By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
The Sound Transit Board’s System Expansion Committee gave its support this afternoon to adding one West Seattle alternative to environmental studies – but didn’t rule out the other one.
The Board recommended inclusion of the Yancy/Andover Elevated option, because, said committee chair Claudia Balducci of Bellevue, it would have a lesser impact on the Youngstown residential neighborhood, and is likely to be comparable in cost to the project’s originally roughed-out routing.(Here’s the motion they approved [PDF].)
Discussion of and a decision on whether to study the Pigeon Point Tunnel will be left to the full board. It would require an estimated $200 million third-party funding and would likely be paired wth a Junction tunnel costing $700 million additional third-party documents – and as we reported earlier this week, no one seems to be working yet on what that “third party funding” might be.
Here’s the slide deck (PDF) shown at the meeting. We have a bit more to add later, but first, highlights of the discussion:
Balducci: “It was hard for me to wrap my brain around 125-to-150-foot guideways (in West Seattle),” but touring the area last week helped her understand – bridging two valleys. “What I came away with … I’m mindful that we’re creating a list of options that we’re going to choose from,” so she thinks adding high-extra-cost items doesn’t make sense as they are “unlikely” to be chosen. She also voiced concern about making a recommendation about this area with “light” Seattle representation at today’s meeting – Mayor Jenny Durkan is traveling, but County Councilmember Joe McDermott – a West Seattleite who is on the ST Board but not this committee – came to the meeting.
Committee member Dave Earling of Edmonds said he couldn’t support anything requiring third-party funding. He expressed concerns about schedule impacts as well as cost.
Committee member Kent Keel of University Place said he might consider studying some third-party-funding-required options but would be “reluctant” in general.
McDermott then said he’d like to see Andover/Yancy move forward for study. As for the extra-money Pigeon Point option, he stressed that it would be $200 million more by itself, though the assumption is that it would connect to a Junction tunnel costing $700 million beyond that.
Committee member Dave Upthegrove asked ST staff if they’re comfortable with the current cost estimates. Yes, said ST’s Cathal Ridge. Balducci said, “Getting to a comfort level with how much we know at this time” is vital, and she and Upthegrove agreed that some extra information would help.
Regarding extra studies possibly sliding the schedule, committee member Victoria Woodards of Tacoma reminded everybody “we’re making 100-year decisions so if it takes a couple extra months to make (the right) decisions, I’m OK with that.” Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff reminded her that the West Seattle 2030 completion promise was a big-deal revision before the ST3 vote.
Discussed briefly at the start of this agenda item – this summary (PDF) of comments received recently regarding the could-be-added alternatives. The highest number of comments came from West Seattle. Several West Seattleites spoke at the meeting, too, including a group from Youngstown.
WHAT’S NEXT: The final decision on what if anything to add to the environmental studies is up to the full board at its next meeting, two weeks from today – 1:30 pm Thursday, October 24th, at the ST boardroom downtown (401 S. Jackson).