 17th). We just received a reply through her legislative assistant Newell Aldrich: “The resolution incorporates language suggested by CM Herbold and the WSTC — we worked with them on the WS section. We all wanted to ensure there was equivalency with the Ballard section (i.e. listing a potential tunnel option if funding allows).”

WSTC is a reference to the West Seattle Transportation Coalition. As a side note to this, you might recall that the WSTC ran a survey about WS light rail this spring, before the ST3 draft plan came out. In WSB comments, some have wondered when those results would be released. Former WSTC board member Joe Szilagyi, who led the group’s online presence during his time on the board, published them in this Medium.com post today.

40 Replies to "WEST SEATTLE LIGHT RAIL: Seattle City Council resolution would urge Sound Transit to consider WS tunnel"

  • Tim May 16, 2016 (12:08 pm)

    Fastest and Cheapest. When they viaduct goes down and the tunnel opens, plan on adding 10 minutes to your bus commute.  They haven’t even released a bus route plan for when the tunnel opens.

  • K to the F May 16, 2016 (12:22 pm)

    It’s tunnel or bust, in my opinion. They’ve gone under Beacon and First/Capitol Hills and under the Montlake cut. For as long as West Seattle has been patient we should at least receive the same, more neighborhood-friendly design for that patience. A giant, concrete, elevated track right up Avalon and Alask to the junction would be tragic. Place the underground station just off the main junction between 40th/41st and Alaska in that hugely wasted B of A lot/parking lot space and you’d have easy walkability to both the junction and newer high density resident nearby.

  • dsa May 16, 2016 (12:23 pm)

    With a tunnel you can cross the river further upstream.

  • Amy Thomson May 16, 2016 (12:23 pm)

    I would rather have a tunnel under the Duwamish, than another bridge that gets raised and lowered at the whim of river traffic!

    • Jon Wright May 16, 2016 (12:50 pm)

      The bridge across the Duwamish that Sound Transit is proposing is a fixed structure, not a draw bridge.

  • KBear May 16, 2016 (12:35 pm)

    Tunnel or elevated, just build it yesterday.

  • MxM May 16, 2016 (12:38 pm)

    more construction in that area? Leave it alone!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

  • Jim May 16, 2016 (1:00 pm)

    Could you please name these “some community advocates” idiots so we can shame them for speaking for the peninsula as a whole? Elevated is cheaper and gets us light rail faster. Stop pretending to speak for us. We just want this built. We’ve been waiting decades. Elevated is fine. Just build the damn thing already. 

    • KM May 16, 2016 (4:41 pm)

      I enjoy the irony of your comment, and I don’t think calling people idiots makes them want to engage further here. And no, I am not one of them either.

  • MG May 16, 2016 (1:17 pm)

    Would the tunnel follow the Seattle Fault line?

    • WSGirl May 17, 2016 (9:48 am)


  • old timer May 16, 2016 (1:21 pm)

    It’s somewhat odd that on one hand, much angst/money/planning is going into the “West Seattle entrance”, and the Fauntleroy Boulevard, while at the same time, there is much pressure for those of us who live here to have to come and go via a hole in the ground.  

  • natinstl May 16, 2016 (2:13 pm)

    Agree with K to the F, any NY’ers here. We all know what it looks like to have an elevated line literally right outside of your window. You would basically have to take every condo along Avalon and buy it out to have an elevated there. Why does WS always have to get the least attractive option while everyone else has it another way.

    • burmer May 18, 2016 (9:41 pm)

      Um, you’re forgetting about South Seattle? With it’s car-crunching, turn-signal destroying, at-grade nightmare of a light rail?

  • JVP May 16, 2016 (2:17 pm)

    It doesn’t need to be all or nothing.  Elevated probably makes sense near Delridge due to the topography they’re dealing with.  But a few blocks of cut-and-cover tunnel should really be considered in the dense, walkable heart of the Junction.

  • Rick Sanchez May 16, 2016 (2:27 pm)

    Elevated over the river, past the steel mill, and alongside the north edge of the golf course up to the stadium.  Then you could run a .5 mile cut and cover tunnel up to California.  Alternatively, if the budget won’t stretch, you could still have a pretty successful at-grade alignment from just west of 35th to California.  

    • Light Rail Fan May 16, 2016 (2:59 pm)

      The words “successful” and “at-grade alignment” simply can not appear next to each other in any sensible plan.

