West Seattle light rail in 2032? Here’s what the Sound Transit Board chair is suggesting for potential ‘realignment’ scenario

The Sound Transit Board won’t vote before next month on a potential “realignment” scenario – reconfiguring future plans to address estimated revenue drops and cost jumps. Today, calling it a “starting point,” board chair Kent Keel (from the University Place City Council in Pierce County) unveiled a proposed scenario. As shown above in a slide from the meeting presentation (see the full deck here), his proposal would delay West Seattle light rail until 2032 – one year later than the currently planned 2031, which in turn is one year past what was outlined in the ST3 ballot measure. Board members didn’t spend much time talking about it; some have contended that it’s too soon to realign, since revenue estimates keep improving, and in fact CEO Peter Rogoff started the meeting with a quick mention of rosier revenue projections at multiple government levels. One board member, King County Council chair Claudia Balducci from Bellevue, has been the loudest voice arguing against realigning now; she has contended that changes should focus more on cost cuts than schedule delays. She said today that her own proposal isn’t ready to present yet but will be soon. In a parallel process, the board is still working through the reasons for the sudden, dramatic rise in cost estimates, and got another in a series of reports from a consultant during today’s meeting. Board members’ next realignment discussion is expected when their Executive Committee meets July 1st; the full board meeting at which a vote might be taken is July 22nd.

22 Replies to "West Seattle light rail in 2032? Here's what the Sound Transit Board chair is suggesting for potential 'realignment' scenario"

  • Marfaun June 24, 2021 (5:53 pm)

    Does it bother anybody to wait another year (or maybe until 2040) for Sound Transit to build another bridge, bulldoze Pigeon Point, Delridge, Avalon and East Junction, displace businesses and up to 200 people, not adequately compensate any of them, interfere with big employers in the maritime industry, Port of Seattle and Nucor Steel,  and create massive traffic congestion for 5-7 years to lay down light rail tracks?  Or is it just me?  Sound Transit doesn’t have the money ($7.9 billion in debt now), the WS estimate is 73% over budget (now estimated at $400 million-$600 million a mile), but they’re not looking for cost-saving options.  Heck.  Why would Sound Transit’s board ever be interested in saving money, delivering a WS link ahead of schedule and under budget, leaving the Port & Nucor alone, and letting taxpayers (aka voters) keep their homes and businesses?   It makes the SkyLink gondola look better & better:   2 year construction, save Sound Transit $2 billion, displace nobody, interfere with nobody.  

    • Morgan June 25, 2021 (7:58 am)

      This POV is growing on me for sure. Sunk cost fallacy at play.

    • Voice of Reason June 26, 2021 (1:14 am)

      The Gondola is an interesting idea, and it has potential but you really would have to convince me that it wouldn’t be stuck in litigation-hell as groups of neighbors band together to sue because they want nobody to see their backyard

  • Paul June 24, 2021 (7:09 pm)

    Everything is cheaper and easier in fantasyland.  Just ask the monorail folks. 

    • Marfaun June 25, 2021 (9:09 am)

      The monorail folks relied on numbers from Disneyland (literally — the only other Alweg monorail operating in the world).  SkyLink relies on numbers from dozens of urban projects operating worldwide, and hundreds of recreational projects.  No fantasy here.

      • Ron Swanson June 25, 2021 (10:19 am)

        LOL, no, they didn’t.  There are dozens of urban monorails operating around the world, many of them built by Hitachi, who was the sole bidder for the monorail project.  The financing plan was the monorail’s problem, not the technology.

        The gondola is never going to happen.  It’s less plausible than the monorail was.

  • TransitCurious June 24, 2021 (8:40 pm)

    It appears that the West Seattle light rail will only go to the SODO station in 2032. Does that mean you then have to transfer to go anywhere else?

    • WSB June 24, 2021 (9:14 pm)

      That was the original plan, changing at SODO until the new downtown tunnel is built as part of the Ballard line, which was supposed to be 5 years. Chair Keel’s scenario would have WS transferring at SODO for six years, 2032-2038.

  • Natinstl June 24, 2021 (9:56 pm)

    And this will all be happening when our bridge retrofit will be past its useful life. WS is screwed.

