West Seattle, Washington
(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).
Thanks for the tips/questions/photos! Work crews like the one above near 40th/Oregon in The Junction are out doing more environmental testing for Sound Transit light-rail planning. ST says nearby residents should have all received explanatory flyers, but if you didn’t, here’s the one for 40th/Oregon, and here’s the one for 37th/Fauntleroy. In both cases, crews are boring holes for monitoring water levels in the ground – according to the flyers, “Crews will monitor water levels by visiting these sites about every few months to take measurements throughout final design of the project.” ST is continuing to work toward publishing the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the West Seattle routing/station locations later this year.
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Toward the end of a four-hour meeting today, the West Seattle portion of Sound Transit‘s light-rail “further studies” briefing lasted just a few minutes. That was not entirely surprising, since the rest of the briefing for the ST Board’s System Expansion Committee included sections for which big decisions have yet to be made.”Gotta fish or cut bait pretty soon here” is how ST board member Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell put it regarding those decisions. ‘
But the briefing did illuminate a few things for the West Seattle segment. For one, ST staff put forward a possible “end-to-end scenario” that incorporated two of the three “studied” possibilities for West Seattle – moving the entrance to the Junction station and shifting the Delridge alignment – but did not include the potential removal of the Avalon station. That doesn’t mean this is what staff is necessarily formally proposing or supporting, but it’s worth noting that it’s what they showed as an example.
Before getting to that slide, ST’s Cathal Ridge showed slides going back through the three West Seattle “further studies” proposals (explained in this memo). The most detailed was the possible Delridge “refinement,” which Ridge said had been evolving as design work proceeded:
Here’s the “updated concept” addressing some of the Delridge station concerns:
Another major concern that had come up earlier in the process was the potential effects on Transitional Resources, a nonprofit serving people living with behavioral-health challenges, with services and facilities including supportive housing. As this slide showed, the current alignment goes right through the heart of its operations:
The “refinement” shown today wouldn’t entirely spare Transitional Resources, but would reduce the major effect to one smaller property, Ridge said:
Uphill from there, he had little elaboration about the possibility of dropping the Avalon station, beyond what this slide shows:
Earlier in the meeting, leading off the public-comment section, City Councilmember Lisa Herbold urged board members to think about how elimination of the Avalon station might affect low-income High Point residents needing to get to light rail. Meantime, back to the last “further studies” area, here are the slides shown for the possible relocation of the Junction station entrance:
This option, it was clarified in response to a question, would only move the entrance, not the station itself.
So what’s next? For the West Seattle items, that’s up in the air. No vote is required (until the vote later this year that finalizes “the project to be built,” after the Final Environmental Impact Statement comes out). The board does have to vote on a “preferred alternative” for the rest of the West Seattle/Ballard extensions, beyond SODO, and is expected to do that next month. One thing we do know is that they’re still taking community feedback on all the “further studies” items (see the full 134-page slide deck here) and will get a summary at the full board’s February 23rd meeting, so if you feel strongly about one or more of these possible changes, now’s the time to say something. Here’s a survey, open for one more week (until February 17th), also reachable from the “further studies” section of the West Seattle/Ballard Link Extensions website.
Tomorrow, the Sound Transit Board‘s System Expansion Committee takes a closer look at the West Seattle/Ballard light-rail extension proposals that were suggested for “further studies.” This includes three possible West Seattle changes:
-Move Junction station entrance west to 42nd SW
-Shift Delridge alignment
-Drop Avalon station
None of these were part of what the ST Board approved as the preliminary “preferred alignment” last year, but any or all could be added to the plan before the board’s final routing/station-location decision later this year. First, the results of the “further studies” have to be presented (and potentially discussed), and that’s on the agenda for the committee’s 1-5 pm meeting tomorrow.
The details are in this document. Here are toplines on the three:
Above is the map for what moving The Junction station would look like. The key points from the report:
Study focus: Improve station access
The Alaska Junction Station Access Refinement concept reduces the travel time needed to access the station entrance for passengers approaching from California Avenue SW and transferring from north-south bus routes.
