‘In West Seattle, most of the comments suggested a tunnel …’ Sound Transit releases ‘early scoping’ report for light rail

Three Sound Transit light-rail-planning updates this afternoon:

FULL ‘EARLY SCOPING’ REPORT RELEASED: Want to see Sound Transit‘s full summary of comments from the “early scoping” period for the West Seattle and Ballard extensions? There is it above, and here (PDF), all 226 pages of it. Here’s a paragraph from the opening summary:

In West Seattle, most of the comments suggested a tunnel from at least the western edge of the Delridge valley to the Alaska Junction (the intersection of California Avenue SW and SW Alaska Street), with an underground station within a few blocks of the junction. Several comments requested an alignment through the West Seattle Golf Course, while others requested alignments farther north. Many comments suggested removing the Avalon Station or consolidating it with the Alaska Junction Station in a more central location. Several other comments requested keeping the Avalon Station as an important bus transfer location. Most comments about the Delridge Station suggested moving it farther south. Many comments also requested consideration of future extensions to the south on Fauntleroy Way SW, 35th Avenue SW, or Delridge Way SW. Several others also called for providing service farther south to Westwood Village or White Center now, while others suggested just improving bus service if a tunnel could not be built.

Shortcuts, if you’re interested, include:
Page 191 – Photos of some comments written on easel displays at West Seattle open house on February 13th
Page 202 – Transcription of comments from West Seattle open house

The report also includes the feedback from a variety of groups with interests in various sections of the route, as well as government agencies (which start at page 62).

‘FIRST ALTERNATIVES’ TO BE SHOWN TO STAKEHOLDER ADVISORY GROUP: The next two Tuesdays (April 17 and 24) bring the next two meetings of the Stakeholder Advisory Group, and ST says they will be shown the first set of potential alternatives to the original “representative project” (draft routing). Both meetings are open to the public (there’s no spoken-comment period, though, just observation) and both are 5-8 pm at the Sound Transit Ruth Fisher Boardroom downtown, 401 S. Jackson.

HERBOLD LETTER: At this morning’s City Council briefing meeting, it was mentioned that City Councilmember Lisa Herbold was planning to circulate for her colleagues’ signatures a letter that would ask various city commissions and boards to provide feedback for the light-rail planning process. We’ve requested a copy of the letter but her office tells us that at the mayor’s request, they’re holding off on the letter for a week. So look for that next week.

(added) P.S. A reminder that the next major chance for feedback is at the first round of ST-convened “neighborhood forums” – one is in West Seattle, 10 am-12:30 pm Saturday, May 5th, Masonic Center, 40th/Edmunds.

49 Replies to "'In West Seattle, most of the comments suggested a tunnel ...' Sound Transit releases 'early scoping' report for light rail"

  • Peter April 16, 2018 (5:36 pm)

    Eliminating the Avalon station would be a colossal blunder that would permanently limit access to and capacity of light rail, all to appease one very small but very loud group of junction area house owners who don’t want to see it. I’m angry and disgusted that it is getting serious consideration by ST. 

    • WSB April 16, 2018 (5:59 pm)

      Since you mention it, page 27 summarizes West Seattle station-related comments. I’m searching the document via browser search for the word Avalon and on page 18, the Seattle Planning Commission (a city-appointed body) included this in its feedback:

      The Seattle Planning Commission submitted meeting minutes from its February 8, 2018, meeting where it provided comments on station locations, the general alignment, land use issues, and station design.

      Some specific comments about stations included shifting the Interbay Station to the northeast to provide better access to Seattle Pacific University; consolidating the South Lake Union and Denny Stations; concerns about construction impacts from the Chinatown/International District Station, and the need for easy transfers to the existing line and other modes at this station; pedestrian connectivity at the SODO station; shifting the Delridge Station south; and consolidating the Avalon and Alaska Junction stations in one underground station.

      Other comments addressed the compatibility of light rail and TOD with industrial land uses, incorporating affordable housing in the Chinatown/International District, consideration of service to vulnerable historically underserved populations, and design considerations for the guideway, stations, and station access

      Here’s the Planning Commission minutes document.

    • heartless April 16, 2018 (6:03 pm)

      I haven’t yet read through the documents WSB linked but I’m still confused about the spacing of the stations.  Last I knew we didn’t even have specific sites for the stations, so it seems a bit early to say the stations would be too close together.

