WEST SEATTLE LIGHT RAIL: Getting ready for recommendations

In two and a half weeks, the Elected Leadership Group created for Sound Transit West Seattle/Ballard light-rail planning will meet to make its recommendation of which routing/station-location alternatives should go into environmental study.

They have a lot of feedback to consider. And as we reported here, one West Seattleite on the ELG, City Councilmember Lisa Herbold, expressed concern that the ELG and the Stakeholder Advisory Group wouldn’t get enough time to consider it all – the timetable said they would get a summary of the recent “scoping” comments just two days before their recommendation meeting on April. She reiterated her request for more time in this letter with her scoping comments:

She asked that both groups get at least a week’s lead time between receiving scoping-comment information and their next meetings. And now we’ve learned that will happen – Sound Transit intends to send the scoping comments to both groups today (Wednesday), which is exactly a week before the SAG meets and 16 days before the ELG meets. We had asked ST just yesterday about the status of the request for more time and were told, “Staff is working hard to turn around these comments as quickly as they can.” We’ll inquire tomorrow how and how soon they’ll be available once sent to the ELG and SAG.

Meantime, community groups are continuing their advocacy. Another of the West Seattleites on the ELG, County Councilmember Joe McDermott – who is also on the ST Board – recently walked part of the potential route – from the Avalon station vicinity to the easternmost Junction station – with members of the East Alaska Junction Neighborhood Coalition. We were along for most of the tour:

They both showed him the terrain and sought his advice on how best to advocate for their position.

He said they were already on the right track, so to speak, but one thing was vital to be clear about: That they’re “not NIMBYs who don’t want your houses taken.”

The points they made along the way definitely were not along those lines. The walk – whose attendees also include Stakeholder Advisory Group member Deb Barker of Morgan Junction – began at 35th and Fauntleroy, and headed west.

The potentially short distance between the Avalon and Junction stations was pointed out – with the latter almost within line of sight of the former. The walksheds overlap, one person noted, observing that the Avalon station area isn’t even that far from the Delridge station-vicinity walkshed.

Concerns about bus integration continue to swirl around the Avalon station vicinity. McDermott observed that the Sound Transit planning for the UW light-rail station didn’t integrate buses well.

Some of the walk was spent trying to envision how high up an elevated track would be. As the group turned up SW Genesee toward the heart of The Junction, it was also noted that because of the rise, one alignment would put the track at street level at or near 39th/Genesee, creating two dead-ends.

Around that point, McDermott pointed out that in his view, as he has said previously, “the goal needs to be the tunnel and making sure it happens.” As all are well aware, that means money beyond what was in the ST3 ballot measure, but “we’ll work over the next couple years to figure out where that money comes from.”

The walk concluded near 41st/Alaska, a possible north/south-oriented station location, which has sparked concern that it would set up a future – ST4? – expansion continuing down 41st, far into residential turf. The decisions being made now must be viewed through the prism of planning the next expansion, the group believes.

Two nights later, as mentioned in our previous coverage, the East Junction group spoke to the Southwest District Council‘s April meeting. They showed the SWDC some of what’s on their website. One member said he moved into his house almost exactly a year ago, and knew light rail was coming but “didn’t know how much of a front seat I would actually have.” Another added that the group wants to be conscious of the realities of funding, knowing that an elevated option is more likely to be funded than a tunnel option, and “we feel would feel uncomfortable going into the EIS phase knowing there is only one elevated option and one tunnel option,” knowing the tunnel option could be a non-starter. 

WHAT’S NEXT: The Stakeholder Advisory Group meets at 5 pm April 17th, to finalize its recommendation(s) to the Elected Leadership Group, which meets at 9:30 am April 26th. The Sound Transit board then meets in May to finalize what it wants to send into environmental studies. All meetings are open to the public, and all are in the ST board room on the south side of downtown, 401 S. Jackson.

14 Replies to "WEST SEATTLE LIGHT RAIL: Getting ready for recommendations"

  • Process Squared April 10, 2019 (9:01 am)

    What is the solution to the notorious ‘Seattle Process’?—More process, more delay, more outreach?  Can’t our elected leaders ever escape it?As a voter who recalls the mistake of our region’s past in turning down mass transit, it is time to respond in the present and please,  ‘kick out the jams!’

    • WSB April 10, 2019 (9:31 am)

      As previously reported, this is actually a sped-up version of the process. And it’s not “Seattle” – part of it (the environmental scoping, etc.) is federally required. – TR

  • Nick April 10, 2019 (12:31 pm)

    The tunnel is a non starter. This statement here essentially kills it “As all are well aware, that means money beyond what was in the ST3 ballot measure, but “we’ll work over the next couple years to figure out where that money comes from.” This is project killer language here people. You get sold on a tunnel and the money never comes. West Seattle never happens and the money that was going to go towards the project ends up taking care of some of the potential ST4 initiatives instead. Along with the anticipated ridership numbers the math doesn’t look good to additionally spend potentially upwards of $500-700M for the tunnel. Time would better be spent hashing out the elevated alignment.