Property acquisition and displacements
The Alaska Junction Station Access Refinement concept results in full acquisition of the Jefferson Square property, bounded by SW Alaska Street, 41st Avenue SW, 42nd Avenue SW, and SW Edmunds Street, and reduced property acquisition east of 41st Avenue SW, south of SW Alaska Street. This results in a net change of 39 fewer residential displacements and 32 additional business displacements.
The full acquisition of the Jefferson Square property increases the opportunity for agency-led equitable transit-oriented development (eTOD) for WSJ-5. This provides the opportunity for development of a large contiguous site with 90 additional potential residential units, compared to WSJ-5.
The Alaska Junction Station Access Refinement concept has the potential to increase the cost from the realigned financial plan (including WSJ-5) by about $81 million.
Next, the map for what shifting the Delridge alignment would look like:
Key points from the report:
Study focus: Improve station access and transit integration
The concept achieves the study objective of facilitating streamlined bus-light rail transfers by positioning bus stops adjacent to the light rail station entrance. DEL-6 assumed bus loading zones on both sides of SW Andover Street, requiring people transferring between buses and light rail to cross SW Andover Street at street level in the vicinity of the main access point for trucks serving Nucor Steel. This refinement eliminates the need for light rail passengers transferring from buses to cross SW Andover Street and removes conflicts between people walking and biking to the station and freight movement. Additionally, the refinement lowers the station height by about 15 feet, reducing the time needed for passengers to access the station from ground level. These changes improve the transfer experience for passengers traveling to and from communities to the south of the station, with higher percentages of people of color and low-income people.
Study focus: Reduce effects to organizations serving low-income and communities of color
The concept avoids two Transitional Resources buildings on the west side of SW Avalon Way at SW Andover Street, which include multiple residential units and outpatient behavioral health offices. The concept avoids 31 units of housing but does affect a different Transitional Resources property that provides housing for five people. These units could be more easily relocated than those affected by DEL-6.
Traffic and transit effects
The project team evaluated the traffic implications of adding a new signal at 23rd Avenue SW and Delridge Way SW. A new signal at this location is not expected to affect roadway safety for southbound traffic exiting from the West Seattle Bridge onto Delridge Way SW. Additionally, in the afternoon peak period when southbound volumes are highest, the new traffic signal is not expected to result in a queue beyond what would occur without the new signal. This result is in part due to the existing signal at SW Andover Street and Delridge Way SW. The project team is currently evaluating circulation options to minimize bus travel times on Delridge Way SW, while still providing a direct connection to the station entrance. This work will be completed in the preliminary engineering (PE) and final design phases of the project.
The creation of a cul-de-sac at 32nd Avenue SW is not expected to have implications to traffic. The block of 32nd Avenue SW that would be affected is a low volume local residential street.Some properties on the east side of the street may also be able to continue to access their properties from the alley. Additionally, emergency vehicles may have a longer route to access some properties. Design treatments for the cul-de-sacs and parking restrictions may need to be considered to accommodate adequate emergency access.
Property acquisitions and displacements
Overall, the concept results in 14 fewer residential displacements and 3 more business displacements.
Effects to Longfellow Creek
The changes to the orientation of Delridge Station result in a new elevated track alignment that crosses a daylighted portion of the creek, rather than the piped portion crossed by DEL-6, with columns within the riparian management corridor and 100-year FEMA floodplain. This new alignment will therefore require additional regulatory approvals from federal and state agencies as well as the City. The project team is coordinating closely with the City of Seattle SPU and SDCI to evaluate multiple scenarios to minimize effects to riparian corridor and floodplain.
The Delridge Access, Integration, and Alignment Refinement concept has the potential to increase the cost from the realigned financial plan (including DEL-6) by about $53 million.