      From what I remember about earlier plans, if the Alaska Junction station winds up being in one of the more eastern locations, depending on where the Avalon station is I could see an argument about them being too close together.

      On the other hand it’s a helluva lot easier to put in a station now than skip it and regret it for the next 50 years as the Avalon area continues to grow.

      • WSB April 16, 2018 (6:07 pm)

        Our body of work on all this will probably be tough to wade through to look for that so here’s a shortcut – one of Sound Transit’s graphics for the “representative project” – the draft routing and approximate potential station locations:


        • heartless April 16, 2018 (6:17 pm)

          Amazing, that’s exactly what I needed!  Man, talk about full-service, thank you.

          My newly informed position is that I think it’s better to include the Avalon station.  I feel like it’d just be a chintzy move to not include it–and one that really would let down future generations. 

          Calculating utils is never easy.  

          • WSB April 16, 2018 (6:20 pm)

            I was remiss in not including above another mention of the next major chance for feedback, adding it now as a P.S. too:
            “Neighborhood forum” for West Seattle (there are two others for other parts of the city)
            10 am-12:30 pm Saturday, May 5th, Masonic Center, 40th/Edmunds

    • JL Pipes April 16, 2018 (6:17 pm)

      Yeah, this really makes me disgusted with my WS neighbors. And yes, I own my home and have a car and two kids, a dog, and hobbies. And I still support increased density and transit. 

    • WS Guy April 16, 2018 (6:56 pm)

      Avalon Station is a colossal waste of money.  40% of its walkshed is blocked by the WS Bridge and the WS High Stadium.  What would it cost – $200 million?  To serve a small corner of Avalon?  Don’t act like money is free.  Show ST that we are responsible with our priorities.

      Take that money and put it into a tunnel.  Future generations including my children will appreciate the smart choice.

      • Dawson April 16, 2018 (7:27 pm)

        Agreed. And with the junction and Avalon stations being only about three blocks apart that makes no sense. Really hope the more southerly routing is used to capture more of the Delridge area walkshed. Just got back from NYC and a six block walk there for the subway was not unusual nor was it unpleasant. 

        • CAM April 16, 2018 (7:53 pm)

          Those stations are not currently planned to be 3 blocks apart. Having walked that region on a regular basis I can say that (at a fairly quick pace) it can take over 20 minutes walking to get from the California/Alaska area to the 35th/Avalon area, and that’s not even considering people with limited mobility or taking into account the grade issues on the reverse walk. The area of the Avalon station is also currently a major transit junction between the different neighborhoods in West Seattle. 

          The idea that spending money on a tunnel is a more fiscally responsible decision is highly debatable and open to numerous interpretations. Your values are not the same as everyone else in the neighborhood and they shouldn’t take priority over the needs of the current or future residents. 

          • Dawson April 16, 2018 (8:21 pm)

            And your values represent everyone else in the neighborhood? Transit of any magnitude is built on trade-offs. Tunneling this short stretch will not place a wall within a neighborhood and will make the Junction even more adaptable to ever increasing density. The mobility issue is red herring. Public construction is ADA compliant now. So if you mean you want to drive and park then ride that’s a totally different conversation.

        • heartless April 16, 2018 (7:57 pm)


          I looked into this a bit before I originally posted because I was confused about how close the stations might be.   I am very interested in your statement about the stations “being only about three blocks apart”, because when I looked at what data I could find, including what WSB linked earlier, I couldn’t find anything suggesting they’d ever be so close together.    

          I would love to see where you got this information, thank you in advance.

      • heartless April 16, 2018 (7:52 pm)

        @WS Guy

        Well, I don’t think it’s a waste of money (and I find it curious that you manage to, with a straight face, claim it’s a colossal waste of money and then immediately ask how much it would cost–very funny!)

        I think current and future residents would really appreciate a station there.

      • CMT April 16, 2018 (8:24 pm)

        I 100% agree WS Guy as does every single person I have talked to about the stations – including several people that live along Avalon.  The Blog comments are the only place I have heard insistence on an Avalon station over a tunnel of a choice is necessary.

      • AvalonTom April 17, 2018 (9:39 am)

        There is a good slide that illustrates the inefficiency of the Avalon Station on page 171. It illustrates that between Delridge station and the Junction station, the Avalon station would serve a limited area.  There is a large quadrant that is the golf course were no people live. There is also a very busy intersection (a borderline highway really) that people would need to cross just to get to the station.  

