WEST SEATTLE LIGHT RAIL: Should Sound Transit hold off on major ‘realignment’?

As Sound Transit rolls toward a “realignment” decision this summer that could delay West Seattle light rail (currently planned for 2031) and other projects for years, there’s a call to slow down, for reasons including a less-dire financial outlook. The suggestion comes in a letter to ST board chair Kent Keel from three board members – Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, King County Executive Dow Constantine, and King County Council Chair Claudia Balducci. The letter was mentioned during last week’s monthly board meeting; we requested and obtained it today from the mayor’s office:

At the heart of the letter is a request to extend the decision timeline until summer of next year, “to allow the board to examine the pros and cons of extending realignment until additional information is available, including the prospect of acquiring additional new revenues, the benefits of a clearer economic picture, identifying new flexible approaches to station access, incorporating additional information about the nature of capital cost increases and conducting meaningful public engagement.” The letter also notes that when the realignment talk began, the pandemic-related revenue shortfall was the biggest problem, and now that’s only half what it was. But cost increases have emerged as a major challenge (as reported here in January), and might require a different evaluation process than the one they’re using. The letter requests additional information in time for a discussion at the board’s next meeting (May 27th).

ST, meantime, is continuing to ask for your thoughts on “priorities” in the realignment process – there are no specific proposals yet (the board has just been exploring “scenarios”), so they are asking “what’s important to you?” via a short survey on this page. Friday (April 30th) is the deadline.

34 Replies to "WEST SEATTLE LIGHT RAIL: Should Sound Transit hold off on major 'realignment'?"

  • Christopher B Barnes April 26, 2021 (3:23 pm)

    If it means a possible tunnel rather than overhead rails, then by all means, Yes!!

    • Question Authority April 26, 2021 (4:18 pm)

      If Sound Transit is looking to save funds the Tunnel option is first on the chopping block as that money will never exist.  Realistic expectations have service to WS delayed by a minimum five years as they find a way out of these teething pains.

    • D-Ridge April 26, 2021 (6:02 pm)

      Pretty frustrating to think that friends in Lake City will have been riding light rail for 20 years before us because we don’t want a train ride with a view.

      • Ray April 26, 2021 (7:31 pm)

        I don’t mind a ride with a view, I just don’t want to climb 15 stories of stairs to get to the station.

        • Vic April 26, 2021 (8:21 pm)

          Why wouldn’t they have escalators and elevators (accessible)?

          • Matt P April 26, 2021 (9:30 pm)

             The escalators are broken about 50% of the time at the 2 stations I used to frequent – University St in downtown (now called something else I think) and UW.  It’s mainly because they didn’t install high capacity escalators because they cheaped out.  Hopefully they’ve learned their lesson with future stations.  Other countries I’ve visited have way more people using escalators and they don’t seem to break often.

        • West Seattle since 1979 April 26, 2021 (8:51 pm)

          Wouldn’t we have to climb stairs to get out of the tunnel?

        • Derek April 27, 2021 (3:04 pm)

          WE WANT THE TRAIN! Please build this ASAP and get moving on it! Stop waiting on mythical tunnels or that awful gondola idea. GET moving on a train! Over Pidgeon point and up Avalon/Fauntleroy to the junction. All we need! 

    • Azimuth April 29, 2021 (11:26 am)

      I’m all for the tunnel where possible too. I don’t think many folks realize how much those pillars and tracks will dominate the area under and around them. Some don’t care, and that’s fine, but it really will alter the landscape, especially our beloved junction.

  • Jort April 26, 2021 (3:38 pm)

    I am not, in any way at all, surprised to see Jenny “I Love Cars” Durkan and other Seattle “leaders” proposing to deploy The Seattle Process to slow things down for further evaluation and study. What Sound Transit needs to do is begin construction on the West Seattle Link extension yesterday. Property acquisition costs are not going to magically start going down, but the need for a dedicated rail connection to West Seattle is only going to increase. I can understand Sound Transit’s caution when faced with a potential pandemic-related economic catastrophe. That “catastrophe” has, largely, turned out to be minor. The need to move forward remains the same. We can dither around on this for yet another generation of residents because we think everything in this city needs decades and decades of “studies” and “outreach,” or we can get moving. It is TIME TO GET MOVING.