Finally, the map of what would change if the Avalon station was dropped from the plan:
Here’s what the report says that would do:
Study focus: Cost savings
The Eliminate Avalon Station concept, including the Delridge Access, Integration, and Alignment Refinement, has the potential to lower the cost from the realigned financial plan (including WSJ5 and DEL-6) by about $31 million.
Passenger experience and station access
The Eliminate Avalon Station concept results in longer travel times for passengers taking light rail from the area around the WSJ-5 Avalon Station location. These passengers could walk, bike, or take transit to the Alaska Junction or Delridge Stations. Alaska Junction Station is located uphill from the Avalon Station location, while Delridge Station is located downhill. Bus routes that would have connected to Avalon Station would be reconfigured to connect to Alaska Junction or Delridge stations, so bus access to Link stations may take longer for some riders.
The analysis shows that the elimination of Avalon Station would not result in a reduction in ridership on the West Seattle Extension. In 2042, the Extension would serve a similar number of trips as WSJ-5 due to an anticipated ridership increase at Alaska Junction Station. Any ridership increase is not expected to result in additional substantive traffic effects as most of the additional trips would come from people walking, biking, or transferring from buses.
Property acquisition and displacements
Overall, this concept results in approximately 48 fewer residential displacements, and 3 fewer business displacements.
The concept eliminates the need for a one-year full closure of 35th Avenue SW south of SW Genesee Street and a one-and-a-half-year partial closure of Fauntleroy Way SW at SW Avalon Way during construction.
Street ROW [right of way] effects
The concept results in the following street ROW effects:
• Avoids permanent closure of SW Genesee Street at 35th Avenue SW
• Additional permanent roadway closures for a tunnel portal in the vicinity of SW Andover Street and 32nd Avenue SW
The report on these studies does not include a recommendation on whether the board should adopt them or not; no vote is scheduled so far. Eventually the board could simply decide to take the results under advisement and never take action on them. But if you have a strong opinion about any of them, pro or con, you’ll want to comment – you can do that during tomorrow’s meeting or in writing before/during/after. Here’s how. The meeting agenda also has the link for viewing or calling in to tomorrow afternoon’s meeting, which also is open to the public in person at the ST Board Room in Union Station downtown (401 S. Jackson).
4:52 PM: The Sound Transit Board‘s meeting has just concluded. As we learned shortly before the meeting, West Seattle “areas of further study” results for ideas such as scrapping the Avalon station were not part of today’s presentation after all, but will be included when the board’s System Expansion Committee meets at 1 pm Thursday, February 9th. The slide deck for this afternoon’s presentation by ST’s Cathal Ridge nonetheless included two dates of note:
Those dates: The vote to finalize the route and station locations is now expected on November 16th. The Final Environmental Impact Statement will be released at some point before that. According to the new timeline, the West Seattle project schedule has slid two months; the line is expected to open in the final quarter of 2032. One more note: While a new survey for the West Seattle/Ballard extensions mostly focuses on the unsettled areas, there is an open-ended option for providing West Seattle feedback; you can go here to do that before February 17th.
6:54 PM: The project website does recap some of what’s been found about the proposed West Seattle “areas of further study,” even though it wasn’t discussed today. Go here and scroll to where you can expand the West Seattle Link Extension section. From what you’ll find there:
Delridge access, integration and alignment refinement shifts alignment south towards SW Yancy Steet to improve passenger access and transit integration and reduce effects to organizations serving low-income and communities of color.
14 fewer residential and 3 additional business displacements
Eliminates potential passenger and freight conflicts
Permanent closure of 32nd Ave
Cost delta compared to realigned financial plan: + $50 million
Eliminate Avalon Station eliminates station and optimizes alignment to reduce costs. Assumes shifting alignment south towards SW Yancy St.
48 fewer residential displacements and 3 fewer business displacements
Longer travel times for passengers closer to DEIS Avalon Station
No expected decrease in project ridership
Reduces temporary and permanent roadway closures
Cost delta compared to realigned financial plan: – $80 million
Alaska Junction station access refinement shifts station entrance 42nd Avenue SW to improve passenger access.