        Also, to the few folks who are stuck on the idea that there is a major bus stop in the Avalon area that would serve up people from the south, please keep in mind that bus routes can be re-programmed. Nothing stops the busses from the south to drop people off directly at the underground station at the JUNO proposed central park station @ the bank of america location.  Some people also wondered how many homes would be taken out by the Avalon Station. By my count it was  about 52. (2 condo buildings of 20 units each plus about 12 single residence homes) There would also be a SIGNIFICANT impact to estimated 100 or so residences (homes and condos) that would manifest as significant noise (a train ever 6 min,20 (?) hrs a day Consider that the Residential neighborhood and High density Avalon would be basically re-zoned as a transit hub with a giant track and large station looming over it all.  Speaking personally,  if I consider these impacts compared to the gains I dont see the math working out so well as the folks who are fixated on keeping the station.  Above ground Avalon Station is an expensive proposition not only financially but as a impact to the community. , that 120+ foot tall bridge approach to the station is not going to be free. If you take out such a giant structure and the station itself, the tunnel should start looking as an affordable option. (no I don’t have hard data to back this up, but common sense dictates that these savings would get us much much closer to the tunnel option) Again, these are my own opinions and I dont expect to change the mind of the few on here who are fixated on having a avalon station at the expense of the whole surrounding community.  A tunnel, a single underground station and some bus re-programming provides the same solutions without all the negative impacts that will come with above ground concrete structures. 

        • heartless April 17, 2018 (11:14 am)

          I think you make an excellent point against the ‘bus hub’ argument for an Avalon station.  One of the (few) benefits of buses is that routes can easily be reconfigured to serve a new hub, and I am sure that if Avalon doesn’t get built there can be some major reconfiguration of routes.

          I find your other points less convincing; I mean the way that graphic was edited?  The graphic is a bit ridiculous, no?  It takes the care to blot out a bunch of the Avalon circle due to Park Area (’cause nobody lives there) but then the Delridge circle includes big chunks of the Duwamish?  And some of Harbor Island?  And a huge swath of Puget Park?  I mean…  Come on.  Further, density obviously matters more than plain geography.  Both current density and, as best as we can surmise, predicted future density–this graphic doesn’t reflect that at all (and this is as much on the Sound Transit folks as it is on whoever photoshopped over it).

          • AvalonTom April 17, 2018 (12:06 pm)

            I agree, being that the graphic is a map, it wants to be accurate, but the layer on top speaks in generalities and is overly simplified. As someone who was directly involved in putting together the JUNO presentation I can tell you there was very little time or resources to get every slide perfect. One has to keep that in mind, after all this is a work in progress for both St and for the community it will impact.  You are correct, it’s missing all of Avalon. I think the actual walk shed is being updated by ST to reflect the hills so the perfect circles will go away to be replaced by more kidney shaped outlines.  At the most rootementary planing level the graphic does hold water and speaks to the Avalon inefficiency as opposed to other stations in the system.  As someone who lives on Avalon and walks to Trader Joe’s or the Junction almost daily if not few times a day on occasion, I agree that the extra few blocks are not that big of a deal ESPECIALLY if the bus filled in this “dead zone”  by routing to 35 and Avalon then up to the “Central Park” station at the Junction for those who cannot or will not walk. (Driving to the stations is out of the question for all options as there is no parking garages planned) That’s the beauty of a bus and train working together to provide one robust solution.   This may shock some, but I do see the value of having a avalon station,  Im just not at all convinced that the convenience benefit for the few who live directly next to it even comes close to the negative impact the above ground alternative creates for the community and businesses as a whole.

    • KM April 16, 2018 (7:52 pm)

      Where did you find the information on where those who are pro-tunnel live, and if they own or rent? 

      • HW April 17, 2018 (10:31 am)

        seriously. many people are pro tunnel because they don’t want a 50ft tall track above the junction, not because they live there. 

        • Anon April 18, 2018 (7:16 am)


      • Karen April 17, 2018 (11:06 am)

        And where do you find that information on those that are anti-tunnel? Makes about as much sense.

    • Oakley34 April 16, 2018 (8:02 pm)

      It’s not just serving a a small corner (Avalon)…arguably it serves High Point, an area booming with growth right now.  In 15 years those folks will be shut out without an Avalon station.  High Point to Avalon is a more than reasonable walk (and well served by transit).  High Point to Alaska or Delridge is a stickier wicket.  We’re building for the future, not for a snapshot of WS today.

