LIGHT RAIL: With 52 days left to comment, here’s how Pigeon Point’s Q&A with Sound Transit went

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Tonight, the Community Advisory Group for Sound Transit‘s West Seattle extension meets online for a “deep dive” into the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, which is up for public comment until April 28th.

Last night, another neighborhood group met with ST to get answers to questions about the DEIS, which analyzes the proposed routing and station-location alternatives that are under consideration. The Pigeon Point Neighborhood Council has a unique perspective – to get across the Duwamish River and to a North Delridge station, the line may have to cut into the north end of their neighborhood. Just south of where, for example – as discussed in informal pre-meeting chatter – a dozen or more Great Blue Herons are back in their nests.

PPNC’s Pete Spalding – who’s also a member of the Community Advisory Group – facilitated. In introductions at the start of the meeting, some attendees mentioned having received the “we might need your property” letters from ST; others had not.

The meeting began with a project recap from ST’s West Seattle point person Jason Hampton, as had other meetings. We’ve covered it before – and the presenter was asked to cut the generic stuff short anyway – so we’ll focus this report mostly on unique Q&A. Of most interest to this group were the three studied alternatives for getting light rail across the river via a new bridge – either south of the existing motorized-vehicle bridge, or north of it.

One of the issues for what’s currently described as the “preferred alternative” is “Pigeon Point constructability” – the aforementioned heron rookery is part of that:

The two south-of-the-current-bridge alternatives both project 26 residential displacements. The “North Crossing” alternative would avoid Pigeon Point entirely – no residential displacements, but a greater number of maritime-business displacements. It also would not affect parkland.

In Q&A: Why isn’t the north route the “preferred” route? That was a decision by the ST Board before the DEIS, explained facilitator Leda Chahim; they’ll finalize, or change, that, going into the final EIS, so it’s something to get into a formal comment – the board is who needs to hear that the north route should be “preferred” because it doesn’t displace anyone. Chahim noted that Seattle representation on the board includes Mayor Bruce Harrell, City Council President Debora Juarez, and two elected officials who also happen to be West Seattleites – King County Council Vice Chair Joe McDermott and King County Executive Dow Constantine.

Where can you find more-specific drawings and information? The Executive Summary and Appendix J are two places to find them, said Chahim.

How far south into Pigeon Point might the route go? Hampton showed page 22 of Appendix J, noting that it was published with south at the top of the page instead of north.

If you are looking for details about your home or business along the line, look for these drawings, which Hampson says exist for the entirety of the proposed routes (alignments) – though keep in mind that this is an early phase of design, so they’re not final plans. But they show potential routing, all the way down to the potential construction-access roads. Hampton showed the drawings for all three alternatives, including the north crossing, which would cross over the West Seattle Bridge around the 5-way intersection, “near the Chelan Café.” Would it affect port operations at Terminal 5? ST deferred comment to the port (not present at the meeting), while saying one of the appendixes discusses “economic effects,” including how the port will be affected.

Hampton also recommended looking at Appendix N2 for Delridge station alternatives’ effects. He also went through the toplines about the alternatives – the Dakota Street Station, 110 feet up, or with third-party funding to cover extra costs, a 60-foot-high version (which would have to connect to a tunneled Avalon station). There are also Andover station options – 90′ would be the “lower height” option. Spalding pointed out the North Delridge businesses – Ounces, Skylark, Mode Music Studios (WSB sponsor), etc. – that would be displaced. Chahim said there’ll be opportunity after the station opens, “but of course there’s a very large disruption” first. There are also potential Delridge station locations right on the namesake street, south of Andover and north of Dakota (between the West Seattle Corporate Center and DSHS building’s current sites).

The group agreed that property-acquisition process questions could wait for a later meeting – they’re a discussion all their own (Pigeon Point got some early info three years ago, and there are some toplines in the “online open house,” here.)