90 additional equitable transit oriented development housing units
Eliminates need for pedestrian crossing of 41st Ave SW
39 fewer residential and 32 additional business displacements
Cost delta compared to realigned financial plan: + $80 million
ORIGINAL WEDNESDAY REPORT: When the Sound Transit Board meets Thursday afternoon, it’s scheduled to hear a report on some as-yet-undecided aspects of the West Seattle light-rail project, the “Areas of Further Study,” which most notably included the possibility of scrapping the Avalon station. The “areas” were recapped in a presentation at a board-committee meeting back in November – this is a slide section showing the West Seattle study subjects:
(The full slide deck from the November meeting includes closer looks at each “area.”) Some residents close to the proposed light-rail route have received a flyer mentioning the presentation planned tomorrow – we heard from one resident near 32nd/Genesee who said a printed copy was hung on her front gate. The flyer also says the “further study” results will be discussed when the board’s System Expansion Committee meets February 9th. Here’s the 1:30 pm meeting’s agenda (including how to comment); we’ve requested the report in advance but it hasn’t been made available yet.
One other West Seattle light-rail-related note: ST is now doing more field work, involving “noise monitoring at several properties near the West Seattle Link Extension corridor” as part of the work toward the Final Environmental Impact Statement’s publication later this year. This flyer, forwarded to us by another community member, has gone out to residents who agreed to allow monitoring devices on their property. The flyer, among other things, says they’re not recording actual sound, just decibel levels. We have several followup questions out to ST, including asking which areas these studies are being conducted in.
ADDED 12:13 PM THURSDAY: As noted below, we have finally obtained some advance information on today’s discussion, and are told it will NOT include West Seattle results, but will focus on other areas of the project, particularly Ballard. West Seattle will get a closer look at the February 9th System Expansion Committee meeting, we’re told.
Before this year is out, the Sound Transit Board of Directors is expected to take a final vote on exactly where West Seattle’s light-rail extension will run, and stop. That decision will set in motion a wave of changes for multiple neighborhoods. Some people will have to move their homes and businesses. Some are looking forward to access to more transit. Local writer Marie McKinsey is launching a site to collect community opinions and information, after seeing how some light-rail-related posts on her personal website – such as this one – draw a lot of interest. She explains further:
The response to blog posts like this one has shown me that there are deep concerns in the neighborhood about this project. I’m not sure it would pass if presented to voters today.
I was talking to some friends about this recently. They are frustrated with this project and believe others are, too. They just don’t have a way to connect with them.
It occurred to me that it might help if there was a single website that could show the Big Picture of public sentiment. One that gives people a place to share their DEIS comments, their experiences with Sound Transit, and stories about how this project will affect them. Maybe that will lead to connections between people across the various micro-neighborhoods affected.
So I created a blog that people can contribute to. I will add separate pages if needed to accommodate community organizations, like Pigeon Point, Delridge, etc. It’s a Blogger site, so there are no expenses for any of us. Here’s the URL: westseattleneighbors.blogspot.com
I’d like for people to know they can send me information and I will post it. I have no idea where this will go. I’m just going to put it out there and see who shows up.
Her email address is on the site. Right now, Sound Transit is working on the final Environmental Impact Statement for the extension, which has to respond to concerns raised after the Draft EIS went public before last July’s “semi-final” routing/station location vote. ST’s current estimate for Final EIS release is “late” this year; 2032 is the estimated date for the West Seattle light-rail extension to start running.
A West Seattle resident will be presiding over the Sound Transit Board when the final decision about West Seattle routing is made next year. King County Executive Dow Constantine was elected this afternoon as the board’s new chair, a role he held 2014-2016. He’ll become chair in January, succeeding Kent Keel, a city councilmember from University Place in Pierce County, who has chaired the ST Board for the past three years. Keel and Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers will serve as vice chairs. As explained here, “The board includes three members from Snohomish County, ten from King County, four from Pierce County and the secretary of the Washington State Department of Transportation.” The current King County members include one other West Seattleite, County Councilmember Joe McDermott. ST is currently working on the final Environmental Impact Statement for the West Seattle extension, due out next year, with a final routing/stations decision to follow. Latest timeline is for West Seattle to SODO light rail to open in 2032.
