LIGHT RAIL: Sound Transit Board says ‘no’ to studying Pigeon Point Tunnel, ‘yes’ to Yancy/Andover Elevated

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.

59 Replies to "LIGHT RAIL: Sound Transit Board says 'no' to studying Pigeon Point Tunnel, 'yes' to Yancy/Andover Elevated"

  • Agreed October 24, 2019 (5:05 pm)

    Thanks WSB for the write up. Apologies if I missed it, but I read through the docs on scribd and didn’t see anything on the projected impacts to the west Seattle bridge and traffic in the related West Seattle area during the construction? Maybe the info isn’t available at this stage? I know we need to bite the proverbial bullet and get through the years of construction to get the much needed light rail to our area. I’m just curious how much access to the bridge will be limited during certain phases and what reroutes might be required for the entrance/exits to WSB and the bigger streets like Fauntleroy, 35th, etc. I know some of this is dependent on the route chosen but am hoping they have looked at traffic impacts for the various routes. The viaduct project caused a lot of pain points and I can only imagine how west Seattle traffic will be affected with such a big project on our city’s major streets. Like I said, just curious if you’ve come across anything related in your reporting. You’re truly a treasure to the West Seattle community!

    • WSB October 24, 2019 (6:12 pm)

      They have not chosen the route yet so way too early.

  • Joe Z October 24, 2019 (5:29 pm)

    So the Yancy/Andover/Avalon alternative is undoubtedly the odds-on favorite now, especially given that the timeframe for securing $700 million dollars is starting to run short and the tunnel is opposed by literally everyone outside of West Seattle (and even some in West Seattle). I just hope to see a good mitigation plan if we are going to bulldoze the brand new Avalon Way and presumably reroute all of the buses and bikes for 5 years from 2025-2030. It sounds like yet another nightmare for bus riders unless additional bus-only lanes are painted on the ramp to the bridge back to 35th…

  • Karen White October 24, 2019 (5:35 pm)

    Have the naysayers from Everett, Edmonds and University Place ever been to West Seattle?

    • chemist October 24, 2019 (7:47 pm)

      I think they’re showing concern for their own communities.  Kent Keel was questioning the level of disruption to the post office in SoDo related to a busway route or other route.  The Mayor of Edmonds recently had a $30 million dollar overpass project he supported go down to opposition as excessive, so a $700 million improvement probably dwarfs budgets during his entire term in office.  I guess I was a little surprised to hear that the Ballard fixed/high bridge was preferred, even with the +$100M estimate over the representative alignment and no ask for 3rd party funding for that.

      • Nick October 25, 2019 (1:07 pm)

        High Bridge doesn’t have maintenance issues over time compared to a moving bridge. That $100M is cupcakes compared to maintaining and staffing a moving bridge.

    • Will S. October 25, 2019 (9:10 am)

      I truly do not understand why a ST board member would be opposed on
      principle to “third-party funding”–meaning, costs paid by an entity
      other than ST. What difference does it make to the mayor of Edmonds if
      other local governments (or possibly businesses) make valuable
      contributions to the cost of constructing part of the light rail line?
      Does anyone on ST’s board have a principled objection to federal grants
      or loans as part of project financing?

      • Ron Swanson October 25, 2019 (12:17 pm)

        Federal grant funding is an assumption already baked into the pie: it isn’t going to pay for unnecessary tunnels.  The city doesn’t have the money for this; it can’t even afford to fix existing crumbling infrastructure like the Magnolia Bridge.  So good on the Board for flushing unrealistic options down the toilet: time to get real on what’s affordable and produces the best transportation results.

  • AvalonTom October 24, 2019 (6:02 pm)

    Does anyone know when ST is going to start buying out property owners? I cant find any info online about this. Reading this article I’m guessing 2023-24?  We have been in limbo at our building for over a year.  A few folks tried selling but all offers fell throught. Reason given was the ST uncertainty. They ended up delisting. Now it’s basically official so the folks in the path are unable to sell for sure. Who wants to buy a condo or house that will be torn down soon?  I must say, my wife and I feel kind of luckly in a way to be in the path. At least we can make a clean break at some point soon. I feel bad for the 100’s of folks who live within stones throw of this. It’s going to be fun 5-10 years of listening to 24/7 construction and never ending traffic jams. You think the recent Avalon work was bad, just wait and see. 

