West Seattle light rail: Here’s what the Stakeholder Advisory Group wants to send to the next level of review

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Two levels of review down, one to go until the Sound Transit West Seattle to Ballard light-rail-extension project focuses on a “preferred alternative” for environmental study.

At their 3+-hour meeting tonight, members of the project’s Stakeholder Advisory Group made its recommendations for which alternatives its members want to see advance to the third level of study, segment by segment – Ballard/Interbay, Downtown, Chinatown/ID, SODO, and finally, West Seattle – seated in four groups, with the results collected and announced after each segment discussion.

For West Seattle, here’s how it concluded, with two of the three Level 2 tunnel-inclusive options recommended to remain under review in Level 3:

The alternatives that are advancing are from among five under review in Level 2, including the ST “representative project” (the all-elevated plan that was originally outlined before the ST3 ballot measure).

The two alternatives recommended for advancement are the costliest ones, too – there was strong consensus for continuing to review the Golf Course/Alaska Junction/Tunnel alternative ($700 million extra), a little more-mixed sentiment regarding the Pigeon Ridge/West Seattle Tunnel option ($1.2 billion above projections). That one evoked serious concern about the cost from SAG members including former Mayor Greg Nickels, who asked outright, “What’s the baseline budget for this segment?” referring to the entire West Seattle stretch.

$2.5 billion or so, said STMak. So the $1.2 billion extra that Pigeon Ridge/Tunnel would cost would be close to a 50 percent increase. Nickels thought it was unrealistic to bother forwarding it, given that.

“Let the Elected Leadership Group kill (Pigeon Ridge) on basis of cost!” retorted another SAG member, Bryce Yadon of Futurewise, referring to the group at the next level of decisionmaking.

Some also argued in favor of keeping the Oregon/Alaska/Elevated alternative in play, because if the ELG kills the other two for cost, they’ll be stuck with the unpopular “representative” project as the last one standing. Others suggested that the “representative” project was OK as a backup wth potential modifications such as a station further south on Delridge. West Seattleite Deb Barker pointed out that a major difference between “representative” and Oregon/Alaska Junction/Elevated would be how the light-rail line gets into the Junction.

And one group member even suggested “going back to the drawing board” entirely. But no one seemed to second that.

PRE-DISCUSSION BRIEFING: The slide deck for the meeting is here. After a briefing on the Level 2 options for each of four segments of the West Seattle-to-Ballard project – discussed north to south, this time, first Ballard, then Downtown, Chinatown/ID, and West Seattle – the SAG members, seated at three tables, discussed them segment by segment.

EARLIER: ST’s executive director of planning Don Billen sat in for the ailing project director Cathal Ridge, opening the meeting. He warned that an extra challenge was posed by options that would require “third-party funding” – such as tunneling, so, he said, the stakeholders should have backups in mind in case that funding proved unattainable.

Feedback from the most-recent round of neighborhood forums and online open-house surveys was presented, too. You can read the West Seattle summaries of both types of feedback on pages 1-4 in this document. One note of interest – West Seattle had the largest forum turnout (140 people).

WHAT’S NEXT: The Stakeholder Advisory Group’s recommendations go to the Elected Leadership Group on Friday, October 5th, and that group in turn makes its recommendations of what goes on to the third and final level of review. The SAG then meets again in “late October/early November to talk about “preliminary Level 3 alternatives and evaluation criteria.” So the dates that have been on the ST website are not accurate and will be revised, it was noted before the meeting ended after 3 hours and 20 minutes. This process continues marching toward arriving at a “preferred alternative” of routing/station locations for the entire West Seattle to Ballard extension by April of next year, so that environmental study can commence. That’s the only way to stay on track for West Seattle opening in 2030 and Ballard in 2035, ST says.

8 Replies to "West Seattle light rail: Here's what the Stakeholder Advisory Group wants to send to the next level of review"

  • WS Guy September 27, 2018 (5:27 am)

    Good job SAG! You made the right choices.

  • Carson Baker September 27, 2018 (1:10 pm)

    Which alternatives were recommended for the Ballard extension?

  • Mj September 27, 2018 (1:50 pm)

    Greg Nickels was correct, the Pigion Point option should have been nixed due to cost!

  • Peter September 27, 2018 (3:03 pm)

    They made the wrong choices. The more expensive options will take longer to build, and there may simply never been enough revenue to fund them to. I know people like tunnels, but we can’t let that override fiscal reality.

    • Will September 28, 2018 (6:31 am)

      What is the rush to complete the West Seattle segment by 2030, if (as Sound Transit has planned) it will terminate for years until the remainder of the line is completed? I’m not in any hurry to take a bus to a train to a transfer onto another train packed with people trying to reach downtown from as far south as Federal Way.

  • oldman September 27, 2018 (4:38 pm)

    at this scale, it’s a false economy to take the cheapest option. you’re building for the next 100 years, not renting an apartment. even if it takes longer let’s do it right.

    • Be prepared October 1, 2018 (4:31 pm)

      Or at least for the next 9.0 or greater earthquake which may or may not be within the next 100 years.

  • TR5000 September 27, 2018 (5:05 pm)

    I’m excited to hear about how West Seattle plans to fund the tunnel!

    Also – Oregon/Alaska is clearly the better of the two elevated options. Not clear why this group would stick to fantasy land rather than get something done.

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