      • Jethro Marx April 16, 2018 (10:20 pm)

        If it serves High Point it serves, say, 80% of West Seattle, by a radian measure. I guess it depends on who’s defining ‘reasonable’ as far as a walk goes.

         It’s a hard case that walking from High Point to Avalon is much easier than High Point to the Junction, what?

        • Derail April 17, 2018 (8:36 am)

          I’m making a statement or asking a question, what?

          • Jethro Marx April 17, 2018 (11:17 am)

            Well, I generally try to control my tendencies to derail the conversation into a maze of language intricacies, but the ‘what’ you speak of is modifying a statement by combining it with a question; this answers your question, no?

             Language matters, though; and every once in a while I like to indulge my love of correctness, impolite as it has now been deemed.

  • Chris April 16, 2018 (7:14 pm)

    We are trying to ascertain what buildings, homes, if any would have to be torn down to accommodate this project.   In the Alaska junction one for instance there is the Alaska Building which houses a number of residents by the parking lot, the building across with QFC, Petco & apartments, etc..   Perhaps this is not even close to that point.   We are just curious.   Is there something that more specifically shows this, or is this project not going to touch any structures.  Thanks.

    • WS Guy April 16, 2018 (7:56 pm)

      JuNO’s proposal is to excavate the Bank of America area on Alaska St. to put an underground station there.  And then leave space for a park or public plaza over the top once it’s filled in.  Avalon Station is not built and the money is contributed to tunneling costs,  No homes are affected at the Junction, no elevated concrete, and no trains running by apartment windows.

      Other options would raze 30+ homes to make way for Avalon Station, raze a few on 38th if there’s a station behind the new apartments on Fauntleroy.  The option in the Junction parking lots would curl south from Oregon to get to 44th, taking out Junction Tower, apartments north of Wells Fargo, and presumably some homes near Uptown Espresso.

      • Joe Szilagyi April 17, 2018 (8:49 am)
        JuNO’s proposal is to excavate the Bank of America area on Alaska St. to put an underground station there.  And then leave space for a park or public plaza over the top once it’s filled in. 
        That piece of land is huge. I’d say a small public park is one thing in a setback like there is kitty corner from Jefferson Square, but like Capitol Hill station, it should be utilized fully as available land: build low-incoming housing directly overhead as tall as neighboring buildings.
  • Megan April 16, 2018 (7:44 pm)

    I had to set down my zucchini pasta and sigh.

    • KM April 17, 2018 (8:26 pm)

      This comment is not getting the appreciation it deserves.

  • Chris April 16, 2018 (8:01 pm)

    Thank you Juno Guy for the info.

  • Ice April 16, 2018 (9:16 pm)

    They should put it where the Starbucks drive through is. That shopping center is my least favorite part of West Seattle. 

    Then they can have it elevated and nobody will complain and they can cut out the Avalon stop and and they’ll save a ton of money doing that and everybody loses except me, because I hate Starbucks.

    • heartless April 16, 2018 (9:30 pm)

      That’s just cold, man.

    • Swede. April 17, 2018 (5:54 am)

      It’s a good point in that most people doesn’t seem to realize that there will have to be dug a giant hole in the ground, and will be there for quite a few years to to build this thing. Where in the ACTUAL Cali/Alaska junction should they level buildings and dig… 

      Boy the ST4 they’ll going to have to do to pay for this won’t be cheap. $1000 car tabs? More property taxes? Funny how Seattleites always vote/want the most complicated and expensive option and then gets shocked and pissed off when they have to pay for it! 

      • KBear April 17, 2018 (9:29 am)

        Swede, we are paying RIGHT NOW for the mass transit infrastructure that wasn’t built 40 years ago. It’s needed more than ever, and it doesn’t get cheaper or less necessary as time goes by. Even if you plan to drive yourself everywhere in your personal automobile, this project will benefit you by taking thousands of other cars and buses off the road every day. It won’t “solve” congestion—nothing will—but it will be a benefit nonetheless. And yes, I expect YOU to pay for it (along with everyone else.)

        • Swede. April 17, 2018 (9:59 am)

          No actually I am not paying for it. Can’t afford a house so I don’t pay property taxes (yes, indirectly I do) and all my vehicles are register out of county so I have reasonable tab costs. And we are paying some now, but as you said yourself it won’t get cheaper so they will add on a bunch later. They are already hundreds of millions behind up north since they dragged their feet on buying the necessary land so it managed to more than double in price…

  • WSDude April 17, 2018 (12:58 am)

    A tunnel to a nice discrete station on Fauntlary and 35th where the BBQ and 711 are currently, seems like a central (transit link) lower cost area for both Avalon and Junction folk. Please don’t go up to California.

