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.