By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
The only tunneling possibility to be studied for Sound Transit light rail in West Seattle will be in The Junction, now that the possibility of also considering the Pigeon Point Tunnel alternative is dead.
That’s the result of a Sound Transit Board vote this afternoon. But the other alternative proposed for addition to environmental studies, Yancy/Andover Elevated, remains alive.
That one will be added to the route/station options already approved for studying.
Starting with the committee recommendation made October 10th to add the Yancy/Andover Elevated alternative to studies, board members also added a proposed SODO alternative. But they rejected King County Councilmember (and West Seattleite) Joe McDermott‘s proposal to add the ~$200 million-third-party-funding-required Pigeon Point Tunnel alternative, with 6 board members voting yes, 9 voting no.
In the face of one board member (Dave Earling of Edmonds) flatly declaring he’s against anything requiring third-party funding, McDermott countered that they’re just voting on studies now, no commitment beyond that. But board member Kent Keel of University Place pointed out that the Pigeon Point tunnel would likely have to connect to a ~$700 million Junction tunnel and “that makes my eyes roll up in my head.” Paul Roberts of Everett said the more is added to the studies, the more is added to the timeline. Claudia Balducci of Bellevue said she felt there were already enough alternatives being studied. Bruce Dammeier of Pierce County said that – using a “meal” analogy that others had deployed in discussion – the Pigeon Point Tunnel looked like “dessert” when other areas were just looking for “a basic meal.” McDermott disputed that, saying third-party funding would not be taking basic funding out of anybody else’s mouth.
ST staff noted that any required third-party funding “would have to be well-defined” by the end of next year, and “in hand” by 2022. (The Yancy/Andover Elevated alternative is not expected to carry additional cost, but Junction tunneling possibilities that are already planned for study would.)
Before the discussion and vote, executive corridor director Cathal Ridge recapped staff assessments and public comment, concluding with a reminder that adding alternatives means the draft EIS would be out in the first quarter of 2021 rather than at the end of 2020. Here’s the slide deck:
An hour-plus of public comment started the meeting. West Seattle-related comments included a resident supporting the Pigeon Point Tunnel. “A viaduct [-style guideway] slicing through our neighborhood and taking our park is a forever loss,” she said … A group from North Delridge’s Youngstown neighborhood spoke in favor of both – suggesting Yancy/Andover be redesignated as the preferred alternative – because “the two preferred alternatives end up decimating our neighborhood.” There are areas near their densely developed/redeveloped neighborhood that could be used. “It’s a neighborhood that should be served by light rail, not destroyed by light rail” …. Deb Barker, who served on the Stakeholder Advisory Group earlier in the process, said studying Pigeon Point would be doing “the right thing for West Seattle”… Marty Westerman of the West Seattle Transportation Coalition said the group supports studying both (and sent a letter to that effect earlier this week).
WHAT’S NEXT: Environmental studies continue. Once the draft report comes out, another round of public comment will ensue, then a final report, and the board would decide in 2022 the final route and station locations, with construction to start in 2025 in order to meet the target start date of 2030. Before all this, as announced earlier this week, two “neighborhood forums” with updates and station-location discussions are planned in West Seattle November 21st and December 7th.