By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
The process of arriving at a “preferred alternative” for Sound Transit‘s West Seattle/Ballard light rail routing and station locations will stretch further into spring than first planned.
That’s part of what was announced at last night’s Stakeholder Advisory Group meeting, which was centered on releasing and discussing how the currently under-review possibilities compare on a variety of criteria, including cost. The same information will be reviewed by the Elected Leadership Group tomorrow morning, and your feedback will be sought online and via in-person forums in a month or so.
Here’s the full slide deck from the meeting (PDF, 12 MB). First thing to remember – the so-called “end to end alternatives” that are in the spotlight for this third and final review phase are not “all or nothing” plans from which one will move into the next phase. But here they all are on a map:
In order in the legend, they are the “representative project” (outlined in the ST3 vote in 2016), the
West Seattle Elevated option, and the West Seattle Tunnel option. ST staffers stressed repeatedly that this is the time to “mix and match” components if that makes more sense. So the evaluation information emerged in segments, rather than simply scorecards for each full “end to end alternative.” Here’s the criteria on which the components were evaluated:
If you were tallying up the score, however, the one with the best rankings is the one that includes tunneling toward the West Seattle Junction and Ballard ends – though its elements would require hundreds of millions of dollars in additional funding.
Here are the two summary slides regarding what ST called “key differentiators” – green means that one option is better in that area, red means it’s worse, and the cream shading means it’s somewhere in the middle:
One pricing component of note – despite the challenges of skirting/hugging Pigeon Point on the south side, ST now says building the light-rail-only bridge across the Duwamish River on the north side of the current bridges would cost $300 million more than building it to the south, because the property is more valuable and different types of guideway would have to be used to minimize the footprint below. The rest of the cost estimates go as high as up to $2.1 billion extra, as you can see on the “key differentiators” #1 slide above, further quantified below:
Among the other criteria, time – in a meeting-opening overview, ST’s Cathal Ridge noted that tunneling could add time to the schedule, which has already been fast-tracked in a variety of ways, as well as increasing the cost. Even if tunneling is the preferred options, decisions to be made would include the location of the Junction station – these are the possibilities bundled currently with the “West Seattle Tunnel” end-to-end alternative:
The options vary in how much private/public property would be needed, among other things.
Here’s another comparison of Duwamish River crossing options:
That’s just a sampling of the information made available to the SAG; there’s also an appendix that we have requested but not yet received. It’s also important to note, last night’s meeting didn’t result in any decisions, and wasn’t intended to. After Ridge’s overview, the SAG members – seated at tables – got to ask clarifying questions as the ST staffers specializing in project segments rotated between tables. We observed at tables visited by Stephen Mak, the West Seattle point person for ST. At one table, one of the West Seattleites on the SAG, Willard Brown, pointed out that community input had led to many of the blue line (West Seattle Tunnel) options including a Delridge station location that would affect fewer homes and businesses:
The Youngstown-area homeowner who organized a recent ST briefing for his neighbors who face potential displacement (WSB coverage here), Dennis Noland, was there; we’ll be following up separately on his latest efforts. The potential displacement came up in another table’s discussion as well. SAG members’ questions and observations were recorded at each table by an ST note-taker.
TIMELINE: The “scoping” period has been pushed back because the recent federal shutdown led to delays in the consultation process – it’s now not expected to start any sooner than mid-February, so the next community forum/open houses are not likely to be scheduled before late February. That also will push back recommendation meetings of the SAG and Elected Leadership Group to April and the Sound Transit Board‘s final decision to May 23rd. Here’s the timeline:
Here’s what the final decisionmaking in May will boil down to:
But first, the next discussion is when the ELG meets tomorrow (Friday), 9:30 am at the ST board room (401 S. Jackson) – their meetings, unlike the stakeholders’ group meetings, do include a public-comment period.