  • Rick Sanchez May 16, 2016 (3:16 pm)

    That’s a misconception.  Assuming you hit the surface west of 35th, you have exactly one major intersection before the terminal station at the Junction.  The Alaska right of way is plenty wide enough for a dedicated trackway down the middle while maintaining vehicle lanes both directions.  At the headways that the line will be running there’s no reason for the train to be delayed by cross traffic with full signal preempt at Fauntleroy.  I like grade separation too, but if the alternatives are an elevated structure looming over Alaska or at grade tracks, I’ll take the grade level option.  Given how tight the North King budget will be, I doubt a tunnel will be in the cards.

  • RayK May 16, 2016 (5:05 pm)

    @RICKSANCHEZ,  ST has eliminated a route at grade into Alaska Jct.  They have offered little guidance on a precise path for the route except that it will emerge from the current downtown tunnel somewhere north of the SODO station and run elevated to a new 140ft high bridge just south of the current high bridge (mentioned at the WSHS event) to wrap around Pigeon Point for a station stop at Delridge (somewhere). Your guess about running along the north edge of the golf course is as good as anyone’s. They also offer no guidance for a station at both 35th Ave (probably on the triangle occupied by Taco Time and Starbucks’ drive through?) and Alaska Jct. 
    ST3 spokespersons have presented to the WSTC several times over the past year. The WSB provided excellent coverage of those meetings. 

  • Les May 16, 2016 (5:17 pm)

     Light rail will require much higher density around all  stations and the elimination of many bus routes to force riders onto  light rail.  History shows that these ST rail projects are never on time or budget .  The UW and Capital  Hill light rail was not on time or even slightly close to being on budget. A reset was not what they sold to voters. Sound Transit has  over promised and under delivered every time. 

  • Free speech May 16, 2016 (5:17 pm)

    Here is the solution stop raping the home owner who can’t afford the current proptery taxes, forcing folks to have to move, don’t tell me my house has gone up, doesn’t matter a darn bit till I sell which the tax system forces many to do

    i for one won’t vote for one more tax no matter what till the system doesn’t disproportionately hit middle class homeowners, Murray and Dow get your greasy hands out of my wallet

    • WSB May 16, 2016 (5:27 pm)

      Since we haven’t mentioned the proposed funding mix lately – $50 billion is the projected cost, with $17 billion to come from sales tax, $7 billion from a motor-vehicle tax, $3 billion from property tax, around the entire 3-county ST area. That would total $27+ billion, with $22+ billion to come from non-tax sources “grants, bonds, fares, existing taxes.” https://st32.blob.core.windows.net/media/Default/Document%20Library%20Featured/DraftPlan_324/Factsheet_ST3_Funding0416-1.pdf

    • John May 17, 2016 (1:19 pm)

      @freespeech..  I agree!  I’m tired of all the additional fee to my property tax.  I’m now paying $480/month.  That’s a lot of money for my 6,000 sf no view lot…with 116 year old house.

  • 22blades May 16, 2016 (5:24 pm)

    Absolutely against grade or sub-grade. The existing grade level transit options are subject the very same traffic issues as cars and busses. If there’s nothing more frustrating than taking transit and sitting in the same traffic as I would in a car. I’m originally from Tokyo and still go there a few times a month. Elevated or subways are all you will find on rails. I don’t even bother with the busses. I know I’ll get flak for this but the monorail was a missed opportunity of political hijacking and nimby’sm.  Don’t blame the technology. Blame what you see in the mirror. Elevated please.

  • dave May 16, 2016 (5:28 pm)

    fastest build time is all that matters.  don’t waste time with another tunnel 

  • Wsres May 16, 2016 (5:46 pm)

    I don’t think we need light rail. More water taxis and parking for the water taxi and let the light rail begin from there. The construction for elevated or tunnel would be awful…

  • D. Radke-Bogen May 16, 2016 (8:04 pm)

    Look at the greography of West Seattle. We need an airial tram. Along the north of the golf course. http://www.gobytram.com/

    The gradient along Delridge is the logical path for light rail. One end of the tram would be at the community center station. The other end would be at California and Genesee. West Seattle traffic is episodic, with big pulses at rush hour. A light rail siding could hold trains to meet the tram arrivals. Traffic on Delridge, like the 120 bus, is more constant and better served by light rail. This would be a natural route to continue South to Burien andon to the airport.

