VIDEO: What the Community Advisory Group for West Seattle’s light-rail project heard, and asked, at first Draft Environmental Impact Statement briefing

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Part of the Sound Transit-convened West Seattle/Duwamish Community Advisory Group’s role is to help neighbors understand the light-rail project before it’s built – and while the 2032 opening date seems distant, construction could be only four years away.

Now that the Draft Environmental Impact Statement has been out for a week and a half, evaluating the routing and station possibilities, CAG members got a briefing and Q&A on Tuesday night.

Sound Transit’s Cathal Ridge reminded group members that while you’ll have to transfer at SODO in the first few years, by 2042 the system buildout will mean one ride all the way from Seattle to Everett.

Ridge also reminded the group that the Draft EIS includes preferred alternatives and other potential alternatives, to be winnowed by the ST Board in a few months. Ridge stressed. He recommended reading the document itself, not just summaries like this. (Later in the presentation, the list of topics it covers was shown – so if any interest you, that’s another reason to read it:)

Again this time, the group was reminded that Seattle city government has a role in this too – SDOT‘s point person is Sara Maxana, who noted that the current city reps on the ST Board are Mayor Bruce Harrell and City Council President Debora Juarez. Maxana also said that the city’s role will include assisting neighborhoods in planning stations and centering racial equity.

OVERVIEW: This was the heart of the meeting – Jason Hampton, currently in charge of the project’s West Seattle/Duwamish segment, went over the toplines for many of the alternatives, starting with a few high-level views. First, estimate of daily boardings for the stations (The Junction in general would see the most, Delridge not far behind, Avalon a distant third). Hampton went through some other “transit integration” numbers. Then – “transit-oriented development” possibilities, residential and commercial space for each option, though these numbers were presented without a comparison of how much existing residential and commercial space would be demolished, and Hampton mentioned some zoning changes might be needed to meet these hypothetical potentials.

This advisory group also is tasked with looking at the Duwamish River crossing alternatives, of which the DEIS studies three, so that’s where this began. The “preferred alternative” goes south along the SODO busway, curves to the west around 4th/Spokane, and crosses on an elevated bridge which would “match the elevation” of the current high-rise West Seattle Bridge. It would have a construction challenge along the north edge of Pigeon Point, Hampton acknowledged.

There’s a “south edge” option that would run much further south. It would require in-water columns and would affect two marinas, among other places.

And a north side alternative:

Here’s the comparison of all three:

Heading further west, he showed some combinations of Junction and Delridge alternatives – but not all. Here’s what the combination of the Elevated Fauntleroy Way and Dakota Street (Delridge) stations would result in:

Or – if “third-party funding” could be found – here’s the combination of a tunneled Junction station and a lower-height Dakota (Delridge) station:

And a similar “third-party funding” alternative – Junction station in a different spot, Delridge station lower:

There are even more possible combinations – such as a “short-tunnel” Junction station plus taller Delridge (Dakota) station:

Or a different Junction “short tunnel” station paired with a “lower-height” Andover station for Delridge:

Elevated Fauntleroy/Andover is the combination that among other things would take out the new mixed-use buildings on Fauntleroy just south of Alaska.

In the side by side comparison, medium tunnel/Andover wins on the four comparison criteria:

Again, that was just some of the possibilities – the Draft EIS has cost, displacement, height, and other types of information about all of what was studied.

Q&A/COMMENTS: Here’s most of what CAG members asked – much of the comments intended to help guide future briefings/discussions, not necessarily for immediate answering. Would West Seattle buses still run downtown post-Link launch? At least until the line to Ballard is fully complete in 2037, Hampton said. (This was affirmed by King County transportation-policy adviser Chris Arkills in the meeting’s onscreen chat.) … CAG member Iñaki Longa wanted to see the “how many housing units would be added” criteria shown for comparison as well as a more detailed look at rider experience – how much time would be added in using a certain type of station, for example. … CAG member Deb Barker wondered how the projected ridership numbers were developed. ST’s Daniel Turner explained the formula, which includes growth projections and planned/permitted projects as well as transit connections to the stations. … CAG member David Bestock wants to see what the elevated line would like over Delridge; he also said it would be good to break down displacement numbers between homeowners and renters. He also requested more details about the constructability issues along Pigeon Point. Hampton replied to that: They’re working on engineering solutions for the steep slope – “there is an engineering path forward, we just wanted to note” the issues (including heron nesting). Facilitator Leda Chahim noted that renters are compensated for relocation as well as homeowners.

