WEST SEATTLE LIGHT RAIL: What Sound Transit Board’s realignment vote means for our area

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.

25 Replies to "WEST SEATTLE LIGHT RAIL: What Sound Transit Board's realignment vote means for our area"

  • Derek August 5, 2021 (5:55 pm)

    Yes yes yes!!! I cannot wait to get the train to the Junction!

    • Bronson August 5, 2021 (6:27 pm)

      Well, you’ll be waiting at least another 11 years. Maybe the bridge will be fixed by then. 🤦‍♂️

  • CMT August 5, 2021 (6:22 pm)

    That will be great but still 10+ years out, right?  I hope nothing goes wrong between now and then to keep bumping that out.

    • Martin August 5, 2021 (7:39 pm)

      If you don’t want to wait that long, make sure you sign the petition for Sound Transit to consider building the SkyLink gondola by 2025.

    • Martin August 5, 2021 (9:46 pm)

      If you don’t want to wait, make sure to put your name on the petition to build the SkyLink gondola by 2025.

  • Shawn August 5, 2021 (6:44 pm)

    Nice! Hopefully they can stick with the plan and get this thing done quickly!

  • Bob August 5, 2021 (7:09 pm)

    On 10 years cars will probably fly and light rail will be useless.  Waste of money.

    • Derek August 5, 2021 (7:51 pm)

      lol the planet will burn before cars are sustainable 

    • KBear August 5, 2021 (8:19 pm)

      Yeah, Bob, that’s what shortsighted people thought 50 years ago when they voted against transit. How are those flying cars working out for you?

    • Ice August 5, 2021 (11:36 pm)

      We already have flying cars, they are called helicopters.

  • Martin August 5, 2021 (7:43 pm)

    Will be interesting to see what Sound Transit will propose as the final alignment this fall. Based on the new process, Sound Transit is supposed to be looking for savings and additional funding options. Currently they estimated that it will be $1.34b more expensive than originally planned, let’s see where that funding will come from. SkyLink would provide the savings they are looking for…

  • TJ August 5, 2021 (7:43 pm)

    It won’t be 2032, and it will still get more expensive. This was obvious from the beginning, before ST3 was even approved to anybody who paid attention to Sound Transit track record. Resetting timelines during a project, and then using those as proof of getting it done on time don’t count. Obnoxious cost for a choo-choo train, but I guess people are ok passing off a blank check for this 

    • Joe Z August 5, 2021 (10:31 pm)

      If you think a train is expensive, wait until you see what taxpayers spend for their vroom vroom cars. 

  • old timer August 5, 2021 (7:58 pm)

    While the transit using  world waits for Sound Transit to make things happen, maybe the City could work on making completely dedicated bus lanes. For the RapidRide, for the 21, for the 50, a dedicated bus lane from route beginning to route end. No sharing the space with cars, signal priority at all intersections.  It might make the wait for the train a bit more tolerable.  

    • Jort August 6, 2021 (1:39 am)

      Yes! They should do this! But the city of Seattle is unbelievably paranoid about ceding even one square inch of roadway to cars without literally asking for the opinions of every citizen on the peninsula. Given the choice between a bus lane and saving a lane for parking, Seattle will always fold for the free subsidized public parking enthusiasts. 

  • James August 5, 2021 (11:16 pm)

    Wait does this mean we don’t get the chair lift to SODO? 

  • Meyer August 6, 2021 (9:19 am)

    Any word on if the C Line will continue to operate during that 6 year gap when the Junction-SODO line is completed but SODO-Downtown isn’t done? Otherwise many West Seattle residents will have a 3 seat ride. 1 bus ride to the light rail station at the Junction, 1 light rail ride to SODO and 1 more bus ride to downtown. That will likely be significantly longer than the C Line as it is today

    • Natinstl August 8, 2021 (7:57 pm)

      That’s the sucky part about the whole light rail. I’ll drive or take the water taxi vs taking more time to get to work since this will only go to SODO. I’d rather have more dedicated buses.

  • AlkiBean August 6, 2021 (9:33 am)

    Maybe I won’t be dead after all by the time it’s finished!  I hate paying for something that I’ll never get to see!

  • Mickymse August 6, 2021 (1:06 pm)

    And to think we had a company willing to build a 14-mile monorail for a $2.1 billion contract. And I don’t want to even think about our failure to build somethin like BART by not approving that part of Forward Thrust over 50 years ago. But, hey, what’s another ten years to wait?

  • Dave K August 6, 2021 (6:31 pm)

    So, I guess that’s good news that WS is considered priority. Considering that we’re a peninsula dependent on a bridge, I believe that we should’ve been among the first built long ago. But, I remain miffed. So this wonderful rail that will open in 11-12 years, won’t even get us downtown, let alone the stadiums for another 6-8 years? It drops us off around Home Depot near Lander… and then what? We wait for a bus there?  I know I must be missing something in all this excitement. 

    • WSB August 6, 2021 (6:53 pm)

      You transfer to another train that is heading downtown, or beyond.

    • Derek August 6, 2021 (11:42 pm)

      Why the stadiums priority? I work in Northgate and this would be a quick easy shot. Not everyone goes to same places. 

  • CarDriver August 6, 2021 (8:41 pm)

    mickymse. We stopped the monorail because by the time we pulled the plug the cost had risen 100% over what they’d initially sold us on. And, they couldn’t/wouldn’t tell us what the final cost would be. We ALL want a good mass transit system but there are a LOT of us unwilling the give a blank check to someone  unwilling/unable to tell us what numbers they’ll end up writing on said check.

  • Randy August 7, 2021 (10:30 pm)

    Praying that we seek wisdom from God. May we seek truth

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