WEST SEATTLE LIGHT RAIL: With 2 days left for ‘scoping’ comments, Elected Leadership Group wonders if anyone will have enough time to review them

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Two days remain until Sound Transit closes the “scoping” period – the last round of official public comment before a decision on which light rail routing/station locations to send into environmental study.

The West Seattle-to-Ballard project’s Elected Leadership Group met Friday for a bonus briefing/discussion on the Delridge and Chinatown/International District station options. This is the group that will meet in four weeks to decide on what to recommend to the Sound Transit Board, which has the final say on everything from what to study to what to build.

And members expressed concern on Friday that it’s a rush to the finish line – with Stakeholder Advisory Group members (all community volunteers) scheduled to make their recommendation to the ELG two days after getting an outline of “themes” from the scoping comments, and the ELG itself getting a full report on those comments two days before its own decision is due. Here’s the timeline:

More on the time concerns ahead. First:

Much of the information from the meeting was the same as that provided to the SAG when it met last week (here’s our coverage). But the format and atmosphere differed in a big way. The ELG – which has fewer members – sits in the seats usually used by the ST Board in the same room, and all information is presented to them in one group. They also take public comment. That’s not the case with the SAG, whose members are seated at round tables and while a presentation usually starts the meeting, some information is presented informally at the tables, with discussion following.

While the SAG’s members are all considered equal, the ELG has co-chairs, County Councilmember Joe McDermott and City Councilmember Mike O’Brien.

After a brief welcome from ST CEO Peter Rogoff, facilitator Diane Adams reinforced that decisions were not being sought, that this was a special informational meeting. Project executive Cathal Ridge then provided a quick overview of where the process stands – though planning and discussion has been under way for a year, it’s still “the very start.”

In particular, both these stations are being reviewed through the Racial Equity Toolkit. Key slides from the presentation:

While we were there for the Delridge station discussion, we listened in on the Chinatown/ID discussion that preceded it, and noted two public commenters who identified themselves as SAG members from the Chinatown/ID area. One said she feels they’ve been asked to make decisions beyond the scope of their volunteer role, so they are asking ELG members to reach out to their community. “It’s difficult for SAG members to compare benefits and impacts … The SAG has not received enough information about budget and project costs.” Low confidence was voiced regarding the numbers provided so far.

Later, O’Brien asked a followup question related to that comment, and Adams said SAG members’ perspectives have “helped shape” things along the way but “we have a very robust engagement process outside the (SAG)” so it’s not entirely on their shoulders.

O’Brien then made the morning’s first ELG comment that the process feels “so rushed right now” and that there are so many decisions to be made but this group, for example, is not scheduled to stay together after next month.

Yet Ridge reiterated that this is “only the start of the environmental process” and described the past year and a half as a “preamble to get things going. … We’ve learned a lot over the past year about how to better engage the community.”

Another speaker pointed out that many immigrants need more accommodation – materials available in their languages – in order to participate. Then came a suggestion that a meeting be held in the Chinatown-ID. “When (the project) is done, it’s going to be super,” but people should be able to get an explanation that they understand.

City Councilmember Lorena González asked for clarification about how the choices might affect the “delivery timeline for the overall process.” Some options currently on the table for the Chinatown-ID section could add time, Ridge confirmed.

Then the current process’s time constraints resurfaced: City Councilmember Lisa Herbold points out the short amount of time that the committees will have for review of scoping comments. Can the SAG in particular get a little more time? she wondered. They’re only getting “the essence,” not even the full report. Ridge said they’ll do what they can.

Mayor Jenny Durkan said it’s imperative “to get this segment right … because we won’t get a second chance.” She mentioned the condemnation situations that could “slow this thing down … so we have to get it right.”

DELRIDGE STATION DISCUSSION: The meeting’s three-hour window was more than half over when this began at 10:45 am with public comment.

A commenter describing himself as a 30-year North Delridge resident, said he appreciated the mayor’s earlier comment along the lines of “measure twice and cut once.” He said all three options for Delridge would cause “disproportionate impact,” on green spaces as well as neighborhoods. “I strongly urge you to consider putting back on the table the Yancy Street/West Seattle Tunnel option that was eliminated in Level 1.” (You can see it in some of our 2018 coverage, including this story.)

