No revelations in the presentation itself. ST’s Cathal Ridge recapped the overall Sound Transit 3 plan, including the 4.7-mile extension from SODO to the West Seattle Junction that’s scheduled to open in 2030, connecting to a new downtown tunnel opening in 2035 with the northward extension to Ballard.
Key timeline points: “Alternatives development” from now through early 2019, then the environmental-review process, 2022-2025 design, with construction starting in 2025. An attendee asked about right-of-way acquisition; Ridge said that would likely happen around 2023. When concerns were raised about ST taking property via eminent domain, he said they try to use that as little as possible.
Key process point: ST plans to assemble three “stakeholder” groups for an engagement process starting next year. “We really want people to be involved from the get-go and issues to be identified” early. These groups – one of which will involve elected officials – will have “20 or so” people who are “able to meet periodically.” In Q&A, some worried that too much decisionmaking will be up to people from outside the area; it was pointed out that the Sound Transit board currently includes two West Seattleites, King County Executive Dow Constantine and County Council Chair Joe McDermott.
Open houses are planned in January-February of next year (no specifics yet), and that’s when Sound Transit will come back to West Seattle with more information on where things stand at the start. That includes the roughed-out “representative alignment” of where the West Seattle route and stations might be. While Ridge did not bring the existing maps to the JuNO event, he acknowledged that they had already been shown by the West Seattle Transportation Coalition (as seen below, republished from our coverage of WSTC’s unofficial design workshop back in June):
That’s part of what Ridge described as “a lot of work” that already has happened, even at that early stage, though he added, “It doesn’t necessarily mean that’s what will be built,” while reiterating that ST wants to hear issues and ideas.
Those will, it was made clear by several attendees, continue to include the suggestion that tunneling would make more sense to get to The Junction rather than what’s envisioned now as a much-elevated track. Without getting into the added cost of tunneling, though, Ridge noted that input needs to take into consideration the big picture, such as the project budget.
And in turn, several attendees pointed out that West Seattle – and The Junction in particular – is leery of processes like this because of how others, such as HALA upzoning, already have played out in a less-than-collaborative manner.
One requested that ST “come back early and often” to talk with the community.
Referring to the intensive early planning that’ll continue into 2019, Ridge said, “It’s going to be an interesting year and a half.”