LIGHT RAIL: West Seattleites share feedback at Sound Transit’s ‘neighborhood forum’

Story and photos by Jason Grotelueschen
Reporting for West Seattle Blog

Neighbors and Sound Transit staff gathered Thursday night for a “neighborhood forum” at the Alki Masonic Center to talk about the West Seattle expansion of light rail, and what it means for the community.

It was a busy couple of days for light rail discussions. Earlier that same day, the ST Board gathered downtown for its regular meeting, focused on a discussion/briefing about the outcomes and effects of Initiative 976 (full WSB coverage here). The night before, ST held a neighborhood forum in downtown Seattle at the Central Library. Coming up the week after Thanksgiving, ST is holding additional forums in Chinatown-International District, Interbay/Ballard and right here in Delridge (info here).

The well-attended 2-hour forum began with an “open house” format, followed by a Sound Transit presentation and then an hour of individual table discussions. As attendees arrived, they were able to view informational materials and share input centered around two key questions: 1) What do you value about your community? and 2) How could a light rail station best serve your community?

Sound Transit staff and consultants then gave a presentation (see the complete slideshow in the PDF below) providing an update on the latest light rail plans.

Helping to kick off the meeting was King County Councilmember Joe McDermott (pictured below), who has been deeply involved with light rail expansion as an ST board member and co-chair of the Elected Leadership Group. He thanked attendees for coming, calling these forums “the kickoff of the DEIS public process” and said “we’re here to be informed by West Seattleites about what works in this community.”

Presenters included:

  • Dennis Sandstrom provided an overall update on current status and timeline, with the design process happening until 2025 and the West Seattle expansion complete in 2030 (Ballard in 2035).
  • Stephen Mak talked about route alternatives for West Seattle, most notably the Yancy/Andover elevated option that was added at the late-October ST board meeting (WSB coverage here).
  • Lauren Swift gave an update on the process of developing the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), due to be published in early 2021 followed by a public comment period, with the final EIS published in 2022. The ST board will then select the final project to begin construction in 2025. We reported last week on soil-sampling work being done at 39th SW and SW Genesee, which is part of the environmental study process (35th and Avalon testing is up next).
  • Sloan Dawson focused on station planning, and the partnership between Sound Transit and the City of Seattle as it relates to the design and placement of the light rail stations. He offered an example of current station work being done in Redmond, and how the process works. “We’ve learned that if we engage in this work up-front,” he said, “we can solve design issues early” with the ultimate goal of getting the stations permitted and operational.

Sandstrom then wrapped up the presentation by quickly outlining 3 “FAQs” that the ST team has been hearing from the public:

  1. Q: What is ST hearing from people in the community about the impact of the light rail? A: That’s what ST is really looking closely at, as part of the DEIS process. We don’t have answers tonight, but the DEIS process will give the community many opportunities to learn about plans and comment on them.
  2. Q: What happens to these plans now that Initiative 976 has passed? A: The ST board met earlier today and talked about it, so it’s all very new and evolving. After that meeting, ST released this statement from John Marchione, who chairs the ST board. Sandstrom then read from a “hot off the press” prepared statement that summarizes the ST board’s position:
    • “Under 976, ST can continue to collect the car tab tax passed by voters in its district to service outstanding bonds. If fully implemented, I-976 would increase borrowing costs and construction costs for voter-approved projects and lead to delays. We will be monitoring existing litigation against the measure and will act as required to comply as we learn more.”
  3. Q: With regard to the route alternatives, how could 3rd-party funding play a part? A: The 3rd-party funding would be additional funding above-and-beyond the budgeted cost required to pay for the preferred route and its stations. Those 3rd-party sources would need to be identified by 2021, with agreement by 2022 about what the funds are being used for.

The final hour of the event was then dedicated to table discussions, with attendees and ST representatives sharing ideas about how the light rail would be used and what the community impacts would be. All of the tables on the downstairs level of the Masonic Center were focused on the Alaska Junction station area:

Meanwhile, the tables upstairs were dedicated to the Delridge and Avalon station areas. ST staff members like Leda Chahim helped facilitate the discussions:

Participants also included local transportation advocates like Deb Barker, who served on the ST Stakeholder Advisory Group earlier in the process, and community leaders like David Hancock, president of the Admiral Neighborhood Association:

How should West Seattleites continue to stay involved with light rail discussions? ST public information officer David Jackson told us that neighbors should continue to learn and share feedback via the WS/Ballard link extension website, and in particular at the next ST event happening in our area: The neighborhood forum at Delridge Community Center on Saturday, Decemer 7, from 10 am-noon (WSB calendar listing here). Jackson added that ST will be doing outreach next year, “out at the Farmers Markets during the summer,” presenting plans and updates.

9 Replies to "LIGHT RAIL: West Seattleites share feedback at Sound Transit's 'neighborhood forum'"

  • Max November 24, 2019 (9:15 am)

    almost 10 years for planning and design is absolutely mind boggling. can anyone move any slower than that and waste more resources? ridiculous. that should be a 2 year phase max 

  • Junction Function November 24, 2019 (11:02 am)

    I understand your pain but I think it’s good they’re taking the time to get everyone’s input and consider all options. 

  • Jim P. November 24, 2019 (12:30 pm)

    If endless community meetings arguing over miniscule things could get things built, we’d be using teleportation by now.
    Pick a route, pick some major intersections/shopping areas for stations and build the blasted thing.
    It doesn’t run down to the south end of West Seattle of course so I don’t much care where and when Admiral/Alki and such get even more services.

    • WSB November 24, 2019 (12:50 pm)

      Admiral/Alki are not under consideration for the routing. They already are on the short end of current bus service.

      • Joe Z November 24, 2019 (2:44 pm)

        The preliminary plan is for Admiral/Alki to get the C-line when this is all done, right? That is a pretty good upgrade if it maintains the same frequency it has now. I would feel better about planning taking so long if we got a better route from it. But when “saving neighborhoods” takes priority over station location the end result will be worse. We need to remember that new neighborhoods will be created from this and sometimes it’s ok to use a bulldozer to make the city a better place in the long run.

        • WSB November 24, 2019 (3:06 pm)

          There is no preliminary plan – that’s all 11 years (at least) away.

          • Ron Swanson November 25, 2019 (9:33 am)

            But there is a preliminary plan, and yes, it does have the C-line going to Alki/Admiral


          • The future of Metro is a long way off November 25, 2019 (3:13 pm)

            Not the C-Line.  It is labeled the 1041 line but it is a rapid ride route for 2040, which would be 10 years after an on-time build of the West Seattle light rail.  Can’t wait! But, I might be dead by then and the future president elected in 2040 may still be in college.

    • East Coast Cynic November 24, 2019 (2:12 pm)

      An important thing that must be done when the go to West Seattle link choice is established is that bus connector service to link from the parts of West Seattle that are not getting it directly becomes a significant planning priority.

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