CAG member Pete Spalding wondered what the rail -bridge mass would look like compared to the current high bridge. He also wanted more details on displacement – counting bedrooms – as well as more information on environmental impacts of crossing Longfellow Creek, “a sensitive salmon habitat.” ST’s Ridge said the rail bridge would be “much narrower” but similar in height. No, the displacement info does not count bedrooms. Re: the creek, it’s mostly culverted in that area, ST’s environmental rep said. … CAG member M Miller highlighted that the presentation did not include all the alternatives, especially for Delridge. She also asked for more information about bus integration, and she was concerned about rider experience – say, someone riding the bus from South Delridge someday to the Delridge stop, then having to get off the train at SODO for the years until the Ballard extension is complete … CAG member Kim Schwarzkopf wondered about mixing and matching alternatives in ways that weren’t shown today – Ridge reiterated that all the possibilities are shown in the DEIS. Why isn’t Avalon broken out? It’s included in the “Junction segment” breakout. He added that all of the Delridge alternatives can connect to any of the Duwamish crossings. … CAG member Ella McRae said the displacement numbers are “shocking,” and also wanted information on number of residents potentially affected, not just the number of houses/apartments. Ride times are of interest to her, too. … CAG member Charlie Able noted that the Avalon station, with low projected ridership and proximity to the two other stations, seems potentially unnecessary. “The fact we’re not even questioning the need for it at all seems like a mistake.” … CAG member Emily S said it would be helpful to see more bus-route specifics in the discussion of transit integration … CAG member Willard Brown also voiced concern about how people are going to get downtown smoothly. He wondered about the budgets and what are the critical decision points of costs vs. features. He was on the Stakeholder Advisory Group earlier in the planning process and noted “we were told (then) ‘never consider the numbers’.”

THIRD-PARTY FUNDING: The definition was described, as a refresher, as anything exceeding funding in the realignment plan – $1.6 billion, Ridge believed – so there’s at least one Junction tunneling option that at this point wouldn’t require it.

WHAT’S NEXT: It’s feedback time now. June is when board members will affirm or change the “preferred alternative” for the final level of environmental study.

Look at the orange line for what this group will look at in future meetings – including a “deep dive” into the DEIS next month.

You can get up to speed and comment via the online open house, as detailed here. CAG members were shown these tips for commenting:

Comments are due by April 28th. More briefings for this group and others will happen before then – including a workshop with the West Seattle Transportation Coalition on March 24th and a Sound Transit workshop on March 30th. (Next meeting of this group is March 8th.) Other ways to ask questions or even request a custom briefing are listed here.

23 Replies to "VIDEO: What the Community Advisory Group for West Seattle's light-rail project heard, and asked, at first Draft Environmental Impact Statement briefing"

  • WS Guy February 10, 2022 (12:15 am)

    Medium tunnel + Andover looks like the clear winner.  Would anyone disagree?  I’d legitimately like to hear any opposing points of view.

    • Rocket February 10, 2022 (1:19 am)

      I agree 100%I also agree with the criticism of why is an Avalon station necessary?  It’s like 5 blocks from the junction station. If engineering and cost savings can be found in reconsidering this station maybe that can be done. 

    • Andrew February 10, 2022 (8:45 am)

      I’d say that one problem with the 41st ave tunnel is that it would be a dead end with no chance for future expansion. Fauntleroy, would be not that much different in its impact, based on the provided metrics, and Fauntleroy would allow for a possible future expansion south to serve more of West Seattle. In this way, a Fauntleroy station would be more forward looking.

    • Ron Swanson February 10, 2022 (8:47 am)

      It’s the obvious winner – good underground station near the Junction, least impact on neighborhood by following the expressway down the hill, no hundred foot tall viaducts, costs are reasonable compared to other options.

      Some people don’t like the Delridge station, but I disagree.  Doesn’t take out blocks of the neighborhood, just a couple office buildings and a strip mall.  And bus connectivity would be great if ST extended Andover up to connect with Avalon under the tracks – buses can come from Delridge, the Junction, or Alki/Admiral directly to the station via Andover.

    • Jort February 10, 2022 (8:51 am)

      You’ll hear them once the “gondola” boosters start flooding in. Remember, folks: the gondola has never been about a viable alternative. The gondola “proposal” is merely an effort to force delays in the planning and design process, under the guise of “concerns” about concrete and whatever. You will be able to tell this once the gondola people decide to sue Sound Transit to try and force them to do environmental review of their “proposal.” 