    • KM October 24, 2019 (6:29 pm)

      I’ve heard from a homeowner south of Lynnwood that they still haven’t bought out their properties for ST2, but have notified them, so I imagine we have a lot of time before our neighbors find out about their homes. That line is scheduled for 2024.

    • chemist October 24, 2019 (7:59 pm)

      I’ve still got some real gripes with Sound Transit’s lack of producing “on the ground” views along the entire West Seattle route.  I still don’t think they’ve shown a perspective of what an elevated track over Fauntleroy will look like from the ground/they’re just overhead sketches that don’t show scales.

  • KM October 24, 2019 (6:24 pm)

    While I would love a tunnel in theory, ST represents a huge region and West Seattle is just a small part of that.  I definitely support the board’s vote here. I’m glad we won’t spin our wheels trying to track down third-party funding. It’s beyond disappointing we don’t fund super robust transit in our region, but I’m happy to see this project push forward without delay, while considering an alternate elevated pathway.   

  • 120rider October 24, 2019 (6:29 pm)

    I’m not saying for or against tunnels for West Seattle .  My feeling is build it yesterday.  If sound transit came to me tomorrow and said they need to knock down my house off delridge to run track, I’d say how fast can you build it.  But this should be pointed out….beacon hill got one, the u-district got one, Capitol Hill got one. Queen Anne will get one and possibly Ballard.  Rainier/MLK/Central area got surface sharing the street with cars and pedestrians, and some elevation.  I don’t want to see a pattern here, but if it quacks like a duck…….

    • East Coast Cynic October 24, 2019 (7:35 pm)

      Without massive third party funding I’m guessing Ballard is probably not getting a tunnel as well.

      If McDermott and some of the other politicians want the tunnel in the worst way, they should have been ready with a definite plan for funding instead of simply saying we want a tunnel and the money will somehow be found or drop from somewhere.

    • Jeff H October 25, 2019 (5:22 pm)

      Not exactly the smartest comment I’ve ever read… Anyone who is in danger of losing their home where their innocent children play and sleep wouldn’t be so eager to let it go. Anyone who’s invested time, energy, and money into a home and neighborhood don’t just roll over because the powers-that-be didn’t care enough to do their due diligence in engineering and thinking through common sense solutions. The light rail is meant to serve the community, not decimate it. In the Yancy/Andover route, they found a common sense route that serves the neighborhood, while providing ample park-n-ride, bus transfer, and drop-off area. Plus, there’s at least a couple acres of un-used parking lots along Andover that could be developed into grocery store, shopping, or other commercial/convenience amenities. Much more frugal and safer than letting that area continue to be trashed by vagrant RVs. Any route they choose to go up to Junction will impact Avalon, unless they tunnel underneath or magically hover above it. Yancy/Andover will not impact the North Delridge traffic any more than any other route across Delridge. Any route across Delridge would shutdown traffic onto/off of the WS Bridge exit until construction across it is complete. Nucor and other shipping will not be impacted any differently by the Yancy/Andover alternative than any other routes. Unless they move the Duwamish crossing farther south. But those alternatives were not carried forward. 

  • ARPigeonPoint October 24, 2019 (7:35 pm)

    Welp, there goes the neighborhood. Literally. As well as my house. 

    • Bronson October 24, 2019 (7:38 pm)

      Same here…northernmost home on PP pretty much means we are gone.

      • ARPigeonpoint October 24, 2019 (7:49 pm)

        I’m so sorry. ☹️

    • Ifyoubuildittheywillcome October 25, 2019 (12:43 am)

      I agree it will change the neighborhood that I too live in. How is it your house is gone if you live on PP? I don’t see it directly affecting anything on PP apart from increased potential noise and traffic.

      • Bronson October 25, 2019 (6:03 am)

        Because you can’t fit in a bridge on the south side of the current bridge without taking the northern part of PP. The soil is unstable, as the soil samples and historical landslides have reportedly shown. ST won’t put in a retaining wall based on our conversations with them, and said that if they had to, they would take our home.

