By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
First stop, Delridge.
When Sound Transit light rail arrives in West Seattle – projected start date, 2030 – after the trains cross the Duwamish River on a new bridge, that’s where the easternmost of three planned stations will be. And that was the topic of this past Tuesday’s “community workshop” at Youngstown Cultural Arts Center, which might end up adjacent to the station if the southernmost proposed site is chosen.
As is standard for Sound Transit’s meetings, this one began with a lengthy slide-deck-accompanied presentation that plowed through the highlights of the yearlong planning process that is almost to a key destination – the decision about which route(s) and station locations will get full environmental study.
The ST board has the final say; one of its members, County Councilmember Joe McDermott of West Seattle, spoke briefly at the event’s start and underscored that “historic decisions” are ahead. He reminded the 100 or so attendees – including a sizable number of ST employees/consultants assigned as table-minders – that he and City Councilmember Lisa Herbold, also there, had sent ST CEO Peter Rogoff a letter calling for a closer look at Delridge station concerns. Here’s the letter, dated late January; hosting this workshop was one response to it. McDermott says they want to be certain that light rail and its transit connections will “serve everybody in the Delridge Valley.”
Voicing concerns now – whatever part of the extension you’re addressing – carries extra weight because the federally mandated “scoping period” is under way, recently extended to April 2nd.
Tuesday night’s opening presentation (see the full slide deck here) got off to a rocky start due to a sound-system problem that persisted throughout ST executive Cathal Ridge‘s overview. He was followed by Stephen Mak, who has explained the West Seattle segment at most meetings we’ve covered, and he abandoned the sound system entirely, shouting his points loud enough to be heard throughout Youngstown’s Thelma Dewitty Theater.
The current focus on three “end-to-end alternatives” for the third and final level of review were “put together for our technical studies,” he summarized, rolling through a quick mention of the review criteria and telling attendees they would find the full lists on their tables “if you want to use it for discussion.”
ST’s station-planning specialist Sloan Dawson then took the stage – by that point the microphone was working again, without feedback. He talked about the issues involved in evaluating station locations through a “qualitative lens,” such as “how do we integrate trasit services, how do we integrate … walking and biking?” for “accessing … the system” and “organizing circulation and arrival (to) think about buses” as well as “designing the station footprint” so the light rail station “becomes a community hub.”
He eventually moved on to the “Delridge corridor context,” including the southernmost potential location’s proximity to community gathering places such as Youngstown and the Delridge Community Center. And the upcoming conversion of Metro Route 120 to RapidRide H Line, carrying riders from as far south as Burien, is a key consideration as well. His presentation made glancing acknowledgment of the North Delridge Action Plan, for which discussion long predated the Sound Transit 3 decision to extend light rail to West Seattle.
Dawson also touched on the station area’s “walksheds” and current zoning, while recapping the three alternatives for Delridge station locations – north of Andover in the “representative alignment,” south of Andover on the elevated alternative, north of Genesee in the tunneled alternative. (Note that the green routes shown on the map mark existing neighborhood greenways.)
He ran through characteristics of the three potential locations:
*A “cluster of commercial uses” at Delridge/Andover but a “challenging” pedestrian/bicycle environment because of the proximity of the West Seattle Bridge ramps and a limited redevelopment opportunity because of Nucor’s proximity
*Better pedestrian/bicycle connections with the site between Andover and Dakota, with a possible “hill climb” from the 26th SW greenway at Dakota, and more redevelopment opportunities near the station, which would be “in the center of the right of way”
*The station location centered over 25th between Dakota and Genesee would be a “pretty substantial change” to current conditions in this residential area, Dawson acknowledged, in an understatement (this is one of the areas where dozens of residents have organized in realization that their homes might face demolition). But, he said, this area also holds the largest opportunity for redevelopment that could bring long-sought “amenities”; he mentioned a grocery store and affordable housing
Then it was table-talk time. Those who remained were urged to assess the station-location alternatives through lenses such as how they “support your neighborhood vision and values,” and to engage in “meaningful conversation with your neighbors.”
We stayed on to listen in at the table where we’d found a chair as the evening began. Those seated there turned out to be from Pigeon Point, site of a light-rail focused meeting one night earlier (WSB coverage here). Though they were geographically clustered, they spanned a wide age range. In response to the table facilitator’s question of whether the attendees envisioned themselves using the future light-rail station, one man said he was 27 years old and couldn’t easily envision what might be happening in his life in 11 years, while an older man, indicating he’d be a senior citizen by the time the station opened, might need to use it instead of driving, if he had “a way to get down the hill.”
They discussed neighborhood attributes they appreciate now, including proximity to the bridge and easy access to the rest of West Seattle. And they asked questions including the projected height of the guideway as it approached Pigeon Point, and what ST would do about stabilizing PP if they had to carve into it. Wide-ranging discussion continued, with others circulating around the room and stopping at the table, including Councilmembers McDermott and Herbold, and ST’s Mak. They moved on to discussing the possible station sites; the northernmost one had no fans. The talk also veered to discussion of tunneling into the West Seattle Junction; a younger participant said The Junction’s character is “the whole reason I moved to West Seattle,” voicing concern that an elevated Junction station would destroy that character.
While some were concerned about history, others worried about the future: “This is what’s going to be here 60 or 70 years from now; our grandchildren and great-grandchildren are going to live with it, and they’re (going to wonder why we didn’t put it underground).”
WHAT’S NEXT? Whether you’re in the Delridge station area or not, what matters most right now is getting your feedback in before the “scoping period” runs out – April 2nd is the deadline. You can do that here. Meantime, from Tuesday night’s slide deck, here’s the rest of the near-term timeline:
The meeting next Thursday is open to the public, 5-8 pm at the ST board room, 401 S. Jackson on the south end of downtow.