West Seattle light rail: From pricing to the ‘purple line,’ what surfaced in Q&A when Sound Transit returned to Pigeon Point

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

When West Seattle light-rail construction begins, “we’re going to be the first area in West Seattle impacted,” explained Pete Spalding as he opened last night’s Pigeon Point Neighborhood Council meeting, with Sound Transit guests in the spotlight, nine months after ST’s last PPNC appearance.

The Q&A that followed shone some light on topics of major interest, including cost, and why a much-cited number is nonetheless “not a number to get stuck on.” But first:

The meeting began with ST’s Leda Chahim going through a slide deck with some background, including an explanation of what the “representative project” represents, as well as the current phase of planning for the formal environmental studies – the third level of review/screening that’s unfolded over the past year. (See the slide deck here.)

Another ST rep, Robin Gold, went over the three routing alternatives currently being mulled in Level 3 – the “representative project” (the elevated ST says was roughed out in the package it took to voters in 2016), the “West Seattle Elevated/Chinatown-ID 5th Avenue/Downtown 6th Avenue/Ballard Elevated” option, and the “West Seattle Tunnel/Chinatown-ID 4th Avenue/Downtown 5th Avenue/Ballard Tunnel” option.

Reiterated was the point that sections of these could be “mixed and matched” by the time a final preferred alternative is determined. The dozens of evaluation criteria and sub-criteria were quickly touched on.

Of particular interest to Pigeon Point is where the new rail-only bridge will be built – north of the current bridges, or south? These slides offered some points of comparison:

In response to a question, Chahim noted that the cost estimate is still early. The cost question came up again later, but first, the presentation continued, with comparisons from further westward along the West Seattle line:

It was pointed out that an east/west station orientation in The Junction is not ideal for future expansion, and that the height of the guideway along Genesee is another consideration – “it would be lower if we were entering into a tunnel.”

And then it was on to a timeline recap, from tonight’s Delridge station workshop through the March 21st and 29th Stakeholder Advisory Group and Elected Leadership Group meetings, at which, Chahim said, the Delridge and Chinatown-ID stations would be a focus, followed by the two groups’ meetings to make Level 3 recommendations on April 17th an 26th, and finally the ST Board’s decisionmaking in May regarding what to send into full environmental study. She also recapped the current “scoping” process (extending the public-comment period to April 2nd), and noted that mid-2020 is when ST would start contacting potentially affected property owners.

Specifics that ST’s Mike Bulzomi outlined included:

*ST follows federal process
*You would get an appraisal that becomes the basis of an offer to purchase
*You also get the opportunity to get your own appraisal & they’ll reimburse you up to $5,000
*They also will reimburse up to $7,500 for legal advice
*Up to $2500 if you need tax advice
*They pay all the closing costs
*Separate relocation process including walking you through it with an assigned relocation specialist
*ST pays 100 percent of your moving expenses if you need to move
*Also helps find a replacement property (functionally equivalent – “if you have a 3 bedroom, 2 bath home, we look for a 3 bedroom 2 bath home at minimum”)
*If ST buys your property for $500,000 and the comparable on the market costs $600,000, ST makes up the difference

Is all that online? an attendee asked. Reply: No, but ST will email it on request. And Chahim added that ST offers individual meetings – even this early – with individual property owners who are concerned.

Another attendee asked about 3D visualizations for this area, saying he hasn’t seen them. He also wants to know the height crossing the Duwamish, the height of a potential guideway on Pigeon Point.

Spalding noted that either elevated alternative running south of the current bridge would have a “big effect” on north Pigeon Point, so his questions included how close would it be, and who owns most of the property on the north slope of the point. It’s Seattle Parks, acknowledged ST reps, and yes, that would trigger the federal 4f regulations/considerations.

What about reports of soil instability found in early testing? Spalding pressed.

That’s something for the upcoming environmental review to delve into, replied Chahim. And if it doesn’t seem to be addressed there, that’s something for the next comment period.

More Q&A: What about tenants?

They also qualify for displacement benefits, and help finding a replacement property.

What about businesses?

They are qualified for re-establishsment benefits, some of which are capped at $50,000, so they try to move more potential assistance sums into the “moving” category, which the ST reps said is uncapped.

Back to the height issue. Crossing the Duwamish River, as has been said before, it would be about the height of the existing West Seattle Bridge. The guideway would be “coming down as it approaches Pigeon Point,” added ST, though they did not have information at hand regarding the potential guideway height at 19th SW on Pigeon Point.