As Mayor Bruce Harrell said in his budget speech, the city intends to be closely involved in planning for the West Seattle/Ballard Extensions of Sound Transit light rail – and one of the city entities keeping an eye on the project will be touring part of the planned route tomorrow (Thursday, October 6). Thanks to West Seattle community advocate Deb Barker for the tip on the Seattle Design Commission‘s plan to spend its regular meeting on this tour. The SDC is an advisory group and its meetings are open to the public. From the agenda:
SDC WSBLE Tour of Delridge, Avalon, and Alaska Junction Light Rail Station locations
Alaska Junction Station Location
Location: SE corner of SW Alaska St and 42nd Ave SW
Location: 35th Ave SW and SW Dakota St (one block north of station location)
Location: Corner of SW Yancy, SW Andover, and 32nd Ave SW
Location: NW corner of Delridge Way SW and SW Andover St
You can catch up with them at one or more of the stops.
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
While the region was dealing with transportation troubles by sea and by land this afternoon, the Sound Transit Board of Directors took what you could call it semifinal vote on routing and station locations for West Seattle’s future light rail.
Without much discussion, despite an at-times-emotional last round of public comment, board members unanimously approved final environmental-impact studies for the “preferred alternative” recommended by a board committee two weeks ago, with these locations and possible modifications:
See the full slide deck here. For engineering concept diagrams, you can see this appendix of the Draft Environmental Impact Report; for lists of potentially affected parcels, see this section of the DEIS. (ADDED) For summaries of the chosen options, see this document – page 41 explains the Junction station and the “retained cut” Avalon station that goes with it (unless dropped later), while page 36 explains the Andover station, and page 26 summarizes the “preferred” Duwamish River crossing.
Almost all of the West Seattle-related comments in the hour and a half of public comment that opened the meeting had to do with opposition to the Delridge station option the board is supporting, DEL-6, particularly because of its potential impacts on Transitional Resources, which provides supportive housing and other services to people living with behavioral/mental-health issues, many of whom were formerly homeless, about half of whom TR says are BIPOC. TR’s CEO Darcell Slovek-Walker broke down in tears while speaking to the board today, recounting how she had to tell clients that “their homes are at risk.” TR clients past and present spoke as well; one asked, “how can you even think about tearing it down?” A current resident said, “There’s nothing transitional about (it) … please don’t destroy our homes.” Another, who said TR saved their life 10 years ago, added, “I was given a home that surrounded me with love and support” after leaving a hospital … “the irony is that TR taught me how to use Seattle transit, including light rail, for my independence.” And a TR supporter said that what the organization provides “cannot be replicated” and “serves the most marginalized people in our community.” Almost all the non-WS comments at the meeting were about the Chinatown-ID station south of downtown, which will be studied for at least a few more months before the board votes on a “preferred alternative.”
At least one board member said they were moved by the Transitional Resources stories and pledged to do what they could to find a way to lessen the project’s impact. ST executive Cathal Ridge, while presenting the motion’s key points, said that the modifications to be studied – perhaps shifting the Andover station-related route a bit – could work toward that end.
WHAT’S NEXT: ST staff now works on the final Environmental Impact Statement, which among other things will respond to all the concerns and issues raised in relation to the Draft EIS. The FEIS is due out sometime next year; after that, the board would take a final vote on routing and station locations. If nothing else affects the timeline, West Seattle light rail is still expected to open in 2032.
