By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Sound Transit‘s light-rail planning for West Seattle should reach out to tweens and teens, because they’re the ones whose lives will be most affected.
That was one suggestion heard at this morning’s West Seattle “neighborhood forum,” next step in the official ST planning process for the line set to open in 2030, assuming the fast-tracked planning process stays on track. And given that the event was promoted as a way for you to share your neighborhood values
About 130 people showed up, ST estimated, out of about 180 who RSVP’d; ST set up an overflow room on the second floor of the Masonic Center in The Junction, and about 20 people gathered there.
A few opening remarks were offered by King County Council chair and District 8 (West Seattle, White Center, etc.) rep Joe McDermott, who also is on the ST Board, reminding everyone that if they are frustrated with West Seattle bridge backups, they should be excited about this part of one of the nation’s largest transit infrastructure expansions, And he recapped that in order to speed it up, they are front-ending as many decisions as possible, and that’s why they need “to have the best possible ideas …” He urges people to “stay in touch … as you have ideas over the coming months” – 11 months, to be specific, until the decision on what to study.
McDermott co-chairs the project’s Elected Leadership Group – which will have its second meeting May 17th – and another of its members, City Councilmember Lisa Herbold, was at the forum this morning and acknowledged, but chose not to address the crowd.
That moved things along to the first presentation, as introduced by consultant Dennis Sandstrom, ST’s Stephen Mak with an overview on the project and the process, noting that the Stakeholder Advisory Group already has met four times (we’ve covered all four – most recently April 24th). His presentation starts at 7:15 into our clip, which starts with Sandstrom and McDermott:
And then, the first round of small-group conversation, a half-hour about “neighborhood values.”
Conversation at the table next to ours (not pictured) kicked off with a Delridge resident who said he’s born and raised in West Seattle. One person says they were involved in neighborhood planning. One person stressed the need for input from people 12 years old and up – because this will be a larger part of their lives than many of the rest of us. Right after him, a retiree says he doesn’t worry about traffic any more but he does worry about whether this will be serving the points south of us, and he also worries about conserving green space and small-town feel. Next person says he worries about how to get to the airport – “I want to see us more connected to the rest of the area.” He’s lived here 10 years.
At a Junction table, participants were voicing concerns about the potential for an elevated track. One says it would “shatter The Junction.” Some worried about the displacement of businesses in The Triangle if the track cuts through there. Tunneling fans seemed out in abundance, including this woman who said she was selling T-shirts:
When the half-hour was up, participants voted to chug ahead with the second presentation and conversation (the sun outside the windowless Masonic Center was a bit too tempting perhaps). Next up at the podium was ST’s Sloan Dawson of ST, who said he does station planning and would talk about what it’s like when light rail comes to your community.
He leads off our second clip, followed by another appearance for Stephen Mak recapping the routing/station concepts that have emerged in this “Level 1” stage of the process:
Dawson mentioned that the projects serve “many different place types,” and then how the existing transportation network interacts with what will be built. “Planning good integration with other transit services” like buses is vital, Dawson said. (And emphatic discussion at tables underscored that.) He reiterated that “we’re doing (station location work) earlier than we’ve ever done it before” with the West Seattle/Ballard extensions.
He handed the microphone back to Mak, who went through the alternatives that have emerged for consideration so far, starting with the “representative project” (“the starting point”), and other West Seattle possibilities – even including the ones that the stakeholders had suggested dropping, which lent a bit of confusion if you’ve been following the process closely.
Another half-hour of discussion followed at the tables.
One table was boggling over the elevated idea. “It’s going to be like 150 feet tall.” Another person was alarmed at how elevated track looks at Northgate.
Over at The Junction table, parking concerns kept emerging. Also, as we circulated to listen in, there were concerns about being sure the station locations are matching the areas that are already densifying.
Because it’s a large group, they decided not to “report out” table by table, but instead invite everyone to stop by the tables, and to ask facilitators to stay at their tables to answer questions and/or summarize for anyone interested, and after two hours, that’s where it wrapped up, with promises to get the feedback to the groups through which it’s being filtered.
Next touchstone in the process involves one of those groups: The Elected Leadership Group meets 2-4 pm May 17th (Sound Transit board room at 401 S. Jackson). That will include a public-comment period, we confirmed with ST staff, unlike the stakeholder group meetings (next one for them, May 30th). It also will likely be shown on – or at least recorded by – the Seattle Channel. And then – Level 2, which will include another neighborhood forum.