Another attendee said she can’t figure where there’s space “between the bridge and the hill” that the light rail would be “as we enter onto the West Seattle Bridge.”

How close could a rail/guideway be from someone’s home? Reply: Ten feet is “technically” what’s allowed – that in reality it might not be allowable to get that close.

Then came an exchange about costs, referring to the $700 million mentioned in this slide (and multiple earlier presentations):

How realistic is the $700 million number – statistical confidence? Not necessarily, said Chahim, since they’re very early in the process. She wouldn’t put a percentage on it. It “does take into account real estate costs, construction … we take a look at POTENTIALLY how much more something (could cost)… but that number, I wouldn’t take to the bank at this point.” Also: “We are asking (the SAG and ELG) for a couple different types of recommendations … the idea is, could we have one alternative that is comparable in scope and budget to the representative project and one that could require third-party funding … so there’s two potential alternatives going forward.” But “we’ve got more work to do” … right now it’s more comparative, “important for comparison but it’s not a number to get stuck on,” Chahim summarized.

The next questioner brought up the need for clarification on another projected cost factor, the different costs of the Duwamish River crossing (as shown above). Reply: The potential use of port property is a major difference.

“So the property on the north side is more expensive than the property on the south side (of the bridge)?” pressed one attendee. Reply: “It’s a preliminary combination of real state plus preliminary engineering and construction estimates.”

Speaking from the audience, Lindsay Wolpa, regional government-affairs manager for the Port of Seattle, said she would be happy to come back to another meeting with port-specific details and information “because we’re very focused on that.”

How high would the stations be off the ground? 50 to 60 in the representative project, 40 to 50 feet in the others.

How wide would it be? asked another attendee. Gold: 35′ = space for two to travel and a separation. “So you’ll be excavating the north part of the hill?” Chahim: “It’s not at ground level … We will know much more in the environmental process.”

Another attendee asked how people should phrase scoping comments, and mentioned that he is part of the East Alaska Junction Neighborhood Coalition (featured on WSB Sunday night – here’s their website).

The ensuing discussion included a suggestion that, among many other things, commenters could specify whether they prefer south or north crossing – “the ‘why’ is important too,” Chahim added, and this is also the stage at which a commenter could make mix-and-match suggestions.

Then discussion veered into some of what will come up at tonight’s Delridge Station workshop, a Sound Transit-convened meeting, and it was noted that the 2021 plan to convert Metro Route 120 into RapidRide H Line needs to tie into light rail in North Delridge.

And finally talk turned to an earlier-proposed alternative that didn’t make it to the Level 3 review, the “purple line” – this slide recapped where things stood at the end of Level 2:

Deb Barker – a West Seattleite who’s a member of the Stakeholder Advisory Group – spoke up and said the SAG had been in favor of it but the ELG threw it out.

Next Q: Can ST connect residents here to property owners who have already been through the acquisition/relocation process? asked another woman. ST has built enough by now that there “should be some insight,” the attendee noted. Chahim promised to “take that back” (to HQ) but is worried “how that might look, or privacy issues …”

How disruptive might the station construction process go? “If we’re in the roadway, we’re less on (private) properties, but more (affecting) traffic,” Chahim said. “We have not done detailed construcction phasing (studies) yet. … There would potentially be impact to the raodway.”

“They kept the road open next to the station at Northgate,” Spalding interjected.

An attendee then returned to the port issue. Chahim said they’d been meeting with the port in hopes of finding what would be the least impactful north crossing, but there are “additional costs” related to how Terminal 18 might be affected. “There’s a kind of ecosystem – affecting one thing (would affect another).”

Port rep Wolpa then was brought up by Spalding. She noted that she lives in a part of West Seattle that’s not going to be directly affected. But as for her employer, “there’s an important economic impact … you can’t relocate a marine cargo terminal. … When it comes to something like construction .. a 3 to 5 year construction process along Spokane Street (which is already) terrible for businesses and terrible for (others) …” She said the port liked the purple line too and the port might be willing to contribute to the project – how much, too soon to say. End to end, “it’s a major deal for us …” She encouraged everyone to comment in the scoping process, since that mandates inccllusion. Wolpa emphasized that she “wants to see this done right.”