Another resident voiced concern about displacement.

The next speaker said she’s just moved from NY and found out eight days after arrival that “we might be displaced in a few years … we weren’t part of Level 1 and Level 2 because we weren’t in Seattle yet.” She also noted that the recent West Seattle community meeting was disproportionately missing the presence of people of color, which she estimates make up one-third to one-half of the North Delridge neighborhood (herself included).

Displacement concerns were voiced by the next resident of the neighborhood to speak, too. She was followed by a resident wh said that if his property is taken, he needs to know how they’ll be compensated. O’Brien and McDermott promised to connect him with that information.

(WSB photo from recent Youngstown walking tour organized by Dennis Noland, center. At left is Stakeholder Advisory Group member Deb Barker; at right, Elected Leadership Group member Port Commissioner Stephanie Bowman)

Dennis Noland, the Youngstown property owner who has organized neighbors and connected them with information, said “It’s a neighborhood that should be served by light rail, not destroyed by light rail.” He said a lack of postal-mail notification earlier in the process means they’re desperately trying to fight back. He also asked for transparency on how the scoping comments will be processed ad evaluated so that they will be thoroughly considered.

Another Delridge resident said he “got out of work to come here – we know light rail’s coming to the neighborhood and there’s going to be winners and losers.” he said he has not seen any other light-rail project that has displaced people “Delridge doesn’t need more coffee shops – we go over to each other’s houses to have coffee.” He urged that the blue-line option get thrown out. “I ask you to think about our neighborhood carefully.”

Next commenter was Deb Barker, a Morgan Junction resident who’s on the Stakeholder Advisory Group. She suggested a one-hour tour of West Seattle before the ELG decides. “Only in West Seattle are there proposed impacts to actual residential areas .. all the other impacts within the alignment are going to be to business, industrial commercial areas … so West Seattle is an anomaly.” She noted that Commissioner Bowman already had visited (as shown above).

Tighe Urelius from the West Seattle Junction area observed that “outside technical analysis” might be valuable to “interface directly with the community” as these decisions are being made.

And one final commenter returned to the big-picture displacement issue, including how many residences might be in the line’s path of future expansion depending on what route/station locations are chosen now.

After Ridge went through a recap of the Delridge-station alternatives (abave), Herbold noted that one slide shows that ST projects “fewer than 40” residential displacements in all options currently on the table, lower than other cited figures:

Ridge wasn’t sure about the reason for the discrepancy. Herbold also wondered about the differences in the amounts of projected business displacements. And she inquired about peninsula-access effects of the Duwamish River crossing options. Ridge said it was too soon to tell which might affect things less.

Sloan Dawson, ST station speialist, zoomed in on the Delridge neighborhood characteristics including “the green spaces that form the heart of this neighborhood.” He recapped some of the elements that had been presented to the SAG last week. He also noted that residential use in the immediate area is two-thirds single family or lowrise.

After Dawson;s recap of the three alternatives, Herbold returned to the point that the Youngstown station still seemed to have the likelihood of affecting more than 40 properties suggested on the overview slide.

(WSB photo, March 12th Delridge workshop)

Some key points from the March 12th Delridge community workshop (WSB coverage here) were recapped:

ELG members also were provided with these notes from the workshop:

McDermott – a West Seattleite – opened ELG questions/comments. He talked about visiting North Delridge, “a pretty vibrant, dense neighborhood.” He asked if a ST alignment had gone through this type of neighborhood in the past. Ridge couldn’t think of any specific examples off the top of his head. McDermott also wondered about further study of the “purple line” – a two-tunnel Level 2 alternative that has gained some favor in West Seattle community discussion, despite being discarded by the ELG last fall – and whether better cost estimates might be available.

(June 2018 graphic)

Ridge said there was a “lot going on” beyond cost such as relocating transmission lines at one point, an unstable slope tunneling in the Duwamish Greenbelt, crossing the Duwamish River at its widest spot. Even with a re-evaluation “it’s still likely to be a very costly alternative.”