    • Joe Z February 10, 2022 (10:37 am)

      There are numerous problems with the Medium Tunnel/Andover route. Sound Transit has written the DEIS in a slanted way to try and convince you that it is somehow lower impact than the other routes. That is demonstrably false.(1) Poor location of Delridge Station — the one directly over Delridge is much better for bus transfers. Those transferring northbound would have to exit the bus on the east side of Delridge, cross the street, walk to the station, and take several escalators to the platform. (2) Guideway is too high along Andover St — 130 ft. Same problem as the preferred alternative but Sound Transit conveniently didn’t include a rendering of the elevated guideway in the DEIS. Which seems to have fooled many since it will be nearly as tall as the Genesee one. (3) Significant impacts to homes/businesses from Avalon/Andover to 37th/Genesee. Loss of Transitional Resources headquarters. Loss of 48 single-family residences plus 100+ additional residences located adjacent to the above-ground track or the retained cut/tunnel portal. The tunnel portal will be where West Seattle Brewing/Jones BBQ is currently located. Once again, this tunnel portal was not shown in the DEIS. I agree that the medium tunnel route has advantages, but the tunnel needs to be LONGER. The tunnel portal should be to the EAST of Avalon to avoid the tall guideway and impacts. The Avalon station should either be an underground station or be skipped entirely due to the low ridership estimate (only 1200 daily boardings). 

      • Ron Swanson February 10, 2022 (12:07 pm)


        Displacement effects are indeed lower than the other alternatives, the tall elevated guideway is largely between a steel mill and commercial buildings rather than over a residential neighborhood, and the bus transfers can be addressed by improving Andover as I suggested in my first comment.

        So I think your suggestion that people are incorrect to prefer the medium tunnel alternative as being lower impact or being mislead by the DEIS is demonstrably false.

      • Jort February 10, 2022 (12:14 pm)

        In general, I am highly skeptical of deleting promised stations, but I think removing Avalon could work if there is sufficient bus route integration and prioritization for the remaining stations. By this, I mean that several streets would need to be highly reconfigured – indeed dramatically so – for bus only priority so that buses are not caught in unsolvable private automobile traffic near the stations. A major purpose of the Avalon station is to serve as a bus transfer location. If buses must take detours of several blocks to get to a reduced Junction/Delridge configuration, then sacrifices must be made by car drivers to accommodate the lack of easy transfers at Avalon, and this must be reflected in final design by Sound Transit. Keep in mind, of course, that car drivers, as a demographic, are facing the fewest possible impacts of any affected group in this entire design, which is another issue and is also completely and totally ridiculous.

        • Martin February 10, 2022 (1:04 pm)

          Two thirds of the riders are expected to arrive on bus, mostly from High Point, White Center, Westwood… Yes, Jort, bus transfer is key to get decent ridership on this line, the other one is how to extend it further towards White Center so that not everybody has to wait for a bus. A bus stop by Nucor is challenging as trucks enter at the same location and Andover drops considerably from Delridge. I have not seen that being addressed in the current station design.Tunnel sounds great until you think about a Southern extension. Sound Transit is supposed to design such extension as part of ST3, I’m surprised they have not addressed how they plan to extend the link to White Center and Renton as part of the DEIS, but a tunnel would certainly make it much more expensive. Sound Transit’s earlier tunnel designs called for a long tunnel bypassing High Point. Will light rail only serve the affluent neighborhoods in West Seattle? Everybody else has to take the bus?

      • Joe Z February 10, 2022 (12:51 pm)

        My point is that while the medium tunnel has “lesser” impacts than the preferred alternative, these are still massive impacts. We don’t need to be running elevated rail through established neighborhoods when there are other options available. I think a suitable compromise is to make the tunnel longer on the Yancy-Andover routing. It seems silly to climb up 80% of the hill with a massive elevated guideway and then go into a retained cut/tunnel at the Avalon Triangle, a location where the topography is flat. I don’t see why the tunnel portal can’t be right behind the northbound C-line stop on Avalon where there is a steep hill to dig into. Regarding Jort/cars — If the Avalon station is built in a retained cut, the 35th/Fauntleroy intersection will need a serious redesign. Currently this is basically a freeway onramp when the bridge is open. Are car drivers going to be happy with the compromises that are needed to convert this from a freeway entrance to a walkable/bikeable urban station? Perhaps the entire “bridge onramp” stretch from 35th to the Spokane viaduct needs to be converted to a normal surface street with sidewalks and connections to the adjacent roads? 

  • Jim February 10, 2022 (4:56 am)

    Defund Sound Transit

    • Jort February 10, 2022 (9:50 am)

      For the 1,000th time: we had a vote on this, your side lost, there are no take-backs. Deal with it and move on with your life.

  • All 4 option 6 February 10, 2022 (7:46 am)

    None. It’s clearly the winner. Also the social services business it would displace was built after the area was included as an alternative. The social services on the Genesee line and park have been there for ever. No 3rd party funding needed for option 6. And the huge difference in displacements far out weigh any argument ST has for continuing with their “preferred” alternative. Unless the goal is to displace as many people as they can and destroy the neighborhood. 