You can advocate for the purple line in your scoping commnts, Spalding noted, also mentioning that the West Seattle Chamber of Commerce (he’s its immediate past board chair) is likely to mention it in their forthcoming potential official comments too.

How much do our comments matter? one person wondered.

Maybe not much if something is only brought up by one or two people … but if a lot of people bring something up … “it can have an impact.”

WHAT’S NEXT: We’ll be covering tonight’s Delridge workshop, too (6:30 pm, Youngstown Cultural Arts Center, 4408 Delridge Way SW). Whether or not you’re going, April 2nd is your deadline to comment via the online open house.

WHAT’S NEXT:

34 Replies to "West Seattle light rail: From pricing to the 'purple line,' what surfaced in Q&A when Sound Transit returned to Pigeon Point"

  • The Truth March 12, 2019 (4:53 pm)

    Pur-ple……Per-ple……Pur-ple……Pur-ple….(set this to the Rudy chant in your head)

  • Bronson March 12, 2019 (5:21 pm)

    Thank you for the recap. As the northern-most home on Pigeon Point, this is of significant interest. While we did not attend as we have had ST in our home for discussions, we appreciate our neighbors doing so and asking the questions they did.  While in no way a soil specialist, I do know that the slope on the north end of PP has had several landslides historically, so the idea of excavating the hill is patently absurd, particularly without a retaining wall. Having brought this up to ST, we were told if a retaining wall was required, they would take our home. Of course, not to get litigious, but the notion that ST could consider building without a retaining wall would absolutely trigger a suit for legal remedies. So, I guess we will likely find out in a few short weeks one way or another whether we will lose our home, because I have zero faith that government will choose sparing homeowners over the Port.

  • WS Guy March 12, 2019 (7:29 pm)

    Now that the Port has a Terminal 5 tenant, they should kick in the money for Purple.  That would be a fair trade for the impact that T5 will have on traffic, air pollution, and Elliot bay views. 

  • just curious March 12, 2019 (7:57 pm)

    For the moving costs that are ‘uncapped,’ Does that also apply to commercial property and all of the business located within it?  And would the uncapped moving costs also cover construction of a new comparable building in a new location, all the way down to  moving costs associated with printing new business cards, letterhead, websites etc, etc,,,

  • Joe Z March 12, 2019 (9:19 pm)

    Thanks for this post–it was highly informative. I’m wondering about future upzones–in addition to the HALA one is there likely to be another upzone in 5-10 years in the station walksheds? 

  • Duff Radke-Bogen March 12, 2019 (9:37 pm)

    Trains don’t do well on slopes. Because of the steep slope on the ridge on which West Seattle is built an extensive bridge structure is required so trains can “make the grade”. Why go against the grain of Seattle’ geography of nort-south ridges and force a train line to climb a hill? (For comparison look at the elevated structure where the current light rail line climbs from the river at sea level to SeaTac.)If a train line is built to West Seattle there is no room for expansion. You obviously can’t go north. Going south, as on 35th, you have the steepest hill in Seattle. The one option is down Fauntleroy to the ferry . Between the expense of building an elevated line and the limited population the served the cost per customert served will be very high.A Funicular Tram line would be an appropriate transportation mode for West Seattle’s geographic situation. A tramway like that built in Portland to connect with the Health Sciences Center could connect West Seattle to a light rail station near Genesee and Delridge.  This would provide West Seattle with transportation both downtown and south to the airport. A light rail line along Delridge way would not be against the nature of our geography. Traveling to  White Center, Burien and adjacent areas would serve a larger population and have potential connections to the airport, Federal Way. DRB

    • HS March 13, 2019 (8:54 am)

      Agreed. And how great would a funicular tram be?

    • Also John March 13, 2019 (11:44 am)

      I like the comcept of a tramway from the Alaska junction to the Delrodge station.  In my opinion the light rail should continue south down Delrodge.

      • zoom March 13, 2019 (4:03 pm)

        Correction: zip line down to Delridge, funicular up to Alaska Junction.  Sign me up!

