By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
The location of Sound Transit‘s future Delridge light-rail station – first stop after the future extension crosses the Duwamish River – won’t be finalized until 2022, but planning it starts now.
That’s what ST reps said as they convened another West Seattle “neighborhood forum” on Saturday, focused specifically on the Delridge station. But it wasn’t as much of a planning exercise as a chance for the ~40 participants to acquaint ST reps with where they go in the neighborhood and how they get there.
After an open-house-style chance to wander the Delridge Community Center gym, looking at maps and bullet points on easels, it was time for the update, via this slide deck projected onto the gym’s concrete-block wall:
four project-team reps tag-teamed the presentation, starting with Dennis Sandstrom recapping the process.
Stephen Mak reviewed the routing/station locations currently being studied, including the Yancy/Andover option recently added. Then Alisa Swank went into details of what the current environmental review is about, working first toward a Draft Environmental Impact Statement. That’s expected to be made public in early 2021 – pushed back from the original “late 2020,” as was warned in the recent round of adding alternatives to be studied.
Once the DEIS is ready, a 45-day public-comment period, and the ST Board will decide “whether to confirm or modify the ‘preferred alternative’.” As you can see in the slide deck, she listed a variety of project aspects the studies will have to address, such as how parking in station-neighboring areas will be affected since, as she reminded attendees, “no parking facilities are planned for any of these stations.*
Other examples of what’ll be in the DEIS include how it affects the natural environment – “water resources” include drainage, a big issue in many Delridge neighborhoos. “Built environment” effects would range from whether it’ll shake your house to whether you’ll be displaced. Research includes measuring the pre-project noise/vibration levels. This also includes effects on businesses, effects on views, whether park acreage and uses will be affected, energy use, whether cleanup would be required before some land could be used, and more. She also said the review will examine potential effects on low-income residents and people of color as well as what could happen to cultural and neighborhood facilities. Not just possible negative effects, she noted – the question will also be, could there be a benefit, like improved access to opportunity?
The final EIS, with responses to issues raised in the draft, will be out in 2022, and the final routing/station-location decisions will follow.
Then it was on to the main topic. Station planner Sloan Dawson took the mic. This part of the process, he said, involves “thinking about how the station is going to be functional” and “serving communities.” The plan will be multi-layered, including how the station interacts with buses – the RapidRide H Line, launching in 2021, will “be a major aspect of providing transit service to the entire Delridge corridor” so “seamless transfer” will be vital, Dawson said. They also have to think about how the station can be safely approached by bike or on foot.
He addressed how ST and SDOT planning accountabilities are divided. They’re “partnering to co-plan the stations” as Dawson put it, and this forum is part of “the start of the process …we need to design a station that’s grounded in vision, and that vision comes from the community.” They’re working with the city to develop a “context framework” so they can identify issues early – before it’s too late. (The graphic showing a “context framework” example is, he explained, from the Downtown Redmond station that’s under construction now to go into service in 2024.)
Dawson concluded by explaining that this process will run “in parallel to the DEIS.” They’ll bring back some concepts next spring and summer.”
With that, it was time for discussion at individual tables. We listened in on one.
Most of the time was spent on a “community mapping exercise” – talking about the neighborhood around the potential station locations. The table moderator said a little feedback can go a long way – maybe something as simple as, helping the project team discover that shifting a station location 200 feet might avoid certain impacts. “Bus/rail integration” discussions are under way with Metro, she said. And based on what they hear from community members, that’ll play into a “gap analysis” – where you feel safe biking, walking in the area, where you wish you could, etc.
Some talk was about the Nucor steel mill – yes, it’s a permanent part of the area, but maybe there’s another way to handle traffic in and out of the steel mill. The mill isn’t thrilled with the current traffic flow, either, some pointed out, and there’s some “hidden” businesses in the area. An SDOT rep joined the table talk too and said the city will be out in the area more next year “having conversations” The mapping exercise included asking people to write on maps not only what they use and do in the area, plus where they go as they travel out of the area (Alki? downtown? etc.).
After filling individual worksheets, everybody got up and discussed their interaction with features on the map – Youngstown Cultural Arts Center, West Seattle Athletic Club, staircases, bike paths, bus stops. Participants also pointed out what they had to leave the area for – grocery stores, schools. They were urged to point out what you use, where you travel on a daily basis. Competing priorities were noted in discussion – displacement vs. highest-and-best land use. The facilitator did what she could to ensure the assessment was thorough; for example, she ppinted out that she had heard a mention of Longfellow Creek trails but hadn’t seen anyone point them out on the map.
The map, it was pointed out, was also missing some features – such as the Luna Park business district. Specific businesses were written in, such as Skylark, Ounces, Uptown Espresso, Youngstown Coffee Co. Also marked on the map, Louisa Boren STEM K-8. And small but important features such as the barrier in walking from the business park on Andover up to Delridge – currently a fence is in the way – identified as a “missed opportunity.” The dad of an 8-year-old was asked whether he’s comfortable right now with his son walking in the neighborhood. The lack of flashing crossing lights at the greenway 26th/Genesee was noted, as were routes to Delridge Library.
The discussion started to ebb a bit earlier than the promoted end time of noon, and many were on their way out into the rest of the event-packed Saturday by 11:50; one attendee departed even earlier from the table we were observing – the city had scheduled a competing event elsewhere in North Delridge, also about getting around.
WHAT’S NEXT: Watch for more community-conversation events next year. In the meantime, if you missed both West Seattle forums in this round (here’s our coverage of the one last month), you can answer a survey about “neighborhood priorities” that you’ll find by scrolling this page.