    • Chemist April 26, 2021 (6:28 pm)

      Yes, the voters approved building the West Seattle segment of Link Light Rail first and to open it years before Ballard.  If the money runs out before things can get to Ballard, tough.  Maybe they can build a gondola to Market Street if budgets improve.  Now now now.

      • Gull April 27, 2021 (7:04 am)

        Or, we can support the SkyLink gondola idea and possibly have a new transit system, better suited for West Seattle, even sooner.

        • D May 1, 2021 (11:26 pm)

          Gondolas would be cool, but it’s a terrible investment for us long term. The last thing we need is a unique transit solution that only serves us. I really don’t want the solution to continually be competing for resources with the busses, monorail, the south lake union trolley/other rail, or the water taxi and other ferries. We should want to plug into existing infrastructure as opposed to setting up yet another transit solution.

    • Will S. April 26, 2021 (7:11 pm)

      Sound Transit can be so frustrating. As I understand it, the Kent Keel faction wants to “realign” ST3 by deleting marginal projects (I guess this means the two Seattle infill stations, or perhaps the Avalon station?) to save a little money. The Constantine faction wants to postpone “realignment” because maybe the pandemic’s revenue shock isn’t as bad as it first looked. There is no board faction pushing to get all the projects built quickly, because the whole board knows (but no one wants to be blamed for saying) that the ST3 revenues are insufficient to build the original ST3 projects on the timelines that were promised to voters. I would bet a shiny dollar that the organization continues to dither. 

      • East Coast Cynic April 27, 2021 (9:45 am)

        Avalon Station potentially serves way too many people to be a candidate for deletion – Not just the people who live in the buildings around Avalon, but the people who will connect by bus to that station from Gatewood, Highpoint, Fauntleroy, and Arbor Heights–a lot of jammed packed #21 passengers to connect to link.

  • SeaSpade April 26, 2021 (5:58 pm)

    Most statements about revenue declines in the face of the pandemic for state and local governments has been vastly overrated in most cases.  In many cases sales taxes have increased and exceeded expectations.  We should not let ST use the pandemic as an excuse to delay 2031.  Vehicle prices and sales are in high demand, and they’re collecting their dues….

  • East Coast Cynic April 26, 2021 (6:33 pm)

    If we have to delay link a few years due to revenue shortfalls (2035?), fine.  Just don’t engage in a long term delay of link prep for the purpose of a passive aggressive cancellation, nor delay for serious  consideration of untested modes  in the U.S. with less capacity for future needs, e.g., gondola, or the status quo with a growing population (buses).

  • DumplingGirl April 26, 2021 (7:20 pm)

    We need light rail sooner, not later. I hope everyone who is commenting here is also completing the survey. I just did and it only took a few minutes of time.

  • Keith April 26, 2021 (7:37 pm)

    So if I’m reading/understanding this correctly, the letter is asking to not potentially slow down or eliminate scheduled ST projects, by delaying the pending realignment evaluations and decisions? Or am I way off here?

    • Will S. April 26, 2021 (9:55 pm)

      The letter says in bold “Align the realignment solution with the problem,” as if the addressee were a moron or as if jargon were persuasive. But yes, I read the letter as Keith does: it argues that it’s too soon to delay the project.

  • LuLuBelle April 26, 2021 (7:40 pm)

    Jort i’m with you!! Get rid of cars!!!!! the tab fees and gas tax can EASILY be made up with a property tax increase! We’d all be happy to pay!!! Also, i’d be, and i’m sure you would be too is pay a fare that reflect actual cost. A small price to pay for a car free city!!!

    • Me April 27, 2021 (9:01 am)

      Count me as a NO on paying more property taxes.

