‘Who’s working on that?’ Light-rail $ and other questions @ Junction Neighborhood Organization

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

“Who’s working on that?”

That’s one of the questions asked toward the end of the Junction Neighborhood Organization‘s meeting Monday night, a reference to the “third-party funding” that Sound Transit says would be required to build some of the options proposed for parts of the West Seattle to Ballard light-rail extension.

The question followed a briefing by reps of Sound Transit, whose System Extension Committee is likely to decide at a meeting tomorrow (Thursday, October 10th) whether to recommend adding certain alternatives to environmental studies for the route. Two West Seattle possibilities – Yancy/Andover Elevated and Pigeon Point Tunnel – are under consideration (in addition to what the ST Board has already decided to study.

The briefing itself went over the “initial assessments” of the alternatives, as first presented to that committee four weeks ago (WSB coverage here). Here’s the slide deck used Monday night by ST’s Leda Chahim, Stephen Mak, and Lauren Swift:

Some questions along the way included wondering why the Junction and Avalon stations are potentially so close together – answer, those general locations were outlined in the original ballot measure – and whether Seattle Public Schools still owns the Jefferson Square site (sort of).

The Environmental Impact Statement process was explained; the Draft EIS is due in late 2020, the “preferred alternative” for the West Seattle to Ballard route will be confirmed or modified in early 2021, then the final EIS will be pursued, and then the official decision on what to build will be made after that.

JuNO director Amanda Sawyer pointed out that once the Draft EIS – which will be a comprehensive document – is out, that might be something that can be tackled by various members volunteering to read various sections of it. There will be a 45-day comment period. Could that be extended? an attendee asked. That would need federal approval, Swift said.

The rest of the timeline includes: Middle of next year, station workshops are planned, as a community engagement opportunity. Also middle of next year, some initial reaching out to possibly affected prpperty owners (who, Chahim stressed, are welcome to contact ST at any time). Sawyer also pointed out that the city plans some neighborhood-planning updates related to the light-rail project.

Another attendee comment: ST has shown lots of maps with lines on them but never “what a 200-foot station will look like … people really don’t know what they are … supporting” without something more visual.
In response, Chahim showed the rough “visualization” that had been done for the Delridge station area. But “you already know what a 200-foot station looks like – you have them all over – you coud superimpose that (on a neighborhood image) to scale,” the attendee contended.

“Scale is important,” reinforced Sawyer.

And then came what another attendee called “the elephant in the room.” the third-party funding it would take for a tunneling option – hundreds of millions of dollars. “Who’s working on that?” he asked.

Chahim said, “It’s not something that at a staff level we’re able to engage in – it’s at a higher level,” such as elected officials. In other words, finding 3rd-party funding is not ST staff’s job. It would be up to the board to tackle. The board, meantime, already has said it wants to know where 3rd-party funding would come from. So, the question was rephrased, who would be providing that information? Whoever that funding is coming from, Chahim said. “We can’t choose a project without knowing where the money’s coming from.”

“If (ST staff) is not part of the process, then they’re just giving us false hope,” someone then said.

“I can’t have enough bake sales to cover (millions),” another person semi-joked.

We subsequently took the question to one of the elected officials that represents our area, City Councilmember Lisa Herbold, when we saw her at an (unrelated) meeting Tuesday. She says that to her knowledge, no one is “working on” the funding issue right now, but time’s ticking. As for where the “third-party” money might come from, she said she’s still in favor of spending the Center City Connector streetcar funding for light rail instead, at least to “seed” the search for more (as that eight-digit sum wouldn’t cover any of the nine-digit extras.

Back to Monday’s meeting, some discussion of who’s on the board ensued. (Members include two West Seattleites – County Executive Dow Constantine and County Councilmember Joe McDermott.)
Sawyer said it’s important to reach out to elected officials now and ask them what they’re doing.

WHAT’S NEXT: The System Expansion Committee meeting tomorrow (agenda and other documents here) is at 1:30 pm, including a public-comment period. Same goes for the October 24th board meeting at which there’ll be a final decision on whether to include those alternatives in environmental studies. Both meetings will be at the ST board room, 401 S. Jackson.

ALSO AT JuNO: We’ll recap the renters-rights discussion – and JuNO’s future – in a separate report.

7 Replies to "'Who's working on that?' Light-rail $ and other questions @ Junction Neighborhood Organization"

  • Youngstown October 9, 2019 (11:02 pm)

    Why the heck do we hear about this stuff so late? It seems clear to me the silver spoons at the junction will get their tunnel at the expense of the blue collar down on delridge. Overnight paving on Genesee last week. We received no mail, phone calls, or anything warning us about closures.-angry carpenter trying to survive 

  • East Coast Cynic October 10, 2019 (6:42 am)

    I don’t know about the silver spoons getting their tunnel when nobody in the political class or ST have made a serious effort to seek out funding for a tunnel.   It’s as if they expect some fairy dust to fall out of the sky to put the funding in place.  It appears more likely that we will get the best elevated option in place for WS link as a result of this non-action on a tunnel funding source, which I believe will be fine with the critical mass that lives beyond the junction and will connect with link in their future transportation.

  • Will S. October 10, 2019 (12:06 pm)

    Herbold’s comment is the precise reason why I can’t support her reelection. I have met her in person twice, both times when we coincidentally sat at the same table at two different ST3 forums. I used the opportunity to plead directly with her, as our council representative, to show leadership in identifying the third-party funding sources that are critical to consideration of a possible light rail tunnel. The options here include not only cash contributions, but dispositions of city-owned land and potentially granting valuable development rights around future stations. And let’s be honest: tunnels are expensive, and a several-hundred-million-dollar financing package isn’t going to just fall from the sky like rain this winter. But Herbold is not “working on” it, and she’s not using her position to get anyone to work on it, even though this is the type of work that an effective representative would be doing. While she claims to support consideration of a tunnel, her transit-related actions consist, exclusively, of poking other city officials in the eye over the Center City Connector. Without funding sources and without building political support to find funding sources, Herbold’s words about wanting to ‘explore’ a tunnel amount to mere posturing. That is no substitute for leadership or hard work. (And the Center City Connector will move ahead on an 8-1 vote, just so she can say ‘I told you so.’)

    • Brian Hughes October 12, 2019 (9:14 am)

      Exactly.  She seems to be all about “consideration” and nothing about action. 

  • Peter October 10, 2019 (2:11 pm)

    I think those who are demanding a tunnel should come up with the money for it.

    • Nolan October 10, 2019 (2:20 pm)

      Completely agreed. To be frank, the tunnel demand is not one that ever should have been taken seriously, but our leadership made a reasonably compromise by stating that it could be done with third-party funding. That doesn’t obligate them to find it.

  • Steven Lorenza October 11, 2019 (6:31 am)

    Give up on the tunnel nonsense already.  

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