What about noise – will a higher-elevation line be noisier than one closer to street level? Chapter 4 of the DEIS has noise information, Hampton said. He also said that “noise mitigation” would be part of the project, such as added walls.

WHAT’S NEXT? Tonight’s meeting, 5 pm (here’s the viewing link), plus additional meetings later this month – the West Seattle Transportation Coalition has a workshop on March 24th, and Sound Transit’s West Seattle-specific meeting is March 30th.

READY TO COMMENT: Toward the start of the meeting, ST’s Lora Radford included the reminder about attributes of an ideal comment:

The agency’s ongoing “online open house” details various ways to get your comment to ST. These comments will be factored into the next routing decision; a final decision will be made after the final DEIS comes out next year.

12 Replies to "LIGHT RAIL: With 52 days left to comment, here's how Pigeon Point's Q&A with Sound Transit went"

  • Birds of a feather March 8, 2022 (6:40 pm)

    Please do not impact the heron rookery.

    Can anyone from the SkyLink team speak to if their proposed line would impact these herons?

    • Martin March 9, 2022 (11:19 am)

      What’s the exact location of the heron rookery? SkyLink is asking Sound Transit to fund a detailed study to determine gondola routes which could avoid the rookery or go high above it to avoid disturbances. In any case it would avoid building of another bridge and the associated 5 year construction efforts.

      • Birds of a feather March 9, 2022 (12:26 pm)

        Sounds good, thanks Martin. Appreciate SkyLink looking out for these herons in their proposal process!

        Also, sounds like the impact to the land and displacement of wildlife, and people, should be less with the proposed gondola vs what it will take to build the light rail lines 👍

  • Pete March 8, 2022 (9:38 pm)

    Skyline’s materials indicate the line would basically go right over the rookery. 

    • Martin March 9, 2022 (1:00 pm)

      My understanding is that the heron rookery is about at 19th and Charlestown whereas the SkyLink map currently proposes to cross Andover at 17th. That would be quite a bit further South. I’m sure this will get taken into consideration when the detailed study is done.

      • PP4Life March 9, 2022 (4:01 pm)

        Can you provide a more detailed map of where Skylink crosses Pigeon Point? The map on your website map is not very detailed (see below). Also, of note when looking at the map there will be Skylink directly over homes across PP, whereas the light rail would only skim the northern portion and those homes will be bought out. I understand Skylink has no plans to acquire lands and homes directly under its path, unlike light rail. Why not avoid going over homes and follow more of a light rail path if you want more community buy in? 

        • nwpolitico March 9, 2022 (5:53 pm)

          It would probably take a feasibility study to get you a more detailed map. I would guess going directly over Pigeon Point, instead of curving around the point itself, leads to a faster ride. Also, the glass in gondola cabins is designed to frost when going over residential areas like Pigeon Point, which typically assuages concerns about going over homes. Hope that helps!

          • PP4Life March 10, 2022 (9:42 am)

            But what about homeowners that must overlook this potentially over their home or next to their home? Your viewpoint is clearly one-sided from someone whose house it won’t potentially go over. 

          • nwpolitico March 10, 2022 (11:24 am)

            Don’t worry, not trying to provide a viewpoint on the route – just trying to explain the reasoning as I see it! I encourage you to attend the meeting on the 22nd that was mentioned in other comments and ask those questions so you can get more detailed answers.

        • Martin March 9, 2022 (7:28 pm)

          The SkyLink team is currently advocating for Sound Transit to do a more detailed study which would look at different routes. While most of their proposed line will go over existing streets, it may go over some homes, but they are also considering routes which would avoid that. A gondola has more flexibility as light rail technology, but it does require a more detailed study. SkyLink plans to do an online meeting to discuss their concepts on the 22nd, check on the WSB event schedule soon.

  • Karen March 9, 2022 (1:35 pm)

    Bald eagles have decimated the rookeries in the past.  Perhaps it won’t require consideration by the time this gets off the ground. 

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