        • Ifyoubuildittheywillcome October 25, 2019 (8:52 am)

          I see. So sorry for this. I keep trying to understand these news feeds but can’t quite wrap my head around all these ideas. Hoping for the best for you and the PP neighborhood. 

          • Bronson October 25, 2019 (12:25 pm)

            Thanks…totally appreciate that. There’s a number of others on here (including one jean shorts person) who seem to lack any empathy. For those who are losing their homes, I hope the housing market stays strong because this decision makes it all but impossible to sell your house and obtain the equity that may have been built up. If it crashes, then ST gets a great deal while the homeowners get double screwed over.I’m all for mass transit, but I think this is a massive error that will irrevocably affect the peninsula in a negative way. ST is building this for use for the next 100 years, so it makes perfect sense to do it right and put in a tunnel. 

          • HappyCamper October 25, 2019 (2:08 pm)

            Also, the city is holding back upzones presumably to make imminent domain cheaper which is another blow to people impacted. We need more transit and more empathy…

  • La in WS October 24, 2019 (7:43 pm)

    120rider, I second that.

  • soarringcam October 24, 2019 (8:20 pm)

    Just red and blue marks on a map. Kind of like Trump predicting a hurricane. Try to image a completely different route.After crossing the Dawamish, a stop near Chelan’s, the west to harbor ave. the turn north and travel only 6 blocks to the vacant area by Jack Block park and Pier 1. where large parking is available. A possible Transit Center. then circle around and head back south and enter a tunnel before you get to Avalon and SW Spokane street. Tunnel would go to 35th and Fauntleroy and Junction.The magic of this route is it does not have negative effect on Avalon or Golf Course area’s. And a future tunnel to the Admiral District and High School would be easy.No buying property near Genesee st. or golf course. Port already own most of route.

    • Jort October 24, 2019 (10:55 pm)

      The time for imagination is long, long since passed. It’s time to start making decisions and building. We can imagine forever — and it won’t do us any good.

    • ItsMe October 25, 2019 (6:27 am)

      LOL – TDS much?  Way to turn a local issue into a political jab.  Not funny just sad.

    • Jetcitygirl October 31, 2019 (10:35 pm)

      Thank you for your Excellent concept… and wondering why our engineers and planners aren’t engineering and planning – they seem to be reacting and designing without consideration for the flow of the community, nor the long term extension of the line and how to serve the people of west seattle further south in White Center.

      Community outreach was not effective- presentation of rough alternatives needing engineering finesse and insight was not effective. Bummer….very unfortunate

  • ACG October 24, 2019 (10:07 pm)

    My thoughts are with all of the folks who may lose their house through these decisions. Best of luck to you all and I hope new positive doors will open for each of you as this unfolds over the next few years. 

  • J October 24, 2019 (10:08 pm)

    All this just for light rail that drops us off in Sodo. Unless the stations are right by your house and right by your destination, it will be 2 transfers just to get to the city center (one bus to the nearest WS light rail station and another bus or train after it drops you off at the end of its line in Sodo). I guess someday they can expand the line, but it’s going to be pretty inconvenient for a lot of people in the decades before that happens

    • WSB October 24, 2019 (10:25 pm)

      To be clear for anyone who’s just coming in on this … the “end of the line in SODO” is the first five years. Then in 2035 it’s direct to downtown (or beyond).

  • Jort October 24, 2019 (11:04 pm)

    $700 million for a vanity tunnel sounds good until we have to vote on a Local Improvement District that asks the 30,000 or so households in West Seattle if they are willing to pay $21,000 per household so that they can preserve their parking lots/streets/whatever. This tunnel is a weird dream that will not simply be wished into reality: it will take EXTENSIVE additional funding ($700 million is literally 50 PERCENT of the city’s annual general fund spending) and that funding isn’t going to come from people in Everett and Lynnwood who look at our vanity tunnel as an unrealistic fixation with absolutely ZERO additional benefits to actual transit riders. Transit riders, you know, the people actually using the train, have to be the least represented group in all of these “studies.” Everything I read is about “impacts” — to cars, to houses, to people’s sensitive feelings about the presence of concrete in their eyesight…  what’s the “impact” to riders? BUILD THE LIGHT RAIL AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.