    Home owner.

  • Rick April 17, 2018 (4:19 am)

    Whatever you do, please don’t do anything that make sense and/or saves the taxpayers money. It would make me feel so much more at home.

  • anonyme April 17, 2018 (6:47 am)

    It seems to me that unless light rail is going to replace buses (and it can’t), that it would make the greatest sense to have the station near a bus hub, such as Avalon.   That way commuters would have easy access to their connections either way.

    • heartless April 17, 2018 (8:26 am)

      Unless you meant to say it won’t replace buses for everyone (which is a true but empty statement), then you’re wrong.  

      Where I live I will just walk to the station and take light rail–it will absolutely replace buses for me.  And the thing is, it would replace buses for more people if we had Avalon & AJ stations.

      I agree that it makes sense to have a station at Avalon, but let’s be honest, there is no way there won’t be an Alaska Junction station.  

  • Bus April 17, 2018 (7:27 am)

    I’m glad that they heard the comments about wanting the line to extend further south to neighborhoods where tons of people take mass transit at all hours of the day (the 120 is standing-room only by White Center at 5:30 am, even on the weekends).  It’s frustrating to watch what feels like the nice neighborhoods get more and more mass transit options (yes, I know, we’ll get the thrice-delayed RapidRide some day).  And then more frustrating to watch the neighborhood groups from those areas complain about how an elevated line would ruin their golf course views or whatever. 

    You live in a city.  We need mass transit.  I’d let them plop a column in my front yard if it saved 45 minutes of standing on a bus every morning to get to work.  All of that money people want to waste on a tunnel could be spent getting more transit to more people.  I really hope they stick with the elevated option and I hope that doing so brings the light rail to Burien, South Park and other areas to the south sooner.  And, yes, I’ll be advocating for them to save money and elevate it for our line too (if we ever get one).

  • TJ April 17, 2018 (8:46 am)

    ST needs to stick to the elevated line and finalize the plans now. The West Seattle line was thrown into ST3 to help seal votes, yet I guarantee the funds in the $54 billion won’t cover getting it here as is. Sound Transit has a terrible track record coming in on time and on budget on anything, and they don’t know how to get across the river yet or where and how to get up the hill. Sounds like a blank check, and at a time where ST needs to save face to have any hopes of future projects. A hypothetical ST4 wouldn’t be until 2035 when ST3 is supposedely done, and needing revenue from a future vote to finish this isn’t a option. Taxpayers need paramount consideration now

    • Swede. April 17, 2018 (10:02 am)

      Yes, ‘ST4’ will be expensive for sure! 

      No worries though, if you’re not a high income person already you’ll be forced out of the greater Seattle area before then. 

  • Dustin April 17, 2018 (11:00 am)

    We should put one light rail station at the intersection of Alaska and Fauntleroy. It’s equidistant from Alaska Junction and 35th and Avalon, and it’s already a large, busy intersection that can accommodate the infrastructure. I support the West Seattle tunnel idea, but an elevated train would be less disruptive in this area.

  • bw April 17, 2018 (4:29 pm)

    I wish they would just move forward with the old monorail plans.  

  • bw April 17, 2018 (4:46 pm)

    Caffe Ladro should be the end of the line.

    • heartless April 17, 2018 (6:23 pm)

      You mean as the Alaska Junction station?

      I could see that.  A good compromise is something that pisses off everyone equally.

      (Although I doubt it will be the end of the line forever, eventually it has got to be built out to the south)

      • heartless April 17, 2018 (8:41 pm)


        Sorry, typed my previous comment out too fast–meant to say, as the next one south to the Alaska Junction station?

        Rest of the comment stands!

  • WSB April 17, 2018 (6:46 pm)

    Just FYI for all interested. I’m covering the Stakeholder Advisory Group meeting, with five possible early-stage alternatives for the West Seattle segment (they’re discussing the other three segments of the route to SODO, Downtown, Ballard, but we of course are just focusing on WS) and I am doing my best to put it together so the story will be up shortly after the meeting ends at 8-ish. The 52-page slide deck is online now at https://www.soundtransit.org/sites/default/files/SAG-meeting-3Presentation-20180417.pdf

Sorry, comment time is over.