By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
With many amendments but little drama, Sound Transit Board members have adopted what they call a “hybrid” realignment plan.
It’s the result of two methodologies for dealing with an “affordability gap” currently estimated at $6+ billion, down from a previous $12 billion estimate – pushing back the schedule, and cutting costs. Board chair Kent Keel of the University Place City Council and Claudia Balducci of the King County Council consolidated their dueling proposals to make it happen, toward the end of almost a year and a half of discussion.
The headline for West Seattle: The light-rail line between The Junction and SODO is in the plan’s Tier 1, which means it’s a high priority, and among the least likely to face more delays. It’s already scheduled for one year later than the original 2030 date in the ST3 ballot measure; what emerged during realignment discussions as the “Affordable Schedule” for ST projects would push it back no more than one additional year, to 2032. The official language for Tier 1 projects is “as close to the original ST3 schedule as reasonably possible.” However, under this plan, SODO would be the end of the line for an estimated six years; the second Downtown Transit Tunnel is not projected for completion until 2038. (The original ST3 plan had a five-year gap.)
For fine-print fans, here’s the substitute realignment resolution the board approved, as seen before the amendments that all got unanimous “yes” votes – which were, from this list, #2, #4, #5, #6, #7, #9, #10. Some amendments clarified the language about the board’s intent to “speed up” implementation of projects if at all possible; others advanced a few projects to higher-priority tiers, such as two Seattle “infill” stations and parking/bus projects outside Seattle.
At the end of the meeting, board members expressed relief and even some jubilation. “I wasn’t sure this was possible!” marveled board member Bruce Dammeier, the Pierce County Executive. “Now we have a framework before us,” observed board chair Keel.
The plan now calls for re-examining projects at multiple points before construction is green-lighted:
One of two West Seattleites on the board, County Councilmember Joe McDermott, told us afterward: “Today the Board took action to better monitor and be informed of cost projections and also set expectations on project delivery. Most important to West Seattle is the fact that today’s vote keeps intact the expected opening of Light Rail serving West Seattle with stations serving the Alaska Junction, Avalon, and Delridge in 2032. … Meeting my objective of not delaying Light Rail to West Seattle was essential to my vote for the agency’s ‘realignment’ proposal this afternoon.”
So what’s next for West Seattle light rail? The draft Environmental Impact Statement, currently in development, will be a major step toward settling on station locations and the exact path light rail would follow to get to them; we’ll be checking on the latest projected release date (most recent estimate was “fall”). Its release will launch a new public-comment period.