By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Take your mind off Viaduct-less-ness for a moment by thinking ahead to West Seattle light rail.
Though its target start date of 2030 is 11 years away, we’re now just a few months away from determining which “preferred” route/station-location plan Sound Transit will study. And your next key input point could be only weeks away – if the federal shutdown doesn’t bring the process to a semi-halt.
The Stakeholder Advisory Group that’s playing a key role in the process met last night, first meeting of 2019, third-to-last scheduled meeting. The intent was to recap where things stand and offer a chance for group members to ask questions as they ponder what they will be recommending toward the end of the third and final evaluation level in a matter of weeks. Here’s the timeline:
That’s from the slide deck for the meeting.
It includes the three “end-to-end” alternatives that were presented to the stakeholders back in November (WSB coverage here), and reviewed by the Elected Leadership Group. They are not all-or-nothing plans – components of them could be mixed-and-matched to determine the alternative ST studies.
One particular point of interest in other parts of the slide deck: In response to questions received from members of the public, ST said, it provided information on timelines for contacting owners of property that might have to be purchased for construction. (See pages 36-39 in the slide deck.)
The main points:
-Potentially affected property owners will hear from ST before the draft Environmental Impact Statement is published (mid-2020), so you would get a very early heads-up if you MIGHT be in the path of the route
-Board selects project to be built – early 2022
-Timeline for property acquisition 2022-2026
ST has to offer fair-market value. Asked if this wouldn’t be a case of “take our offer or else we’ll take your property anyway” – e.g. eminent domain – ST says it does have the power to do that but contends “it’s pretty rare” that they have had to do that. More often, ST says, they “negotiate.”
Another point of interest: The current federal-government shutdown could throw a curve at the timetable. Since federal funding would be involved, the “scoping” process has federal involvement, and that’s where the public would next get involved, with solicitation of opinion on what the environmental studies should look at, etc. Here’s how last night’s slide deck summarizes scoping:
If the federal government isn’t back in business by next month, that could be delayed. We asked ST spokesperson Kimberly Reason to explain:
As a Federal grantee, Sound Transit is very concerned with the government shutdown and hopes it ends immediately. We cannot receive reimbursements of Federally eligible expenditures while the government is shut down. Moreover, Sound Transit will be stymied in advancing its Federally funded expansion projects if FTA staff are not available to review documentation and provide necessary approvals. While we have not yet endured these negative impacts, a lengthy shutdown could have very real consequences for our mission and progress.
For now, in hopes that will be resolved, the process chugs on. Much of last night’s meeting was spent in small-group gatherings, with ST staffers focused on certain segments of the project holding court at their own tables to answer questions. During our observation of the West Seattle table, these were largely clarifying questions, such as, how big is a station? (Answer: Big enough to hold a 4-car train, which is about 400 feet long.) Questions also focused on the height of the stations and/or elevated tracks (some in triple digits); for a bit of a refresher, here are the visualizations released by ST last September.
WHAT’S NEXT: As shown above, the stakeholders meet again January 30th, 5-8 pm in the ST board room. The public is welcome, but there’s no open comment period – next month’s “scoping” should bring that. (If, that is, the federal situation is resolved.)