  • Seth H Perkins March 12, 2019 (10:14 pm)

    I was the citizen asking about reliability of the cost estimates.  My takeaway was ST had no real confidence in these numbers.  If they are not confident in the numbers, they should not be published.  They are misinformation, misleading the voting/taxpaying public that put this project in motion.This is my writeup from the evening.https://www.facebook.com/seth.perkins/posts/10219301293545359The end result is : make your voice heard, West Seattle.  Decisions are being made that will affect our wonderful community for generations to come.  These decisions are being made lacking the most fundamental project management guideline : “What are the costs/benefits of Choice A vs Choice B?”  Sound Transit doesn’t know but they are putting out numbers that are steering public opinion.Every option (including the Purple Line they buried) is on the table.  Reach out to them online and make yourself heard.

  • AvalonTom March 13, 2019 (7:58 am)

    Id like to remind everyone out there who stands to lose their property to this mess: “Fair market value” is defined as a willing seller and a willing buyer agreeing on a price.  Both my wife work and live here and we love were we live. I have no interest in selling and are not a willing seller. If they want my property that is fine, I support this project (tunnel!) and are willing to get out of the way, but I can’t replace the condo I live in in west seattle. We have been looking for months and there is nothing in this price range / type of unit.  If they want me out, how about we discuss some sort of a displacement fund to help people stay in the neighborhood they chose to live in? Or are all the above ground supporters expecting my wife and I and 100’s of other folks to take the brunt of all this financially to get out of the way of progress?  I will be forced to move away from west seattle because of this simply because there is no housing for the 100’s of displaced folks.  None of this passes the smell test. Go underground and save this community. 

    • donttreadonme March 13, 2019 (1:09 pm)

      Yes, you are expected to get out of the way of progress. As someone displaced from my west seattle home due to developers building precious condos, driving up the cost of living and making me leave the community I chose to reside in, I find your nimby entitlement unconvincing as to why we should limit mass transit in a growing and changing city.

      • AvalonTom March 13, 2019 (1:54 pm)

        I support the project. Asking for it to be built in a way it benefits the community and fits within our neighborhood is not being a nimby.  We have the right to ask these questions and ask for good design that works for the community as a whole.  If you knew me you would know i’m far from a nimby.  

      • Also John March 13, 2019 (3:00 pm)

        @donttreadonme…..  Please provide further info on your displacement  situation.  You say you had a home that developers built condominiums on.  Did you sell them your home and property?  Was it simply a rental and the owner sold it?  If so, that’s night and day from being the owner of a house to be taken by ST like in the case of Avalon Tom.

        • Ron Swanson March 13, 2019 (3:41 pm)

          Also John:Pretty classist thing to say, don’t you think?  Whether a renter or an owner, one is losing their house for someone else’s benefit.  So, no, not night and day at all.  

          • Junctionite March 13, 2019 (4:39 pm)

            It would never be pleasant to be forced out of your home against your will, but as a Renter you can walk away and not be terrified of significant losses that could be associated with losing your long term investment. As a Renter you cannot be forced to stay in a home that you now cannot sell to anyone but Sound Transit on their timeline and potentially on their terms. As a Renter if you don’t like the fact that there may now be a light rail train in your backyard you can more easily move. Being a renter vs. an owner is very different here.

          • Ron Swanson March 14, 2019 (9:29 am)

            As a renter, you can be, and usually are, forced out with nothing to show for it.  As an owner, you’ll receive fair market value for your property.  Again, you guys aren’t proving what you think you’re proving here.

          • CMT March 14, 2019 (10:41 am)

            I think Junctionite makes good points that aren’t classist, they are a financial reality,   All other things being equal, i.e., equal loss of community and sense of permanence,  a homeowner that is unable to liquidate his/her likely largest investment except at a significantly discounted value due to impending eminent domain has an additional disadvantage.  Of course, no one has a “right” to any price for their home but the reality is that people make a huge investment in purchasing a home based on reasonable expectations that they will be able to sell at the regional market price when they choose. 

  • Mike March 13, 2019 (9:18 am)

    Maybe Avalon Tom can get some pictures of the build currently going up at Northgate and superimpose then on our proposed routes. That would give a real world picture of the scale of this project.  I drive under the the Northgate project daily and while they kept 1st north open the build took fully a 2 block swath for construction and is now only three years into a 5 year build..

    • AvalonTom March 13, 2019 (1:56 pm)

      people have no idea how big this is going to be. It’s hard to see or imagine it from the aerial blocked out 3D perspectives ST provided. If they build it this way, there won’t be west seattle. It will be a  giant transit station known as west seattle.

