By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
The Sound Transit Board‘s System Expansion Committee has just gotten its first briefing on the “initial assessment” of four more West Seattle-to-Ballard light-rail options that might be included in environmental studies.
The committee and full board won’t make their decisions until next month, and starting tomorrow, you’ll get to have your say via an “online open house.”
But first – here’s what’s on the table. Keep in mind, these are IN ADDITION TO what the ST Board already sent into environmental studies. Two of the additional options, Yancy-Andover Elevated and Pigeon Point Tunnel (which also would include a Junction tunnel), are at the start of the slide deck (here in PDF, and below):
We had a chance to ask questions at a pre-meeting media briefing at ST HQ downtown. Toplines from that briefing, led by executive corridor director Cathal Ridge and project development director Sandra Fann, who also briefed the board this afternoon:
These options were assessed with the same criteria applied to the other options in the final review period (“Level 3”) that ended back in May.
One notable point – both of these alternatives would largely spare the Youngstown-area homes in North Delridge that otherwise might be taken out. (The only West Seattleite to speak in the public comment period before this afternoon’s committee meeting was Youngstown-area homeowner Dennis Noland, who has been advocating for saving his neighborhood.)
The Yancy/Andover Elevated option would cross the Duwamish River south of the West Seattle Bridge, would have a Delridge station north of Andover – similar to the original ST proposal – and would connect to an elevated Avalon station. (That still could then connect to a Junction-bound tunnel, it was clarified at this afternoon’s meeting.)
Drawbacks include that the Delridge station location would be “harder for buses to get to.” While the overall effect on residential property would be less than what’s already going into studies, it would affect the Avalon area more.
Its cost would be similar to what’s already budgeted.
The Pigeon Point Tunnel option’s major drawback is the cost – estimated at $200 million, plus you have to factor in another $700 million for the Junction tunnel to which it would connect. The financial estimates, however, aren’t any more detailed than what was listed earlier in the process, ST reps say.
They also noted in today’s briefing that the Junction tunnel would add time to the process. “Years, not months,” Ridge replied to our request for clarification. So if a Junction tunnel is chosen, light rail will not be opening in 2030.
As for that extra money, a commitment would have to be nailed down from the unspecified “third party”(/ies) by mid-2022, when environmental studies end and the ST Board will have to decide what to build.
There’s also a chance that the Draft Environmental Impact Statement’s schedule – to be ready by the end o next year – will take longer if the board decides to add any or all of these extra possibilities to the environmental studies.
Again, the board committee just got briefed this afternoon; most of the public comment was about the SODO option that (along with another Ballard tunnel option) is also being reviewed for adding to studies.
WHAT’S NEXT: Watch for this info to go online in “open house” format for your comments tomorrow through October 4th. The full ST Board will be briefed at its September 26th meeting; the System Expansion Committee then gets to have its say October 10th, with the full board’s final decision “to study or not to study” any or all of these options October 24th.