(Sound Transit slide deck from Pigeon Point meeting)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Sound Transit‘s West Seattle light-rail line is either going to skirt Pigeon Point or tunnel through it, so the PP Neighborhood Council invited ST in for a briefing.
The briefing and ensuing Q&A took up most of last night’s semimonthly PPNC meeting, with about 50 people in the Pathfinder K-8 cafeteria to get an abridged version of what’s been unfolding over the past 5+ months.
ST’s Andrea Burnett and Stephen Mak, both working on the West Seattle line plan, were invited. He presented the backstory first on the Sound Transit 3 vote setting up a draft plan for a 4.7-mile extension to West Seattle, to open in 2030, with a new rail-only bridge over the Duwamish River, and three stations in WS.
By early next year, the current planning process is expected to result in a proposed “preferred alternative” for environmental study. The process is going into the second of three “levels,” as we’ve been chronicling in our coverage of the three groups through which everything is being filtered – the Stakeholder Advisory Group, the Elected Leadership Group, and the Sound Transit Board.
Mak also recapped the feedback so far – 2,800 comments in “early scoping,” for starters. And he reviewed the five West Seattle alternatives that emerged in Level 1 review (they start at page 17 in the slide deck you can see atop this story or here, 9 MB PDF).
Mak also quickly recapped feedback from the May “neighborhood forum” in West Seattle; he didn’t mention that it was held after the Stakeholder Advisory Group had already made its recommendation on which options should move forward and which should not. The SAG recommended continuing to review the “Oregon Street” and “Pigeon Ridge” options; the Elected Leadership Group subsequently agreed with that and also added back the “Golf Course” version provided federal “Section 4(f) impacts” (using parkland) could be avoided.
Mak explained “there are still opportunities to mix and match” components of multiple alternatives and showed an example (page 37 in the slide deck).
Burnett said “staying engaged” is important and you can do that by calling or e-mailing (firstname.lastname@example.org, 206-903-7229) as well as talking with ST at summer events such as the Morgan Junction Community Festival next Saturday and West Seattle Summer Fest July 13-15. Another round of neighborhood forums is planned later in the year, so watch for the announcement of a date/time/place for West Seattle.
In Q&A, Pete Spalding asked about costs, and Mak said estimates are being prepared in hopes of helping everyone “make an informed decision.”
Next question: If an option is chosen that involves tunneling under Pigeon Point, would that be like “earthquakes all the time?” Too soon to say, Mak replied.
Where would the tunnel go? It would come out onto Genesee, around the Youngstown area.
How wide of a swath would be affected, whether by tunnel or elevated? In a tunnel scenario, said Burnett, they would obtain certain rights from a homeowner over the route without the house being condemned. Above-ground, it’s hard to say. Potentially affected property owners would be notified twice in the Environmental Impact Statement process, Mak said. Then during design, ST would be notifying and talking with property owners.
So how do you weigh property impacts vs. other impacts? It won’t be a “pure financial decision,” explained Mak – they’ll gather comparative information and present it first to the Stakeholder Advisory Group, then the Elected Leadership Group.
The next question sought clarification on how the Pigeon Point neighborhood would be affected in all remaining options. ST engineers are looking at that, Mak said. “Someone just drew a line and didn’t know if it would be possible?” was the followup. Reply: Yes.
If light rail arrived on/over north Delridge Way SW, would it be high enough that the businesses would be able to stay there? ST doesn’t know yet, Mak replied. Depends on where the columns would be. “Most of the time there are no structures under our guideway.” How wide is the guideway? someone asked on followup. Go look at Northgate, Mak suggested.
What’s the hard date for a decision, and what if the elected officials in the Elected Leadership Group turn over – what if their replacements have different views? There wasn’t really an answer for that.
What about noise? They’ll be studying mitigation for that in the environmental review.
How many homes would be affected? asked a person who said she had heard specific numbers. ST’s not to that point yet.
Given the federal “4f” concerns (parkland could only be used if no other alternatives were workable), so it’s easier to “take a neighborhood than take a golf course”? was one question. Basically, yes.
How would construction affect neighborhood access, given that Pigeon Point only has two access points? Too soon to say, Mak said, but they would work with the neighborhood. Would Delridge be closed at some point? was one followup. Still too soon to say – but Burnett suggested “talking to another neighborhood” that’s gone through the ST light rail process.
How high would the columns be? Mak wouldn’t get into specific numbers but said the “purple alignment” would be lower. So would a golf course alignment. The “Oregon Street” alternative would be the highest. Another person followed up on that – particularly the possibility of 150′ height – and wondered if ST has anything near that height right now. (Not quite.)
Next question was about costs. Mak said he didn’t have any of that info handy but some is online.
What about mitigating congestion before this is built? The RapidRide H Line on Delridge is no longer a sure thing because of the Move Seattle levy reset, Spalding noted.
Park-and-hiding came up. Seattle code doesn’t allow a park-and-ride structure, said Mak, but for example, on his last project in Bellevue, they worked on neighborhood permit parking to try to alleviate the problem.
After about an hour, the ST session wrapped up, and everyone was again urged to stay involved.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR LIGHT-RAIL PLANNING: The Stakeholder Advisory Group meets 5-8 pm June 20th (ST board room downtown, 401 S. Jackson, open to the public but there’s no comment period).
Two other items from earlier in the meeting:
ACKNOWLEDGMENT: Southwest Precinct operations Lt. Ron Smith is retiring soon, as reported here last month, and was acknowledged with a hearty round of applause.
NEXT MEETING: In August, Pigeon Point gathers for Night Out, street party at 20th/Dakota on August 7th! The next more-standard-format will be in October.