    • bolo October 24, 2019 (11:50 pm)

      “$21,000 per household” JORT that number is suspect. How did you arrive at that number? Please show your work.

      • Chris Stripinis October 25, 2019 (8:27 am)

        I don’t know, that number seems possible.  Quick back of the napkin division of $700,000,000 by 30,000 households gives $23,333/household.  I’m not commenting on whether that’s a real funding mechanism or not, just that the division works out.

    • B.W. October 24, 2019 (11:57 pm)


    • WS Guy October 25, 2019 (12:08 am)

      Trains are not so great that they are worth destroying established, built neighborhoods. I have taken the train to downtown from SODO and they kind of suck. Narrow, crowded, dirty, and not that fast.  Bus service is perfectly fine. Given the resistance to a tunnel, now I am committing my vote in favor of I-976.  Strip ST of cash and indefinitely defer this travesty.

      • JeffreyB October 25, 2019 (9:45 am)

        Wait, isn’t 976 cutting bus service in Seattle too?

      • Nolan October 25, 2019 (10:04 am)

        If you both understood and cared about public transit, you wouldn’t vote to destroy the entire infrastructure for prioritizing an achievable milestone over an unrealistic one.

        The only people you’re kidding are yourself and others looking to avoid responsibility for their anti-social behavior in the same way. The rest of us see you.

      • hj October 25, 2019 (12:23 pm)

        What about all the built, established neighborhoods that were bulldozed to build I-5? Something has to change. The bus is not just fine, look at all the daily complaints of late/missing busses, in addition to the recent 99 brouhaha. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that our current infrastructure also required a lot of demolition, here’s a pic of north Seattle after clearing the way for I-5:×725.jpg

    • ARPigeonPoint October 25, 2019 (12:38 am)

      Seriously, Jort. EVERYONE knows your thoughts on transit. Everyone. Maybe pipe down for once and have some empathy for  those of us whose neighborhood is being torn apart. Those of us who are losing our homes. You constantly rant about how selfish we are, but the only selfish one I see here is you. 

      • Seriously October 25, 2019 (8:04 am)

        Totally agree with you. I wish the WSB had a feature that allowed us to mute/block commenters. I don’t want to live in an echo chamber but some people consistently post unhelpful, insensitive, unreasonable and/or trollish comments, and I’d rather not start my day off with a grimace. 

        • KM October 25, 2019 (8:58 am)

          It’s pretty easy NOT to read the comments. There are plenty of sites I won’t even dare. Not sure why I even read/comment here most of the time, honestly. Yet, here we are.

        • ARPigeonPoint October 25, 2019 (9:20 am)

          I thought the same thing when I crafted my last post.  There are three people I would mute given the option to do so.  I actually spend less time reading the blog because of those three.

    • HappyCamper October 25, 2019 (8:24 am)

      Sometimes I’m with Jort, sometimes not.The tunnel option is more money. Building something like this after an area is built out is more expensive and warrants a different approach. A tunnel station makes sense in a dense city area vs. the suburbs.That being said this is a generational decision that has “impacts” on quality of the area forever. Not building it “right” i.e tunnel IMHO is selfish. You get what you pay for. I personally wouldn’t choose the cheap and dirty way to do something on my own house why should we choose that as a group? The better it is and more support there is for it having ridership the better it will work and faster it will pay for itself. This is not something that should be a half-*** endeavor. The Ballard tunnel would put the station there in a better location too

      • Nolan October 25, 2019 (10:11 am)

        The Ballard tunnel has a much better supporting argument from accessibility and its network impacts on ridership. The West Seattle tunnel is, at its core, a vanity project.

        What, precisely, is “dirty” or “half-ass” about elevated rail? You may not like the sight or the noise, but frankly, we deal with much worse every single day from car traffic. When we’ve removed every last non-EV car from West Seattle, I will be sympathetic to that argument.

