AS-IT-HAPPENED COVERAGE: Talking light-rail routing with West Seattle Transportation Coalition

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.

21 Replies to "AS-IT-HAPPENED COVERAGE: Talking light-rail routing with West Seattle Transportation Coalition"

  • Meyer June 22, 2017 (7:49 pm)

    I would totally ride a gondola to downtown. Perhaps from Highpoint down to Coleman dock?

  • Chemist June 22, 2017 (10:48 pm)

    What’s the highest sound transit elevated line we have now ?  I remember when the monorail caught fire and they had to evacuate using the fire department ladders.  What happens when it’s 150 ft in the air ?

    • Jon June 29, 2017 (10:10 am)

      Nothing happens because you’re comparing apples to oranges. The technology behind monorails is not the same as light rails. Stop spreading fear over things you don’t even understand.

  • Michael June 23, 2017 (1:13 am)

    Why make this elevated?  Is it cheaper than tunneling?  Don’t we already have a ton of experience building light rail tunnels?  Do we still own the equipment?  Why didn’t they elevate the light rail in Capitol Hill or build another bridge to the U District?  Also, why is it going to take so long?

    • Lack Thereof June 23, 2017 (7:48 pm)

      Initial plans are elevated mainly because it has to come over the Duwamish at a similar height to the West Seattle Bridge, so it will already be high in the air.  Undergrounding by Delridge would mean a roller-coaster arc, making everything slower to operate and more expensive to build.  It might be practical to go underground further up the hillside, near the Avalon station location, maybe, if extra money can be found.

      On price, it’s not the cost of the tunnel itself.  The big cost to building underground is the underground stations.  Even if we’re able to refurbish one of the U-link tunneling machines – which have already been reused more times than they were engineered for –  Sound Transit would have to come up with a lot of extra money to dig a 100ft deep pit in the middle of Alaska Junction for a station box.  The original ST3 plan included just barely enough money to do an elevated line to West Seattle, and Olympia has already decided to cut 2 billion from that budget.

      Tunneling was the cheap option for U-link because a) capitol hill was in the way and b) they would have had to knock down a lot of large apartment and office buildings to go aboveground.  This elevated line is relatively flat and there’s not many large buildings in the way.

  • M June 23, 2017 (5:09 am)

    What a perfect example of our cities complete waste of tax dollars. Why can’t they answer the question on the integration with the Fauntleroy boulevard project. It’s like the twilight zone around here. 

    And the elevated track is just an awful idea. 

    • Chemist June 23, 2017 (8:38 am)

      Maybe a center median down fauntleroy creates the space needed for sound transit’s elevated pilings.

    • Mickymse June 23, 2017 (11:13 am)

      Well, let’s see… Because the Fauntleroy Boulevard Project has been discussed and planned since around 1999 and is nearly completely designed and scheduled for construction as soon as next year, while light rail has not been designed at all beyond the bare minimum and isn’t expected to start construction for at least another eight years?

    • Lack Thereof June 23, 2017 (8:01 pm)

      Because this isn’t what is actually going to be built.  This is a “representative route” for cost-estimating purposes only.  

      Several more rounds of research have to be done, with traffic studies and ridership modeling and so-forth, before we know exactly which streets or which blocks the train will be built on.  It’ll be probably 2 years before that process concludes.

  • Meyer June 23, 2017 (7:53 am)

    It’s more expensive to tunnel so they always try to do an elevated track. I’m not sure why Capitol Hill got a tunnel but I really hope we get one

    • Lack Thereof June 23, 2017 (7:53 pm)

      Capitol hill got a tunnel because to go over I-5 would have been too steep of a climb from Westlake Station.  Even if it had been able to make the climb, an aboveground path through capitol hill would have required knocking down 100’s of millions of $ worth of apartments, condos, and offices.  

      To go aboveground for this path, they won’t have to knock down anything much bigger than a house.  Cheap.

  • steve June 23, 2017 (8:24 am)

    Wow, my car tabs have tripled. Is there another project we can get going? Aside from my huge rent(thanks to city council) and tripled car tabs, I feel like I’m not spending enough.  I know, lets open up the sewer covers so we can just pour our money down there.  I have about 53 cents left.

  • Jeff June 23, 2017 (8:49 am)

    I’d prefer a tunnel, but as long as there are no at grade crossings like the ridiculous line along MLK I’ll be happy.

  • KM June 23, 2017 (9:45 am)

    Sorry to have missed this.

    Where can we submit our comments to have them included in the submission to Sound Transit and CM Herbold?        

    • WSB June 23, 2017 (10:09 am)

      In case nobody from WSTC stops by to reply … I checked the announcements we’d received about the event and their mailbox is – TR

      • Michael Taylor-Judd June 23, 2017 (11:15 am)

        To tag your comments specifically for this light rail planning, you can send email to

        • KM June 23, 2017 (1:00 pm)

          Thank you Michael (and WSB) hope to join you next month to get involved long-term with the group.

          • Michael Taylor-Judd June 23, 2017 (3:10 pm)

            Great! For those wanting to join us, we generally meet every month on the 4th Thursday up at High Point Neighborhood House starting at 6:30pm. And for the social media-inclined, following us at is always easy for news and updates.

  • Graham June 24, 2017 (9:36 am)

    I suspect there is well-documented history on this, but I wonder — it seems like turning the alignment down Fauntleroy Way would put the rail on a wider thoroughfare and leave better options for extending such as to the Ferry terminal or elsewhere. What if the Avalon station were deleted or moved closer to Genesee, and the Junction station were just south of Alaska and Fauntleroy and 39th?

  • Ydeleon June 24, 2017 (11:13 am)

    Maybe I’m missing something . Why can’t we get a station in the south west Seattle area??? Like arbor heights ! I’m sure the nice people around here need some trans in and out of here as well . 

  • DarkHawke June 24, 2017 (2:15 pm)

    So in a nutshell, we should have gone with the monorail expansion in the first place, if not back when it was first installed in ’62, then with the abortive effort in the ’90s.  MUCH less expensive, more quiet (rubber tires), able to use better tech (maglev = no noise), and it could have already been ENTIRELY built out to the current and projected light rail specs for the cost of ST1!  Oh, well.  Shoulda, woulda, coulda, right?  I’ll never understand why it got zero political backing in the city, let alone the county, yet all this tunneling in a VERY earthquake prone area seems to be the best idea going.  Argh.

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