WEST SEATTLE LIGHT RAIL: What the Stakeholder Advisory Group recommended – and didn’t

(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:

32 Replies to "WEST SEATTLE LIGHT RAIL: What the Stakeholder Advisory Group recommended - and didn't"

  • Brian Hughes April 17, 2019 (10:31 pm)

    Glad to see the orange option was not recommended. Hoping it’s gone for good. 

    • KM April 18, 2019 (9:59 am)

      That might be the one thing everyone can agree on!

    • Nick April 18, 2019 (5:08 pm)

      Its probably going to end up back to the red alignment. In terms of impacts it stays in that nice commercial zoning slot along Fauntleroy. The E-W vs N-S end alignment doesn’t really matter its not like they cant turn whenever they do decide to extend to White Center/Burien sometime in 2100.

  • Mj April 17, 2019 (10:37 pm)

    Third party funding for tunneling.  A tunnel to the Junction has merit.  But trying to foist the cost of two tunnels may be way more than can reasonably be affordable.  

  • Gatewood April 17, 2019 (11:52 pm)

    We won’t know the true cost until a study is done!  I hope they study the tunneling option and come back with much more solid figures so we can make educated decision.  We also need to find out from the port how much they are willing to kick in.  Glad to see these options back on the table to study.  

  • Levi April 18, 2019 (1:15 am)

    West Seattle … enough is enough. Get it done, asking public opinion is just dragging the process along. I’m almost 50 and by the time this is done, I’ll be 70; it’ll be too late to make any real impact. If Seattle really cared about public transportation, the Monorail would already have be here now, eliminating all of this “talk”. Truth is it will be in someone’s “backyard” … just stop with your opinions and get it done!! The Golden Gate Bridge was built with less resources and in shorter time.  

    • Bronson April 18, 2019 (5:32 am)

      @Levi – God forbid that the citizenry of West Seattle work to ensure that this project, which will forever alter the landscape of West Seattle, be done in the best possible manner to work for most and minimize unnecessary impacts. As someone who stands to lose their home because of the above-ground alternatives, and as such, shoulders an even greater burden than most, we should be exploring all reasonable options even if we reach a conclusion that still costs me my home.

    • HappyCamper April 18, 2019 (7:13 am)

      I agree to a certain extent. There should be a process, albeit streamlined and in a perfect world public input would carry serious weight. And we should be able to hold our elected officials accountable.But the whole one guy can hold up long term city or regional planning for two trees or because he doesn’t like the look of a structure is ridiculous. These decisions on light rail, zoning, etc. are generational. They’re bigger than us and our personal opinions on aesthetics, etc. 

    • Junction Man April 18, 2019 (9:36 am)

      I totally get it, @Levi. I’ll be nearly 40 when this is done and will only get use the light rail for another 40-60 years. Might as well not even build it.  And public input? Just a waste of time. Let’s just close our eyes for a couple years and see what they come up with. 

    • Brian Hughes April 18, 2019 (7:31 pm)

      I’m 49. I may never ride it. Who knows, hopefully I’ll have made my millions and own my own island by then. Or maybe I’ll be living in a tent under the bridge. We’re making this decision for the next generation. They may never know exactly what we had to do to get it right, but they will benefit from it. That’s enough for me. 

  • Nicholas Hodapp April 18, 2019 (7:38 am)

    What does “modifying blue with the southernmost Delridge station location” mean?   Doesn’t the blue option already have the southernmost station?

    • WSB April 18, 2019 (9:06 am)

      Stand by, I have to check the video because I have one message this morning saying I got that wrong.

  • Codad April 18, 2019 (7:40 am)

    I like the south duwamish idea but that’s two bridges that would have to close for boats. Double the time. Why not just have it run over the bridge that is already there. Have a stop at Delridge then run the train up Avalon Way to Alaska and Fuantlaroy. Done. Less cost and can be done in half the time. In time you can add a line down Delridge or continue up Fuantlaroy. 

    • KBear April 18, 2019 (1:05 pm)

      CODAD, the proposed south Duwamish crossing would be a high level fixed bridge. It would not have to open for boats. 

  • Adam April 18, 2019 (8:40 am)

    Levi is so right.  

  • Deb April 18, 2019 (9:23 am)

    Please clarify the “North of Genesee” crossing.  As a homeowner on the south side of Genesee, between Avalon and 35th, am I no longer eminent domain but my neighbors across the street now are or was the tunnel to begin on the eastern edge of Avalon and continue beneath our neighborhood?

  • WSB April 18, 2019 (9:29 am)

    It’s the “blue station location” according to my ST contact and a relisten to the video (the Delridge station “if there’s third-party funding” starts at 54:20 in the long clip).