    • P April 10, 2019 (2:04 pm)

      PST put forth 3 proposals, 2 of which are elevated, and all 3 have fundamental issues (1) ST3 is east/west facing making it difficult to extend south for future ST4 extensions(2) New elevated line destroys 150 houses and future extension leads to many fold more demolitions(3) Tunnel is expensivewhy don’t we have a better elevated option ?!?!

      • Jort April 10, 2019 (3:51 pm)

        I have said many times that I would fully support an at-grade option for the light rail that doesn’t involve elevated lines. All we need to do is completely eliminate automobile traffic on Spokane St., Avalon, Fauntleroy and California. This public land can then be used to make grade-separated light rail with zero automobile intersections. Of course, you would no longer be able to cross any of these streets with a vehicle, but that doesn’t really bug me too much.     More seriously, I would certainly love to see a tunnel as much as everybody else seems to love it. So while I’d be happy and surprised to see a tunnel, I’m fully ready to adapt to the elevated light rail line when it inevitably happens. Because it’s very important to be clear about one very critical factor: the light rail will be coming to the West Seattle Junction, whether it’s a tunnel or on a platform. The reason this is happening is because we voted for it and we’re paying taxes on it. “Not building it because we didn’t get our tunnel” is NOT an option under any circumstances, whatsoever.

        • WS Guy April 10, 2019 (9:19 pm)

          As Jort says, if we can’t do this right (tunnel) then we should wait until funds are available.  Indefinitely if needed.  A train from and to fixed locations is not a miracle by any stretch; it barely improves upon a bus system, if at all.

          • AMD April 10, 2019 (10:35 pm)

            Have you taken the light rail?  I was a skeptic in the beginning, but it surpasses buses by leaps in bounds in terms of speed and security.  Also, let’s agree to disagree that the tunnel is the “right” option.  In my opinion, the “right” option is the one that enables the greatest number of people to opt for mass transit over cars.  Expansion matters. 

          • WS Guy April 11, 2019 (12:53 am)

            I have!  The seats are very narrow, if you can get one.  It was dirty.  I did not find it more comfortable than the bus.  Once on board, the ride is smooth.  However, by the time I take the bus from Roxhill to the rail station (since the bus won’t go downtown anymore), transfer to the platform, switch trains at SODO (since it won’t even go downtown for an extra 5 years), complete the route, exit from one of a handful of downtown locations, and walk five blocks to my job I will have decided to start driving instead.But hey, at least we get to spend a billion dollars and ruin a neighborhood!  Progress!

        • Nick April 11, 2019 (1:39 pm)

          At grade really isn’t an option for west Seattle. I guess sections of it could be but most likely not. The grade changes (hills) are too severe for light rail to handle. If you were thinking of going from at grade to elevated that also poses problems. You would have to build up a section of track vertically at grade (Think really long retaining wall) at like a 2-4% grade you’d take out swaths of intersections and roadway. Also no one in the arguments has really been able to refute the cost per potential rider increase for a tunnel. Everyone seems to be of the mindset well its in my neighborhood so its justified. The neighborhood is going to change with the addition of the light rail, I guess the question is going to be weather people can change with it for the better.

  • Brian Hughes April 10, 2019 (12:52 pm)

    The East Alaska Neighboorhood Coalition is really doing some great work actively advocating for the tunnel, which is the only solution that meets everyone’s needs. Thanks to leaders like Joe McDermott for the open ear and advice. The jury is still out on Lisa Herbold who seems to be of two minds… but props to her for initiating the extension so comments can be considered. The tunnel allows for more precise alignment with other transportation connections, better positioning that puts riders closer to their ultimate destination, preserves surface development options, and is least disruptive to current residents.

  • max34 April 11, 2019 (8:08 am)

     “fighting the needs of the many for the needs of the few” should be on our new Welcome to West Seattle sign.    the tunnel will delay the project for 10+ years, add at least a billion dollars in cost and provide exactly zero extra transportation benefits.   the tunnel meets “everyone’s needs”?   who is everyone?   people who wouldn’t use transit even if it picked them up from their house and went directly to their destination?   

  • steve April 11, 2019 (8:29 am)

    I’ve been on the lightt rail. Not impressed.  It’s stupid to spend so much money when buses(which are flexible) can handle the issue..  This will be an unsightly, especially costly disaster. 

    • KBear April 11, 2019 (10:13 am)

      Steve, you obviously don’t rely on buses for your commute. Buses get stuck in traffic. They are not a viable solution to traffic congestion. And how many times did you actually ride the light rail? Once? Light rail benefits everyone, even people who choose to drive, by getting other cars and buses off the road.

      • Loulou365 April 11, 2019 (4:13 pm)

        I agree. Unless something dramatically changes with the road system, the vehicle traffic pinch points remain as is making it a slow drive off the West Seattle “peninsula”. Separated rail is really the only option for a growing neighborhood and city. 

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