      • Derek April 27, 2021 (3:35 pm)

        Why would you be against your property gaining value?!Taxes are a small price to pay in order to get a better city that serves us. Plus it means your home is gaining value!

    • natinstl April 30, 2021 (11:54 am)

      I pay enough, not happy to pay more property taxes. Keep dreaming that everyone will be car free. I must assume you don’t enjoy much of what is great about living in WA.-camping, hiking, boating, skiing. You need a car and most will continue to have one to enjoy this vast and beautiful state.

  • Joe Z April 26, 2021 (8:50 pm)

    I agree. Realignment is unnecessary. There is no revenue shortfall until 2029. Sound Transit needs to move forward with all ST3 projects as approved. No scope changes. They can always adjust in the late 2020s if they have to.

    The elected leaders should be focusing on the more important priority of addressing the design shortfalls that have already been disclosed and will move to front and center when the DEIS is released. The preferred elevated alignment is unacceptable and needs to be modified. The flaws are already known and it’s going to be a disaster if they push forward. Secure the tunnel funding or fix the preferred alignment to destroy less properties. Don’t let the Seattle process derail this. 

    • East Coast Cynic April 26, 2021 (9:16 pm)

      The problem with a tunnel is where will the “third party funding” come from?  Local elected officials have been asked about sources and they have no clue.

      • Bronson April 27, 2021 (6:55 am)

        That is no longer a problem as property acquisition costs have soared so much that the tunnel is now in the same price ballpark as the elevated line.

    • MJP April 28, 2021 (10:02 am)

      The revenue shortfall has been mitigated with federal pandemic relief funds, but we still need to deal with the 73% cost escalation, that’s now the focus of the realignment process. Where do you suggest the money will come from? Delay it so that ST can collect more taxes? The tunnel will mitigate some impact, but Youngstown will still be destroyed and the construction of the Avalon station will have huge traffic impact.

  • aa April 26, 2021 (9:08 pm)

    Sure plenty of folks have opinions, maybe some have even taken the time to educate themselves on  the specifics of this issue, my opinion is that it’s silly to ask the general public.  Just  like when they asked us about what to do with the bridge.  To me, it’s better to hire educated professionals who can assess and determine what is best.  So much time spend reviewing and never doing anything.  

    • Joe Z April 27, 2021 (7:35 am)

      How dare you question a fundamental tenant of the Seattle process — one must always ask for public feedback and then cherry pick the comments that support what you are going to do anyway. SDOT has mastered this practice. 

      • Jort April 27, 2021 (8:55 am)

        Indeed! I think the most glaring example of this was the small change to lanes on W Marginal Way in which nearly every household on the peninsula received a postcard asking for their feedback! You do not need to do this, Seattle! This city just gets so caught up tripping on their own feet sometimes. 

  • Anon April 26, 2021 (11:46 pm)

    So happy this is the payback for $300 car tabs!  Could have never  predicted this one.

    • Jort April 27, 2021 (8:58 am)

      If you want the money you’ve spent on car tabs to actually be spent on the things it was promised to buy, then you should fill out the survey and tell them, “I’ve spent my taxes, I want the light rail NOW.” You need to tell Sound Transit to quit dithering and dilly-dally-dorking around with years and years of stupid outreach and realignment and re-study and re-examination. Just build it like you promised, Sound Transit. If that means ignore the tunnel, then ignore the tunnel. Obviously this also includes ignoring the “gondola,” too. If people stubbornly insist that Sound Transit waste a colossal amount of time examining something that’s never going to happen, like a gondola, it just gives them more opportunities to pretend that they’ve run out of money and can’t do anything at all. 

  • skeeter April 28, 2021 (10:55 am)

    Have people ever stopped to consider what side JORT is *really* on?  I mean, just look at his name*!  JORT presents himself as an ally of transit and active transportation to decrease our reliance on cars.  But maybe JORT is driving around in a Range Rover and laughing at us while we wait for the bus!  I have nothing to add to the discussion.  I’m just so frustrated with Sound Transit and delays that I feel the need to post something silly.*JORT:  Just Ordered a Ram Truck

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