Herbold followed up by saying “the purple line best addresses the concerns that we’ve heard … I do understand the cost and engineering constraints are concerning … I want to speak to the fact that, whereas the purple line was judged largely on costs … one of the things people did not fully consider is that it contained the $700 million tunnel for The Junction so (the rest of it) should be considered a $500 million (addition).”

CityCouncilmember Rob Johnson said he was reminded of a Roosevelt neighborhood discussion in 2004, long before its station was scheduled to open. He hopes that people will keep in mind that the station will fundamentally change the economics of the area, that redevelopment of the area might mitigate the displacement .. he also said he was surprised feedback didn’t bring up the SODO five-year transferring situation (a gap between completion of the West Seattle extension and a new downtown tunnel).

O’Brien wondered what West Seattle’s Nucor steel mill has had to say recently since the Delridge station location would profoundly affect them. ST pointed out that Nucor has a rep on the SAG but said it hadn’t head anything directly from them lately. O’Brien also pointed out that “significant upzones” are likely in the area no matter what, “to significantly increase capacity there …” though he acknowledged upzoning isn’t exactly the same thing as total demolition.

Herbold mentioned that 25th has a lot of dense infill already.

McDermott asked about the station locations and bus integration. He also wanted a little more discussion of Delridge context and the RapidRide H Line (the conversion of Metro Route 120 is scheduled to happen in 2021, nine years before light rail) – possible shifts to that route once the station comes online are already being discussed with Metro, said Dawson.

Whatever the ELG recommends on April 26th, the final say on what goes into environmental study is in the hands of the ST Board, with a committee meeting May 9th and full board meeting May 23rd.

COMMENTED YET? As mentioned, the deadline for comments to become an official part of the “scoping” record is Tuesday. Here are the multiple ways to do it.

P.S. Friday’s meeting was recorded by Seattle Channel; the video’s not available yet but we’ll add it to this story when it is.

31 Replies to "WEST SEATTLE LIGHT RAIL: With 2 days left for 'scoping' comments, Elected Leadership Group wonders if anyone will have enough time to review them"

  • AvalonTom April 1, 2019 (6:48 am)

    I’m wondering how many of you will be happy with this:https://photos.google.com/share/AF1QipMizZ9fzBlABbZtyCHZpEiiC3DtLyOExYeEbW44HQDHFLC4MUyTIpkhk5pxj_N-qQ?key=a2xJeXZOQkVsUS0yRUpmc2FWWm9IYWhESGdIOHBR(photos by Kevin Freitas) Please take the time and call your officials. We are about to become a transit station know as West Seattle.

    • JCW April 1, 2019 (12:33 pm)

      Me!! I’ll be happy!! These are substantially nicer and quieter than other transit tracks I’ve lived adjacent to in other cities. The elevated style also allows for maintaining neighborhood connections, instead of a tunnel slicing into the ground and creating a physical barrier. (I’ll happily buy your transit-adjacent house too, instead of commuting from the south end of WS!)

      • Also John April 1, 2019 (2:00 pm)

        @JCW,  Do you know what a tunnel is?  I hate to say this but I’m being serious.  I’ve been a licensed Civil Engineer for 30 years and would be more than happy to provide tunnel details.For now I’ll keep it simple.  A tunnel is underground.  Light rail tunnels are constructed using TBM (tunnel boring machine).  The Light rail stations will be constructed using a method called ‘cut and cover’.  Some people call it open cut.  Between each station will be a tunnel.  The surface elevation (ground) between the stations will not be disturbed and there will be no ‘physical barrier’ at ground level separating neighbors.I can’t explain this any other way.

        • JCW April 1, 2019 (6:16 pm)

          LOL one of the best mansplains I’ve ever seen. The scoping documents show a grade change from elevated rail (over the Duwamish) to tunnel in a variety of ways. Regardless of how a tunnel is constructed, you will have the rail line entering the ground at some point, where presumably engineers like yourself will have considered that pedestrians probably shouldn’t be permitted on the rails and there will be a physical barrier to separate the two. Concrete, fencing, whatever. Grade changes will always have the feeling of a physical barrier to them as they transition, versus a consistently elevated line that permits people to pass underneath. Cut and cover is lovely when it works. Much of the Blue line in Chicago was cut & cover, and it works well, situated under Milwaukee Ave. I’d love to see that in the junction.