    West Seattle would be a triplewinner: a senic arial tram for transportation and tourism; a lghtrail connection to downtown and a route to Sea-Tac WITHOUT GOING DOWNTOWN!


    • John May 17, 2016 (1:25 pm)

      Hhhmmm….interesting idea.  It would be a fast construction time period too.

  • sarah May 16, 2016 (8:30 pm)

     Don’t do a tunnel I don’t want to Drown if there is a earthquake, won’t go on the new 99 tunnel either , you should have taken the federal governments money for the light rail YOU GUYS SCREWED THE PEOPLE OF SEATTLE WHEN YOU SAID NO TO THE MONEY THEY WANTED TO GIVE US ….. when things get shut down we in West seattle suffer the most 

  • trevor May 16, 2016 (9:09 pm)

    I agree with more water taxis.  Make Sodo a community, since you won’t build a stadium. Use the street they wanted vacated as a rail route.

    Just spending money is not the answer.

  • wsguy May 16, 2016 (9:23 pm)

    No more property taxes for something that may or may not happen in the next 20- epmyears down the road. They have an abysmal record of delivering what they promise.

    • John May 17, 2016 (1:20 pm)


  • East Coast Cynic May 16, 2016 (9:47 pm)

    @wsres, its easy to say don’t build light rail and add water taxis if you live near the taxis.  Those of us that live far from the water taxis don’t find it time efficient to time the shuttle to the water taxi and the water taxi doesn’t address transportation for people who work far beyond downtown.

    Trevor, the jury is still out on the arena in SODO–depends on how Chris Hansen wants to proceed after the council no-votes.  I have to say that not spending money on transit infrastructure is the ineffective lesser Seattle bromide preached by our political elites and natives resulting in our crumbling outdated infrastructure all over the Seattle area—building light rail sooner before the density really started to overwhelm our infrastructure and having it available for transit to take the place of the viaduct and to accompany a viaduct with less capacity potentially would have made transit so much easier for everybody all over the Seattle area.

  • HMC Rich May 17, 2016 (1:29 am)

    If you haven’t ridden on our light rail system, you need to do so.    I have to go to the UW from West Seattle quite often.   I take the C Line to Seneca and 3rd then get on the rail line at University.  Sometimes I take the rail line from the UW to Capital Hill to eat lunch.   When it gets to Northgate there will be more opportunities for quick trips.   I work at Century Link and Safeco and haved dreamed of Light Rail from West Seattle.   Getting to the airport is easy if you live near the line.    This is a vibrant growing city.   Plus, it might be a great opportunity to build bike lanes and walking lanes.  (And each bike needs to be licensed if that is the case)   Tunnels aren’t cheap and as we have seen from Bertha from the Highway 99 project, things in Seattle can get costly.   Elevated please and hurry.  I am not getting any younger! 

  • Fauntleroyville May 17, 2016 (5:22 am)

    Please don’t forget the requirement to have a station platform large enough to accommodate enough trains to allow a reasonable amount of people moving.  Imagine the entire platform of the UW station 30 ft above the AK junction.  Or just look at the one by the airport.  Where exactly, would you put that in the junction?  

    The smaller footprint you allow, the shorter the trains and the slower they can travel the hills we have to traverse and the fewer people you move.  These are facts.  

    There’s simple reasons they went underground in those other neighborhoods, it actually solves your people moving problem. 

     We’re going to have to wait 15+ years no matter what option gets built you might as well build something that will work from the beginning.   Or would you rather be complaining about the lack of improvement over buses in 2030 on opening day?

  • concerned west seattle resident May 18, 2016 (11:31 am)

    A tunnel is the only option through residential (and mixed) areas. Period.

    Why? Add to the great reasons already suggested in comments above (less impact on community, traffic, safety): NOISE!!

    Don’t forget the debacle of noise pollution from the above-ground light rail in Rainier Valley. http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/some-sound-transit-light-rail-screeches-just-wont-stop/ ..  Imagine 20-20 hours a day screeching, whining, clanking, banging, that won’t quit. It’s torture! Noise levels above federal health standards. Windows closed year round? barely a fix. Like to be outdoors — forget it, if the light rail is within a mile. A tunnel is the only way to go. 

    Is property tax your main concern? The solution is not to end all financing of public works. Instead, the solution is to create a state income tax and shift away from property and sales tax. Relying on sales taxes and property taxes puts disproportionate burden on middle and lower income households. Income tax is the most fair approach to paying for our public goods.   

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