    Meantime, while I’m screengrabbing to make the graphics clearer in the story, the PDF with “summary” slides as created last night is here:


    • Deb April 18, 2019 (1:46 pm)

      I’ve looked over the summary slides but again, a crossing from the Delridge station north of Genesee is opposite of the two routes that are above ground in previous discussions.  The previous routes suggested coming up Genesee on the north edge of the West Seattle Golf Course but the south side of Genesee all the way up Genesee to 35th.  Guideway construction was on the South side of Genesee in the drawings, not on the North side of Genesee.  Has that changed per the SAG meeting?

  • Azimuth April 18, 2019 (10:38 am)

    Just build all the options and then we can decide who was right in the end.

  • Jort April 18, 2019 (11:34 am)

    It seems as though the SAG would like the “Have Cake/Eat It Also” option explored a little more. I’ll also throw in my little reminder that “We Don’t Build Light Rail AT ALL If I Don’t Get My Way” is NOT one of the options. If we get the tunnel, great! If we don’t… great! We still get light rail. Sorry if you don’t like how it ends up looking, but it will be happening. Begin your personal adaptations early and it won’t hurt so much when it happens.

    • ARPigeonPoint April 18, 2019 (4:06 pm)

      We’re not worried about how it looks.  We’re worried about losing our homes.

  • Diane April 18, 2019 (12:47 pm)

    boo Jon Scholes of the Downtown Seattle Association; he’s advocating for “extra hundreds of millions of dollars in costs” from the city for 1st Ave streetcar in order to bring biz to downtown shoppers, but he’s opposed to West Seattle getting the best light rail option for our neighborhood?  not surprised, but boo!!!

  • 98126res April 18, 2019 (6:16 pm)

    Thank you WSB for your thorough timely coverage again of this very complex project.  We are fortunate. Bless you.

  • PigeonRidge Ben April 18, 2019 (10:54 pm)

    As difficult as it may be, and my home is not currently anywhere near a chopping block, we should all look to the notion of posterity and the greatest, greater good for a project of this scale. Though all options will benefit the peninsula, region, and planet, some will have profoundly negative impacts on some people; some options more for some  and other options for others. When we look to the future, accounting for and honoring those presently harmed in this process, we should also keep in mind what physical and also financial legacy we pass on to future generations near and far.

    • singular April 19, 2019 (10:56 am)

      Amusing legacy talk from a PP elitist livin’ on Duwamish land …

  • East Coast Cynic April 19, 2019 (7:06 am)

    I’m wondering where this amorphous “third party funding” for a tunnel is coming from?  Will West Seattlites support “third party funding” if it turns out they will be the primary source of the funding, e.g., property tax?  I don’t think the Port of Seattle is going to be a difference maker in funding if people are under the delusion that they will make a significant contribution to make a tunnel happen.

    • Mickymse April 19, 2019 (7:47 am)

      No one is “under the delusion” about anything… The Port has not only said they might be willing to contribute third party funding, but it is considerably to their advantage to do so, as they would like to see alternatives that have the least impact to Port operations.

    • CMT April 19, 2019 (8:22 am)

      Discouraging folks from strenuously advocating for a tunnel is likely to be unsuccessful.  Where there is a will there is a way and, much to the frustration of those that care solely about full speed ahead light rail at all costs, many do see value in planning for and preserving the character of the historical West Seattle Junction and attempting to minimize displacement impacts of the project.  

      • Jort April 19, 2019 (10:09 am)

        And many also see value in getting a high-quality, sustainable transportation option to our neighborhood, and they value that more than the “character” of the “historical” business district. We can debate alignments and construction methods all we want, but one way or the other, the light rail will be coming to the Junction, and that will happen above all other priorities or wish-list items. If it’s a tunnel, that will be nice. If it’s not a tunnel, oh well, we’re still getting light rail.  I am not paying thousands of dollars in taxes for three decades to preserve the “character” of our low-rise business district. Begin your personal adaptations now.

        • CMT April 19, 2019 (2:46 pm)

          Really?  I hadn’t noticed.  Joking. – and not sure what that adds to my post, the point of which was that wet blanket posts making pronouncements  on what is or is not going to happen when the outcome is not yet decided are unlikely to dissuade advocates (on either side, although I seldom see a tunnel advocate saying “elevated is never going to happen so deal with it”).

        • AlkiMark April 20, 2019 (9:56 pm)

          Yes Jort  18th century mode of transportation ideas always makes sense.  Oh and then there is a Streetcar that is slower than walking.  I say stall this bad idea a couple more years and then when we see autonomous cars and air taxis we can abandon this bad idea forever and look to the real future.

  • p April 23, 2019 (9:04 pm)

    i want the light rail fast. And, i do not care if hundreds of houses or a good chunk of west seattle gets demolished along the way. As long as i get to use it and it is built before i die.Sign: Mr. Selfish 

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