          • wscommuter April 2, 2019 (1:09 am)

            @JCW … I am almost at a loss to understand what you’re trying to say, other than being snotty. Fair enough; you have every right to be so.  Tunneling preserves the heart of our neighborhood, even if – at a discrete spot or two there could be “at grade” tracks that result in this barrier you’re apparently so worried about.  But the rest of the way the train and tracks would be underground and out of sight.  If you’re so concerned about barriers, you might consider the barriers created by elevated tracks carving up our neighborhood as well as displacing so many of our neighbors, something you so glibly dismiss.  

          • RJK April 2, 2019 (9:22 am)

            You should move back to Chicago! Elevated tracks are loud, and an eyesore. 

  • KBear April 1, 2019 (8:55 am)

    If I can get on a train and not be stuck in traffic, I’ll be very happy with it.

    • WS Guy April 1, 2019 (9:30 pm)

      I’d like to open a strip mine in your neighborhood.  You might not like it, but if I can get a few tons of dolomite, I’ll be very happy!

  • Dawson April 1, 2019 (9:06 am)

    Only in Seattle can they say they don’t have good cost estimate for a project and unilaterally turn down an option (dual tunnel) because of cost.An all elevated option would at least have 80% cost assessment by now even with the final alignment in flux just on materials and likely labor alone.

  • MJ April 1, 2019 (10:08 am)

    A tunnel option serving the Junction is the preference of many WS residents.  The issue is $.  If a tunnel option is to be seriously considered two things are needed:What is the true cost delta and a proposal how to pay for the delta difference!  It’s easy to say I want a tunnel but the hard truth is to identify the funding source to pay for it.

    • Gene April 1, 2019 (11:55 am)

      Yes & count on the cost for whatever option is chosen to  be significantly higher by the time construction starts..

    • Pete April 1, 2019 (12:29 pm)

      But how can you even begin to find out the cost when they are at 3% design and the figures they are giving were developed on the back of an envelope while standing under the West Seattle bridge drinking a latte. To truly be able to compare apples to oranges there needs to be better data upon which to make this generational decision.

  • Vanessa April 1, 2019 (1:00 pm)

    Yes, I have not read everything, but what is the proposed date that one MIGHT be riding a train out of West Seattle? Wondering if I might even be alive then.

    • WSB April 1, 2019 (1:28 pm)

      2030 West Seattle, 2035 Ballard.

  • Chris April 1, 2019 (2:32 pm)

    Send it down Delridge. No tunnel needed.

    • 98126res April 1, 2019 (9:24 pm)

      Somehow can Delridge work?  I love Delridge and seems rail could boost the area economically, this route is more practical, easier construction, lower costs.  Does anyone living and working there and in white center want light rail?

  • East Coast Cynic April 1, 2019 (6:39 pm)

    Re Deb Barker’s statement that West Seattle is an anomaly in terms of removal of residential spaces, we really don’t appear to be an anomaly at all since Lynnwood Link is displacing over 100 residences according to the 2018 SEPA report.https://www.soundtransit.org/sites/default/files/lynnwood-link-extension-SEPA-May-2018.pdf

  • Gina April 1, 2019 (10:13 pm)

    For future generations, a tunnel would be a better choice. 

  • Canton April 1, 2019 (10:19 pm)

    So if ST takes this land for rail and for staging materials, does the remaining property become able to be developed, and sold as such by ST? Are they able to profit, on the land remaining, by vacating these homes? A couple trips through Beacon Hill recently, noticed the new developments fairly close to the rail.

  • Nick April 2, 2019 (6:05 am)

    Do whatever is cheapest and don’t delay sorry if you live in the area but you should get bought out sorry if you if you just moved here and are in the path but the entire region needs transit. 100 houses to get displaced doesn’t seem like that big of a deal to avoid a 1 billion dollar tunnel job or those houses/neighborhoods  should pay a LID tax to pay for the tunnel. 