        • HappyCamper(ev driver too) October 25, 2019 (2:32 pm)

          What I mean is cheaper and faster vs. overall better but more expensive. We’re having the same crazy arguments that they were having in the 60’s and 70’s about this!It’s always about cheaper and faster. I personally think that somewhere like the junction or Ballard where it is basically downtown for that sub area of the city an underground station is better. More TOD capacity nearby, better livability, in some cases shorter walk from amenities to the station. Where they cut and covered on Capitol Hill they built a ton of affordable housing right on top! That’s it in a nutshell; it’s our downtown. Over time our downtown will grow more and more dense.  Our kids and their kids will thank us if we do it “right”. (Subjective of course).

    • Shufflerunner October 25, 2019 (10:29 am)

      This seems over simplistic, so lets complicate it a bit: Via city-data the total number of households in West Seattle was 10,542 excluding the Pigeon Point zip code. Using simple division that comes out $66,401 per household or $12,073 per person. That is quite the eye watering amount but, to be fair, let’s not pretend that West Seattle was completely off the hook for all the other tunnels in the Sound Transit system that do not run through West Seattle (looking at you North gate). So, counting all households in Seattle city limits would be 283,510 or $2,469 per household (no help from our “friends” to the north and south). OK, OK, it’s not exactly pocket change… but it’s also not how government or municipal funding works. If we take that amount and amortize it over a 30 year bond (at the average yield of 2.65%) it would work out to right about $10 per household per month. Keep in mind there are also 5-8 times the number of households if we look at the greater Seattle Metro Area. I know that mean real money for some people but I would argue that something of far greater value than our vanity would be lost if we decide that the tunnel is just too much.    

      • Edmonds Slope October 25, 2019 (1:00 pm)

        Hear! Hear! 

      • Brian Hughes October 26, 2019 (7:02 am)

        This is the math that makes sense – thanks for breaking it down that way shufflerunner.  It’s easy to tear things down in the present, but neighborhoods cannot be replaced.  Check out the BART elevated tracks in Oakland – totally slashed through a once vibrant neighborhood. Also, the impact on a homeowner’s ability to sell – for years – is a direct financial hardship.  

      • Wseattlite October 31, 2019 (3:26 am)

        Depreciation is different from amortization.  But please do twist words into # of lattes per month. 

  • brandon October 25, 2019 (12:08 am)

    Will Elon Musk land on Mars first, or light rail in West Seattle?  Asking for a friend.

  • soarringcam October 25, 2019 (12:32 am)

    I believe Elon Musk will make it to the moon before West Seattle gets Light Rail.OneRogueCloud

  • JAWG October 25, 2019 (8:09 am)

    Nobody asking for a tunnel seemed to care that there are more homes being lost in Youngstown. With some arguments I heard is that the junction residents had been there longer so therefore mattered more. Not saying that was the case with PP. Why not raise that third party funding for everyone whose homes will be effected since we can’t rely on ST to do what is right and pay people the actual value of their homes. That seems like the fairest thing to do for all.

  • M October 25, 2019 (8:30 am)

    So, we are at least partially ripping up the brand new street resurfacing that isn’t even complete and has crippled the traffic in our community for several months already? 

  • skeeter October 25, 2019 (1:25 pm)

    I very much enjoy the comments from Jort.  Keep ’em coming buddy!  Personally I prefer my bicycle to transit.  But by 2030 I might be too old to ride my bike.   So I’ll take the light rail.    

  • anonyme October 25, 2019 (4:36 pm)

    I hope I’m dead by the time this starts.  I’ve never seen a city so hell-bent on destruction.

    • Jort October 26, 2019 (12:51 am)

      For one of the most economically vibrant and successful cities in the richest country on the face of the planet, we sure must have very different views of what “hell-bent on destruction” means! Because things actually aren’t that bad here! Sorry for your feelings! 

  • jetcitygirl October 31, 2019 (10:23 pm)

    MOVE NUCOR OUT OF WEST SEATTLE – we don’t need industrial next to residential.  Thank you Nucor for all of your years and for employing my great grandfather – I wish you all well : but another site outside of the neighborhood would be better suited. Build a station and a park and ride at the Nucor site. 

Sorry, comment time is over.