  • Notcool June 24, 2021 (10:38 pm)

    Light rail is a cruel joke.  Water taxis, gondolas, and collective taxis work well.  Used them all.  

    • John June 24, 2021 (11:07 pm)

      There was a political cartoon which the Seattle PI did when they were removing the streetcars where a driver is leaning out of the street car is the tracks are being removed in front of him and shouting “One day you’ll regret this! They’ll charge you millions to put it back!”

  • Niko June 24, 2021 (11:43 pm)

    Audit sound transit

  • Shawn June 25, 2021 (6:07 am)

    My hope is that I will be able to use the train for the last decade or so of my work life before retirement in ~2050. So one extra year isn’t a huge problem, when it is still over a decade away. That being said, obviously avoiding the delay is preferable.

  • Yes to SkyLink June 25, 2021 (7:43 am)

    Scrap it.  Let’s get moving with SkyLink.  Imagine enjoying the view and quiet rapid ride on a gondola in possibly  a few years from now, vs waiting likely 10+ years for light rail, which will have more negative impacts in it’s cost, construction, and operation.

    Yes to SkyLink!

  • Eldorado June 25, 2021 (7:56 am)

    There will be complications with their complications. There will be delays with their delays. There will be budget inflations on top of their budget inflations. And I will be nearly dead before this Light Rail is finished. When the stupid bridge is finished/fixed/repaired, I’m going to sell my house, have one last beer at Elliott Bay Brew Pub… and use the refurbished bridge to get the heck out of this wrecked city. 

  • D-Ridge June 25, 2021 (9:47 am)

    For the love of god why do people think transferring from bus to gondola to light rail would be better than light rail only or building better bus-only lanes throughout West Seattle?This gondola distraction is so exhausting.

    • winniegirl June 25, 2021 (11:34 am)

      I agree.  the expansion of bus only lanes is expandable, faster and so much cheaper.  Waiting ten more years for additional transit options is ridiculous.  especially with the focus on getting people out of their cars now.  You have to give people options. 

    • Yes to SkyLink June 25, 2021 (1:46 pm)

      Why would it be better to transfer from bus to light rail to another light rail line, vs possibly bus to gondola to lightrail? 

      There is a very small difference in expected transit time comparing gondola to light rail. And both gondola and light rail are expected to exceed projected capacity. 

      So please, enlighten us to your exhausting concerns, and justify why light rail, with issues of cost, construction impacts, and delays, is still the way to go!

      • Ron Swanson June 25, 2021 (4:41 pm)

        The network effect.  A public transit system gains usefulness to users the more destinations it connects to. 

        Combine that with the concept of transfer penalty: a system is less useful and attractive to riders the more transfers it requires.

        The completed light rail line will connect riders to the stadiums, downtown, the UW, and points all the way north to Everett with a one-seat ride.  With a train to train transfer, Bellevue, Tacoma, Redmond, SeaTac and Tacoma.

        A gondola adds an extra transfer permanently – long after the delays and impacts are forgotten.  That’s enough to kill it right there before you start talking about the operating costs of adding a whole different mode to the system.

        If anti-rail activists were serious about an alternative, they’d be pushing for rebuilding the WS Freeway/99 interchange with transit ramps, and going the BRT route for West Seattle the way the Forward Thrust plans did.

        • Yes to SkyLink June 25, 2021 (5:46 pm)

          One transfer for some users would seem a small sacrifice for all the benefits.

  • William B Reed June 25, 2021 (5:39 pm)

    Why do we keep pouring money down this light rail rathole when there are homeless people dying in the streets thousands of people in this region who are food- and shelter-insecure. Do we really think that providing marginally effective commute convenience for tech millionaires is higher priority? 

    • Ice June 26, 2021 (1:30 am)

      This comment strikes me as disingenuous. A sign of a good public transit system is one that people of all classes and statuses use. Good public transit can allow someone living uncomfortably close to a dangerous financial edge to stay housed. Pitting construction dollars for infrastructure against dollars to aid those who have become transient or are chronically homeless is not helping anyone to avoid or escape homelessness. Improved public transit and llight rail is tide that will raise all (or at least the majority) of boats.

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