WEST SEATTLE LIGHT RAIL: New timeline for next planning milestone

Out of a 43-page slide deck, that’s the one slide that caught our attention when Sound Transit briefed the Seattle City Council Transportation and Utilities Committee this morning. The Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the West Seattle to Ballard extension is now not expected to be released before fall. Last estimated release timeline (see this December 2020 WSB report) was “mid-(year),” and that already was a slide past the originally projected release this year. When the DEIS comes out, it will trigger a new round of public comment, and will provide an avalanche of new information about the potential paths that could be taken to get light rail across the Duwamish River and to stations at Delridge, Avalon, and The Junction. The topic of the briefing was the “realignment” process, which we’ve been covering – the pursuit of a new plan/timeline for system expansion projects to address what’s currently estimated as a $7.9 billion “affordability gap” (currently mostly because on new cost estimates, rather than revenue shortfalls). The briefing started an hour and 30 minutes into the meeting (recorded by Seattle Channel):

During the briefing, councilmembers repeatedly asked a question that several ST board members also have asked – isn’t it too soon to make a new plan when the post-pandemic revenue picture isn’t clear? ST in response said it has to make decisions soon about $2 billion worth of projects (not including West Seattle-Ballard), but also insisted that a realignment plan would be a “flexible framework” that could be revisited. West Seattle light rail, originally planned to launch in 2030, already has been delayed a year beyond that, even before further delays that might be part of realignment.

15 Replies to "WEST SEATTLE LIGHT RAIL: New timeline for next planning milestone"

  • natinstl June 16, 2021 (2:42 pm)

    7.9 billion affordability gap says it all

  • Jort June 16, 2021 (3:27 pm)

    It sounds like SoundTransit has spent the last year working on a “delay” plan that they are realllllly proud of and spent a looooottttttt of time on, and ST is reallllllllly hesitant to back away from their pandemic-panic cost assumptions. ST board members need to aggressively push back on the agency’s self-imposed “affordability” fears. I know ST has spent a lot of time working on this, like it’s a big term paper, but too bad, throw the term paper away and get moving on building RIGHT NOW. This talk about the “realignment” being a “flexible framework” is PR-speak garbage. The “realignment” is a strong policy decision that will be very, very difficult to just bounce away from. It will cause major delays to our light rail, and you can ask anybody who’s been holding out for 10 years to buy a house in Seattle because “maybe the costs will go down” how that’s working out for them. The funding is in place, the voters have made their desires extremely clear. I am sure that it really, really sucks for the project manager and team who got assigned the “realignment project” task to have their work end up being useless and garbage, but oh well, throw it away right now and get started on building. NOW. 

    • barton June 16, 2021 (4:25 pm)

      Hopefully your use of italics and all caps will make ST sit up and take notice.  They are very effective in the WS bridge urgency posts directed to SDOT.

  • Lane June 16, 2021 (7:14 pm)

    There was another article I read earlier about a report soon to be published on purchasable land costs for the project dropping lower. Should be out by June 25th. 

  • JDP June 16, 2021 (8:03 pm)

    This cannot be wrtitten or stated enough: Monorail, Monorail, Monorail ….!  Read about, know it.  This is like Monorail 2.0.  Someone interview Greg Nickels … he’ll tell you all about it.

  • Sam June 16, 2021 (8:10 pm)

    “I’m high on the Gondola”

    • Also John June 16, 2021 (9:10 pm)

      The gondola is looking better and better.  Design is easier, construction cost is less, constructed earlier and the gondolas will bring more people to WS.  Great for businesses.

      • Yes to SkyLink June 17, 2021 (12:15 am)


      • Bob Lang June 17, 2021 (9:28 am)

        Gondala is the best choice.  Light rail is wayyyyyyy to expensive.

      • East Coast Cynic June 17, 2021 (2:25 pm)

        The side to side comparison showed that light rail moved more people than the gondola—can’t escape creepy people from a gondola car unlike a light rail car.The gondola would require a separate system/organization outside of ST that would have to undertake lone and potentially very challenging political battles to compete for funding (to maintain the system post-construction vs. the broader light rail and bus system of ST.

    • Dx June 17, 2021 (7:59 pm)

      I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Seattle doesn’t need another separate transit system with its own support staff. Whatever transit solution we land on has to plug into existing infrastructure. A gondola certainly has benefits, but if it only serves a small subset of the population, maybe a subset similar to a bridge that was allowed to decay, it’s going to have to compete for resources with the other solutions in the city which serve more people.

      • PTrider June 18, 2021 (7:04 pm)

        Sound Transit could pay experienced contractors to build and/or operate a gondola and still spend less money than light rail.  Also gondolas have the potential for future use in reaching neighborhoods that aren’t going to be served by light rail and wouldn’t get frequent service by bus (not to mention that diesel buses are not environmentally friendly.) Many cities around the world successfully use multi-modal transit systems.  Why can’t we??  

  • Joe Z June 16, 2021 (10:51 pm)

    What’s the reason for the continued DEIS delays? Are they making adjustments based on the projected cost overruns? Or are they going to stick with the routes that are way over budget? 

    • WSB June 16, 2021 (10:56 pm)

      Councilmember Herbold asked at today’s meeting whether realignment would change the DEIS. No, said ST, unless they adopt a new plan with Denny (downtown) as an interim “termini” – that would have to get extra study. The original delay from 2021 to 2022 was because of the added possible alignments but there was no explanation today of why the newly added delay.

  • temach June 17, 2021 (10:29 am)

    Once ST conducts a feasibility study of the gondola option, I believe it will be profoundly clear that that will deliver the biggest, fastest and best bang for the buck. Our community task is to convince ST to get that feasibility study done ASAP so we can get past this and resume our travels to and from this entrapped peninsula.



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