    • CMT April 2, 2019 (11:04 am)

      Just wondering – do you live in West Seattle?

    • Fiz April 2, 2019 (5:42 pm)

      It’s a very big deal if the home that has been in your family for three generations and infused with a great deal of sweat equity is in the pathway of an ill-conceived train track 30-150 feet in the air.

  • LG April 2, 2019 (8:22 am)

    If elevated is the only option,I would strongly encourage going down Fauntleroy/Alaska. Why even orient south for “future expansion “,41st is purely residential & would take down hundreds of homes. Definitely precedent setting in the city of Seattle. Get your scoping comments out there!

    • Junctionite April 2, 2019 (11:12 am)

      The 41st option is crazy,  ultimately you’ll plan to take out hundreds of homes to be only a couple of blocks closer to the Junction?  If elevated, going down Fauntleroy makes so much more sense.  Has Sound Transit approached this level of residential carnage anywhere else?

    • WS resident April 3, 2019 (3:40 pm)

      Its obvious (to me at least) that this whole “public engagement” act is kabuki theater and the decision to put the station on 41st was predetermined after the businesses politicked to move the line away from storefronts. Clearly looking at the records the idea of the train was sold on the “representative alignment” which doesn’t crush hundreds of residences in WS but uses main arteries. The N/S alignment to facilitate some fantastical ST4 initiative sometime well after we are all dead was just used as an excuse. No one is going to be able to get votes to destroy even more homes down 41st street to Burien after ST3 goes through.  The underground lines are still on the table to keep the residents of WS from uprising and hiring lawyers to fight this total bait and switch. It’s never going to happen. So the only recourse we really have is to fight for the representative alignment. Call the board out on this obvious political tactic. Write the board members and let them know you wont stand for it people!

  • 98126res April 2, 2019 (8:46 am)

    The bull rush on this project is most frustrating.  ST3 is now in stage 3?  Doesn’t project planning allow for asking big necessary questions about the project at EACH stage, before shovels are in the ground?  Listen to residents who are stressed out these past few weeks, overwhelmed by ST3’s tsunami of technical details, planning stages and power point presentations.   And now this planning quagmire is to be handed off to politicians who I do not trust, whose good common sense is rarely seen.  This project is  a stupid contest.  Whatever happened to thoughtful, measured, prudent decision making especially by our long time residents.  Red flags all over.

    • Neighbor April 2, 2019 (10:03 am)

      Unless you’ve just moved here, I’m not sure how you can feel this is a “bull rush”.  These discussions have been going on for at least a year already, and have been extremely well-covered by the WSB. Click on the Sound Transit category in the right-hand margin for a recap.

      • WSB April 2, 2019 (11:14 am)

        Thanks for pointing out the category link – also clicking on “Sound Transit” under the headline will get you that archive. Please note it doesn’t yet contain ALL the stories we’ve reported since West Seattle light rail became a real possibility a few years back but I’m working on retroactive category tagging… TR

      • WS resident April 2, 2019 (12:21 pm)

        The above ground option at 41st street was not in phase 1 or 2 and is being rushed. There was no plan for that location that has been thoroughly vetted. Believe you me,.a displacement of that magnitude will be tied up in litigation for years. 

  • Joyce April 2, 2019 (4:58 pm)

    Tracy – just wondering, during the Delridge discussion did anyone mention the impacts to Pathfinder K8 school? All alignments would impact the only two access roads (23rd and Andover) to this public school both during construction and when it’s finished. Many buses and parents use the neighborhood daily as this option school draws from all parts of West Seattle and beyond. Haven’t seen this impact discussed in any of the materials. I’ve heard concerns about kids walking to school, increased traffic and density in the neighborhood and other issues.

    • WSB April 2, 2019 (5:24 pm)

      This was focused almost entirely on the station location possibilities for Delridge and Chinatown/ID. There have been a couple of meetings in Pigeon Point that were more broadly focused. Anyway, be sure to get that in as a scoping comment if you haven’t already!

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