(UPDATED 10:19 AM THURSDAY with finalized Sound Transit graphics summarizing the SAG recommendations)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
When Sound Transit managers insisted it would be OK to mix and match elements of a potential West Seattle to Ballard light-rail plan, they might not have envisioned the level of mixing and matching that went on tonight at the first of four milestone meetings.
Members of the all-volunteer Stakeholder Advisory Group concluded their 14-meeting role in the planning process with a jumble of recommendations – and, for a few segments, non-recommendations. So if you were hoping to hear and see something simple like “they voted to recommend the (x) line,” sorry, it didn’t go that way.
First, here are the toplines as visually summarized at meeting’s end, one set if third-party funding was available to cover costs (tunneling) beyond what the ST3 taxes/fees collect, one set if not:
We’ll get clearer versions of those tomorrow (10:19 am, finalized graphics substtuted above – from this PDF), but at the meeting we could only grab quick pics as they went by. In case you found them hard to read, here are the basics of SAG feedback for the three West Seattle segments, east to west:
-Crossing the Duwamish River – support was for doing it south of the existing bridge, no matter what
-Getting to the Delridge station – study either what was originally called the purple (Pigeon Point tunnel) or blue alignment if third-party funding is available, the blue alignment if not, and in both cases, modifying blue with the southernmost Delridge station location
-In The Junction, the with-third-party funding option would be a tunneled station at 41st or 42nd; the without-extra-funding option would be a modified version of the elevated “representative alignment” (red) that could either end at Fauntleroy or at Jefferson Square, or saving money by tunneling but consolidating the Junction and Avalon stations.
In general, the orange (some called it yellow) line was completely cast aside. So was the notion of taking the Junction end any further west than 42nd. To elaborate on the above, here’s our video of the recap at meeting’s end, when those slides were shown:
Two hours of discussion led up to all that, and we have that on a separate clip, which we’ll add in the hours ahead, along with more on how the SAG got there. So check back for more of the story But first, what’s next:
-The Elected Leadership Group meets 9:30 am Friday, April 26, to make its recommendations, taking into account what the SAG said tonight as well as the 2,700 “scoping” comments received (here’s the PDF summary/”themes” report on those).
-The Sound Transit Board has the final say in May on what goes into environmental studies. The next major public-comment period won’t be until “late 2020.”
ADDED 3:33 AM THURSDAY: If you need a refresher on the aforementioned red vs. orange vs. blue routes, see pages 22-26 of the meeting deck (PDF).
Now, here’s our video of the discussion that led to the aforementioned recommendations (as well as those on other segments of the West Seattle to Ballard line):
It’s more valuable for listening than watching, as the visuals were somewhat compromised for a few reasons. But if you can’t or don’t want to do that, here’s how it went:
The opening remarks from facilitator Diane Adams lauded the group members multiple times for ‘incredible’ work. The SAG has met 14 times (here’s our coverage of the first meeting in February 2018). ST’s Leda Chahim subsequently recapped the “scoping” feedback period that ended April 2nd.
ST’s Cathal Ridge said that coming up with a preferred alternative “helps people understand where the project is likely headed.”
As the setup for the discussion continued, advisory-group members heard a recap of the options that had gotten the most traction in the process to that point, as well as scoping highlights including this slide summing up key West Seattle-relate points:
Also presented, key points from the racial-equity focus on some components of the project, including the Delridge discussion:
After that, it was on to the main event. The result was somewhat foreshadowed when Maiko Winkler-Chin, from the Seattle Chinatown International District Preservation & Development Authority, asked if they were “required to reach a preferred alternative.”
Short answer: No.
Also from the Chinatown/ID community, Larry Yok said he didn’t feel comfortable making decisions for other communities.
Facilitator Adams said at the very least, they could “give additional guidance to the Elected Leadership Group.” Ridge noted that ST would “like to hear people’s preferences. … We’ve (spent this year) trying to understand what you like and why you like it.”
Former Mayor Greg Nickels, one of the West Seattle-residing SAG members, suggested they would be able to “narrow it down” on some points, and observed that the ELG will face a difficult decision no matter what, and he’s been in that role.
So the SAG proceeded with its attempt to narrow things down, at the least.
SODO was the first place where they decided not to decide – no preferred alternative. And then as they moved on toward West Seattle, things went the other way – they emphatically agreed the south Duwamish crossing was the way to go. As for how to get to the Delridge station, West Seattleite Brian King said the two-tunnel “purple” option was the “overwhelming recommendation” in his conversations. Though the ELG had overruled the SAG’s interest in that route previously, Barker said she thought they made that decision without much consideration though the alignment reduces impacts to four West Seattle neighborhoods. And since costs right now are just an estimate, it should stay alive or studies, she said.
Willard Brown, recently retired from the Delridge Neighborhoods Development Association, also noted the purple alignment’s popularity, though the blue alignment, he pointed out, had arisen from community discussions.
(corrected) Subsequent back-and-forth led to the concept of the blue routing with the more-southern station location.
Jon Scholes of the Downtown Seattle Association voiced discomfort with the potential extra hundreds of millions of dollars in costs: “We’re not getting a single additional rider” for those dollars.
A few members at this point worried how the ELG would deal with the meandering feedback.
Then it was on to The Junction. Blue line with station at 41st or 42nd, said Hamilton Gardiner from the West Seattle Chamber of Commerce. Many nods followed. One group member asked for an explanation of why 44th would be ruled out. Less tunneling, closer to the densest heart of The Junction, was the reply.
The “no third party” discussion then went south to north, starting in The Junction. At that point, King mentioned that the West Seattle reps had met for a pre-discussion. That’s where they suggested the red line with a different station location, and Barker said she wanted to be sure they heard the resounding message that “the group has no interest in the orange alternative AT ALL”
If you’re interested in other segments along the way, be sure to check out the video. Frustration erupted, for example, at the Ballard end, where different types of bridges were among the options, an Mike Stewart of the Ballard Alliance at one point said in exasperation, “We’re all over the map.”
Ultimately the final result was just that. What will the ELG do on April 26? Its members have nine more days to contemplate in advance. Here are the slides showing what happens in the short and long runs: