2 key light-rail dates pushed back, Sound Transit tells West Seattle Transportation Coalition

(Sound Transit rendering, possible routing at Genesee looking east toward Avalon)

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Two dates of note on the Sound Transit light-rail extension timeline have been pushed back, ST told the West Seattle Transportation Coalition tonight.

One is the date ST will release the final Environmental Impact Statement for the West Seattle extension, which has to happen before the ST board finalizes the routing and station locations.

The other is the date the Ballard extension is projected to open – important for West Seattle because light rail from here won’t go all the way downtown (and beyond) until then; riders from West Seattle will have to transfer in SODO.

ST’s Leda Chahim and Jason Hampton provided the updates – no slide deck, so we don’t have visual highlights. Chahim first spotlighted the split between timelines for the West Seattle and Ballard extensions, since various factors led to the West Seattle “preferred alternative” being identified first, rather than the two extensions’ planning processes rolling along in parallel. Then Chahim said they’re not expecting to publish the final EIS for West Seattle until next year – and not early in the year, either; she said it would be after the first quarter. The most-recent timeline had been “late 2023,” which is still on the ST project website tonight, though Chahim said some updates would appear there soon.

She also said the final EIS will incorporate the “further studies” items – they’ll all be fully analyzed. Otherwise, they’re “still working on details’ but expect community engagement “this fall” for the stations and design concepts. Before then, they’ll be out at fairs, festivals, and the Farmers’ Market, to get reacquainted with the community.

WSTC’s Deb Barker asked for more about the status of “refinements” (aka the “further studies” items). Hampton took on that reply. He recapped what’s been studied – potential access improvements for the Delridge station and shifting a station entrance for The Junction. Chahim said the ongoing project website will be updated in the next few days. So with Ballard on a different timeline, what will that mean for the gap between trains from West Seattle going to SODO and going beyond? The additional work on Ballard has taken almost two years so that extension is now not expected to open until 2039 – which means a seven-year gap, previously five years (Chahim said 2032 is still the projected date for West Seattle). West Seattle RapidRide routes to downtown will continue for all those years, Hampton said.

Barker wondered what ST is doing to educate candidates, considering that this fall’s local elections will bring lots of changes (for example, two Seattle ST board members are not running for re-election, King County Councilmember Joe McDermott of West Seattle and City Council President Debora Juarez of North Seattle). Chahim didn’t know of anything in particular.

WSTC chair Michael Taylor-Judd suggested that ST needs to think about incorporating commercial space at stations, considering the “much-loved” neighborhood businesses that are likely to be displaced. He talked about how the supportive-housing Cottage Grove Commons building included space for the nonprofit Delridge Grocery Co-op, which has taken a while to really blossom but is finally getting there.

The Sound Transit updates followed an appearance by Metro reps to discuss one specific service:

TRAILHEAD DIRECT: This is a seasonal service for taking transit to a faraway hike! Ryan Miller from Metro talked about the program, which started with a pilot in 2017, then expanded to connect with Seattle light rail in 2018 and to serve destinations that people were asking about. They “started the program to mitigate parking access” but learned that the program really was about equitable access to outdoor destinations. That led to a new route from South King County in 2019. The pandemic led to a time of re-evaluation; they brought back two popular routes, from Issaquah and from Capitol Hill, in 2021. That year, though, they also were affected by the operator shortages that have plagued the entire system. So now they’re focusing on the route from Capitol Hill, and “that’s where we’re at for this season,” said Miller.

In Q&A – what’s the cost? Same as other transit – no special fare. (That also means free for 18 and under, interjected Metro’s Al Sanders.) And the buses do have bicycle racks. In response to another question, Miller said the lessons they’ve learned from Trailhead Direct have helped them when planning service restructuring, to include parks and other destinations. WSTC’s Barker pointed out that Alki service is spotty since Route 37 is long suspended; Miller noted 50, 773, and 775 still run. What types of coaches does Trailhead Direct use? asked WSTC’s Kate Wells. They tend to be a “little smaller” than the standard Metro coach, Miller said. The drivers are with Hopelink, so they don’t come from the pool handling general Metro service.

BOARD ELECTIONS: Three members were re-elected; no one was nominated for three vacant positions, so if you’re interested, contact WSTC and get involved.

NEXT MEETINGS: WSTC remains on an every-other-month schedule – so the rest of the year will include July 27th, September 28th, November 16th (tentative), 6:30 pm. They’re still mulling locations in hopes of holding hybrid meetings (in-person and online).

25 Replies to "2 key light-rail dates pushed back, Sound Transit tells West Seattle Transportation Coalition"

  • John Mcknight May 26, 2023 (6:19 am)

    I’m still amazed by the 2032 planned opening date  – Nine years from now seems like an incredibly long time and based on delays ST has incurred  with other lines (Bellevue) this will probably push out further. I have hard time understanding why timeline  can’t be shortened. West Seattle will invariably go through a lot change by the time light rail comes online and fingers crossed today’s design aligns with community development a decade from now. 

    • WestSeattleBadTakes May 26, 2023 (9:45 am)

      In what world would more transit be unnecessary in the future? The one where West Seattle breaks off into the Sound?

      • Jay May 26, 2023 (11:43 am)

        The slow pace is a funding issue. Sound Transit has limits on the money it can borrow. In other places, the goal is to build transit as fast as possible and pay it off over time. For the ST3 project, we’re building it very slowly according to funding streams and debt limits. (Not to mention the state allowing local municipalities to hold the right-of-way hostage for bribes – looking at Mercer Island in particular. Just use eminent domain!) That’s why this is a multi-generational project for Sound Transit but France or South Korea could knock the whole thing out in under five years.

      • Danimal May 26, 2023 (3:08 pm)

        WSbadtakes- yours certainly is a bad take this time. Are you being intentionally obtuse? Because your past posts certainly seem to have an air of “I’m smarter and more educated than you.” Somehow I think you can figure out what is meant by community development. And a word salad response isn’t going to help you in this particular conversation.

  • Jeff May 26, 2023 (9:16 am)

    Every delay in final design leaves hundreds of people in limbo that much longer, and every delay in construction raises the cost.   

    • Derek May 26, 2023 (1:43 pm)

      We need to get this going. Lightrail is so beyond needed and would make us a real city.

    • Bronson May 26, 2023 (3:54 pm)

      Thank you Jeff. 100% accurate and as an impacted family I’m infuriated by ST’s slow crawl keeping us in limbo for 7 bleeping years since the vote and still no final routing. Absolutely inexcusable and in fact, there seems to have been no reason provided. I wish I could just push due dates at my job like ST does. 

  • Chuck Jacobs May 26, 2023 (10:21 am)

    It’s okay. They’ll run years late and $3.2 billion over budget, quietly declare a reset, and claim on-time & under budget when they finish, just like they did with ST1.

  • Scarlett May 26, 2023 (10:38 am)

    No need to wait nine years to arrive at the realization that you were sold a bill of goods – this light line is already obselete.  But then, ideological whimsy always overwhelms rational thinking. There is a good article in Scientific American that delves into the overlooked solution of bus transit.

    • East Coast Cynic May 26, 2023 (12:45 pm)

      Until buses can fly over peak hour car traffic and traffic delays caused by car accidents (which I’ve experienced on many occasions in West Seattle), I don’t believe that light rail, which goes above and below car traffic, can be considered outdated.

      • Scarlett May 26, 2023 (1:07 pm)

        It’s a couple of rails that are permanently embedded in the ground and offer zero flexibility in terms of growth and moving people around  (see the abandoned rail lines in Seattle from the past.)  It is a monstrous expenditure of money for little in return.   .  It’s DOA and obsolete.   Get back to me in nine years when this absurdity is birthed. 

      • Danimal May 26, 2023 (3:10 pm)

        East coast cynic – hear hear!! I’m shocked Scarlett ignores the damage these overweight buses do to our already mediocre roads, not to mention exactly what you said. Light rail is a GREAT option and I will use the heck out of it when we finally get it, even if I’ll be in my late 50s.

    • Wseattleite May 27, 2023 (12:22 am)

      Scarlett nailed it. 

  • TJ May 26, 2023 (11:20 am)

    Sound Transit has proved to be a nightmare. It’s too bad it took to “ST3” for most people to realize that when ST1 & ST2 showed the incompetence. They threw ST3 at the voters knowing the timeline and budget would be broken. $53 billion is a astronomical number that won’t cover all these promises. I know that they want to throw a “ST4” proposal out but they know there is no chance it would pass in the Sound Transit voting district with the anger, particularly outside Seattle. Whenever this boondoggle opens, transportation will be different with autonomous vehicle technology being reliable then. I live in Arizona over half the time and will be fully finally at some point in the next year so won’t see this to fruition, but ST3 was the most annoying tax and I did everything I could to not pay for it

  • Gaslit May 26, 2023 (11:33 am)

    For anyone who gets on these comments and goes on about the evils of single occupancy vehicles, bookmark this post. This is why people continue to drive their cars. This needn’t and shouldn’t be this disfunctional, but it continues to be. This would be 1000% easier if government simply stepped out of the process and accepted bids from the private sector to get the work done. What a quagmire. 

  • Overpriced May 26, 2023 (11:56 am)

    Most of the highly paid ST wii be retired by then and the new employees will reset the program and get the highly paid salary again and on on it goes

  • flimflam May 26, 2023 (12:16 pm)

    Delay, huh? I’m shocked.

  • Rhonda May 26, 2023 (1:19 pm)

    This is example #527 of why I voted NO on ST3.

  • anonyme May 26, 2023 (2:20 pm)

    Millions already wasted, and I agree with others that the design will be obsolete by the time any piece of this project gets to fruition.  A repeat of the monorail boondoggle.

    • Rick May 27, 2023 (9:17 am)

      Hey, a few million here, a few million there and pretty soon you’re talking REAL money!

  • John May 26, 2023 (3:06 pm)

    In the meantime we can keep paying for it.

  • Admiral May 26, 2023 (5:17 pm)

    Decision afobia is pervasive, the reality is you cannot please everyone.  It’s time to make decisions and start construction yesterday.

  • 22blades May 27, 2023 (6:21 am)

    “…they’re not expecting to publish the final EIS for West Seattle until next year “ This is the same agency that somehow MISSED A SWAMP in their EIS necessitating a redesign with a bridge over I5.

  • SeattleKat May 28, 2023 (3:53 am)

    All I can say is I’m visiting family in DC right now and it is SO nice to be in a city with a real transportation system. We’ve relied on subway/busses all week and have gotten everywhere we wanted to in reasonable amounts of time and at very reasonable cost. Makes Seattle feel pretty backwards by comparison 

  • Eldorado May 31, 2023 (6:51 am)

    There’s another delay? I’m shocked! Sound Transit has been so ‘on time’ and ‘under budget’ so far. 

Sorry, comment time is over.