      • Also John March 13, 2019 (3:04 pm)

        @AvalonTom…  I agree with you.  I obtained a schematic draws g of what ST wants to built on 41st Ave SW between Oregon and Alaska.  I’m clueless how to get that attached here.

      • HS March 13, 2019 (3:13 pm)

        I grabbed this screen shot from an earlier WSB “Bye-A-Duct” article. It’s from the WSDOT video. Even this scale is huge – note the vehicle. Perhaps unhelpful but it helped me try to visualize.

  • Plf March 13, 2019 (10:38 am)

    I remember years ago all the proptery that was seized for the monorail, all the funding was in place, design and routes established. Then the officials figured out it was a no go.   Hmm anyone see a monarail?  Imagine we are still paying for that well thought out option.  Folks lost their proptery, and the city made a pretty penny selling the property they seized, of course those who “lost” their proptery could not afford to repurchase,   maybe this time will be different. Honestly don’t know but history does have a  way of repeating itself, just hope the faceless government remembers people are going to be hurt in this process and have honestly and diligently made an assessment and decision  that will operationally make sense in the long term

  • Also John March 13, 2019 (3:10 pm)

    Here’s a schematic drawing…

  • SE March 13, 2019 (5:43 pm)

    I’ve been curious about the potential right turn light rail may take from Delridge onto Genesee and all of the new development. There are brand new townhomes on the east side of the street, and the NW corner of that intersection now has a land use proposal. How can developers go forth with these projects when they could be subject soon to being taken by imminent domain? 

  • Plf March 13, 2019 (6:00 pm)

    I think you are missing the underlying point, which is that there is a hope that when these decisions are made they are done understanding the impact that it has on the community and many folks that it directly disrupts their lives, when proptery was sold did they not sell it at a higher rate than the purchase price?  Ok it went back to off set the taxpayers. Imagine there was a deficit that the tax payor is still paying or did pay for?  didn’t go back to the previous owners unless they could afford it at the higher priceagain the point is. These decisions have real life impact on people, this is not to say the venture is not important but it should not mirror the monorail process

  • Scott Caldwell March 13, 2019 (6:20 pm)

    Take another look at Yancy Street/W. Seattle Tunnel option. At my table at last night’s Delridge Station meeting, one of the hot topics was the idea of re-looking at the Yancy Street/W. Seattle Tunnel option that was eliminated at the end of Level 1 last year.  Here is the reference material:  https://www.soundtransit.org/sites/default/files/documents/west-seattle-ballard-link-extension-level-1-alternatives-development-and-screening-part-1-20190215.pdf  Specifically look at pages 16 and 19.  It has some issues that will need to be addressed–specifically where the Delridge Station is located and the fact that there are only two stations in WS, not three.  I’m not an engineer, but  ST has said all along that there are opportunities to mix and match, so I’m thinking there may be a way to shift the Delridge Station in this option farther to the east–perhaps near the strip mall on Andover and Delridge.  But it does solve several issues, among them:  lower impact on Youngstown housing; keeping the guideway in an area that is already noisy and mostly industrial–thereby eliminating the impact the park/golf course and green spaces; and leading into a tunnel into the heart of the Junction.  No elevated tracks.  We were encouraged by our facilitator to offer this up in our scoping feedback, which I will do.  If this interests any of you, please do the same.  Here is the map of the route as it was presented in Level One.

    • second that March 13, 2019 (8:56 pm)

      Thank you for sharing positively. I completely agree. I will also share this as my preference with ST, although I have no faith anyone is listening.

  • Also John March 13, 2019 (6:31 pm)

    • Also John March 13, 2019 (8:57 pm)

      What you see above is the 41st Ave SW station sitting between Oregon and Alaska.  It takes up the entire west side of the block.

      • Calires March 14, 2019 (12:00 am)

        I wonder what will happen to the brand new nursing home on the west side of 41st Ave between Oregon and Alaska?

  • 1994 March 13, 2019 (9:35 pm)

    Maybe ST3 should look at a more southern route that runs on the surface up along 1st Ave S, over the river near 1st Ave S bridge, and then up Myers Way. Camp Second Chance is city property that could be used for a light rail station to benefit all with a bus transit or park & ride. Then routing up the hill from there and north to downtown WS…. A southern route would have a gentler grade, could include more potential riders for this mass transit project, and should be cheaper to build without lengthy bridges or tunnels. Mass transit – the object is to get as many riders as possible at the lowest cost with the least environmental impact?

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