  • admiral admirable February 10, 2022 (3:38 pm)

    Delete the redundant Andover station, do a tunnel, done. Least disruption, under budget. Or keep it elevated on Fauntleroy – but still delete Avalon. Avalon station will only cost time and money and slow down transit times without adding much in the way of access. I haven’t heard anyone justify Avalon in any convincing way other than to say “it said three stations in the ST3 ballot measure so we absolutely must have three, regardless” which is a weak argument in my book. The ballot was to approve a route to-be-determined. Keeping Avalon for that reason alone is pedantic at best.

    • Jort February 11, 2022 (12:35 pm)

      The best argument for Avalon is using it as a somewhat-seamless bus transfer facility for folks coming in from the rest of the peninsula. If this function can be served well (emphasis on well) by the other stations (as in, surface street reprioritization and reconfigurations to accommodate buses and eliminate private vehicles) then Avalon isn’t as important. If the plan is for all transit connections to get stuck in Delridge/35th/Fauntleroy/Alaska traffic to make it to the remaining stations, then, too bad, Avalon must and will be built. The only possible way to delete Avalon is to also delete car space for drivers, of which current plans show zero road space ceded for the greater, more noble good of transit.

  • CAM February 10, 2022 (6:25 pm)

    Deleting a station is not a simple matter of distance. People will be traveling by bus to get to the stations. The buses also need to provide effective transportation within West Seattle from one location to another, like for all the people in the triangle to get to Westwood. So there will continue to be frequent bus service from Westwood to the triangle. If you try then to throw all rush hour traffic on the peninsula, except for traffic on Delridge, onto buses headed for California and the Junction that is a cluster of people having to wait for multiple buses to get a ride during peak travel. (Remember this isn’t just for now. It’s forever.) Please also think about all those people getting off the buses all converging on one station simultaneously attempting to enter a single station and paying at a single station and then waiting at a single station all at the same time because it’s the peak travel time. Having one more station that you divide that crowd between means that you spread that out. Please don’t try to convince people to think small because you are using your image of what today looks like. This needs to be effective for 50 years or more. They aren’t adding a station in the middle of the tracks later because you made an oops and people are waiting forever on an elevated platform in the wind and rain. 

    • Jort February 11, 2022 (12:45 pm)

      I agree fully, Cam. If Avalon is to be deleted, that is going to mean we’ll need dedicated and physically separated bus and cycling lanes on Delridge, Fauntleroy, Alaska and 35th, at least. If car drivers are unwilling to make any sacrifices for light rail, then Avalon station is staying put.

  • Jethro Marx February 11, 2022 (7:40 am)

    No bridge of any kind should be built over a culvert-bound salmon creek. Any future effort to daylight the creek will be impacted by a bridge, no matter the height or purpose. I’m not saying not to build the bridge, only that you must restore salmon creeks at the time of infrastructure improvement. This is common sense, and seems like it ought to be law, when the Supreme Court of Washington has at least said it broadly.

  • No to Gondola February 11, 2022 (11:14 am)

    Tunnel please!!!! All tunnel options are good. 

  • James February 11, 2022 (11:45 am)

    An Avalon station that close to a junction station is beyond silly. Only Junction and Delridge please!!

  • ANDOVER WINNER February 11, 2022 (12:43 pm)

    Please note that the one thing ST likes to argue against for the Andover line is the the behavioral health and housing assistance that it would be displace. This social service building was just built there while the very long time coming EIS was being drafted. The agency knew this would be an option and so I am sure they have a contingency plan in place. The rest of us did not have that chose that are loosing businesses, jobs and homes.

  • Bike commuter February 11, 2022 (1:36 pm)

    I noted no information about how the preferred route around Pigeon Point will impact bikers. The bike trail goes right along there to the Spokane street bridge. There isn’t much spacing there. It’s pretty much the only bike route out of West Seattle to downtown, unless they plan to reroute bike traffic south to First Ave Bridge. LOL!

  • ANDOVER WINNER February 11, 2022 (1:39 pm)

    Joe Z,If there is any skewing of the data it would not be for the Andover line. Maybe you weren’t around or aware but we had to fight with ST to get the Andover line studied. They did not want to go forward with it until the community came together in support of it. If there is any skewing it would be to continue their plan to put it on Genesee no matter what. Do you see how many different plans their are to keep that bad plan going? Throw everything at it and hope something sticks. Unfortunately after all the data and facts are in Andover is the clear winner. Time for ST to make adjustments and changes to the “Preferred” pland because it is not the best one. 

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