It won’t be the final decision on West Seattle light-rail routing and station locations – but it’s close. Tomorrow (Thursday, July 28th) the Sound Transit Board is expected to vote on the “preferred alternative” to send into final environmental studies, which would then be followed by a final vote next year on what/where to build. Two weeks ago (WSB coverage here), a board committee recommended passage of a motion that included the 41st SW “medium tunnel” alternative for The Junction, the Andover alternative for Delridge, and a south-crossing alternative for a new light-rail-only bridge across the Duwamish River. Much of the rest of the light-rail extensions , from the International District to Ballard, is still mired in enough controversy that the West Seattle/Duwamish section may be the only part advancing for now. The meeting is scheduled for 1:30 to 5 pm Thursday at Sound Transit’s downtown board room and online; public comments are accepted both ways, and the agenda includes information on how to offer your opinion.
This afternoon, the Sound Transit Board‘s System Expansion Committee gave its unanimous support to a recommendation for the light-rail “preferred alternative” from West Seattle to SODO. As for the rest of the West Seattle/Ballard stretch, various studies will push back that part of the Final Environmental Impact Statement, so West Seattle to SODO will basically have its own FEIS. The “preferred alternative” supported by the committee today includes the same options in the “example” shown to another board committee one week ago (WSB coverage here) – these two slides (here’s the full deck) tell the story:
Support for the DEL-6 option comes despite the Seattle City Council passing a resolution saying it can’t support any of the Delridge options, Meantime, the proposal (read it in full here) that received committee support today also keeps in play possible modifications including a Junction-station entrance at 42nd and removal of the Avalon station:
While removing the Avalon station could save $60 million, that savings is not needed for the West Seattle segment to remain “affordable,’ ST staff clarified at the request of West Seattle-residing board member Joe McDermott of the King County Council. McDermott also asked the board to reiterate that this decision still sends all the previously studied alternatives ahead in the Final EIS – the others just wouldn’t have the same level of engineering study as the “preferred alternative.” That was as he voiced concerns about the two organizations that say they and their clients would be displaced by the Andover station option, mental-health/supportive-housing provider Transitional Resources and child-care provider Alki Beach Academy. McDermott expressed hope that some sort of design modification might be possible to spare them.
WHAT’S NEXT: Today’s vote was a recommendation to the full board, which meets on July 28th. They will decide on the “preferred alternative” to send into final environmental studies, which would be followed by a decision next year on what to build. The West Seattle segment is projected for completion in 2032.
As of minutes ago, the City Council is now officially on the record as supporting a West Seattle Junction tunnel station for Sound Transit light rail, and taking no position on a Delridge station/routing option. The unanimous vote was for the same resolution amended and passed by the Transportation and Utilities Committee last week (WSB coverage here). From the resolution as passed today, here’s what the city goes on record as saying about the West Seattle segment:
A. West Seattle Junction Segment (Avalon and Alaska Junction stations): Preference for WSJ-5, medium tunnel to Alaska Junction station at 41st Street SW with retained cut Avalon station.
B. Delridge Segment (Delridge station): The City is not able to state a preference given the inadequate DEIS analysis of impacted social resources in this segment. The DEIS did not identify the Alki Beach Academy as a potentially impacted social resource, and therefore did not fully analyze the project’s impact on child-care services. The DEIS identified potential impacts to Transitional Resources, which relies on co-located services and housing to provide comprehensive transitional housing services. The City’s future support for DEL-6 is conditioned on avoidance or mitigation of impacts, or relocation, of impacted child-care and transitional housing service providers. The City encourages additional refinements to optimize transit integration and user experience for commuters arriving from Racial Equity Toolkit (RET)-identified communities including South Delridge and White Center. The additional refinements should include the creation of a transit access study for areas further south in the corridor that will access the new station by bus, include protections for Longfellow Creek, and minimize potential conflicts between pedestrians and freight movements.
C. Duwamish Crossing Segment: Preference for DUW-1a, South crossing, conditioned on adequate mitigation of impacts to parks, recreational areas, and natural habitat at Pigeon Point and the West Duwamish Greenbelt.
The next step for the Sound Transit Board is its System Expansion Committee meeting this Thursday (July 14th) at 1:30 pm – here’s the agenda. Last week, ST staff presented a board committee with an “example” to start discussing (WSB coverage here); it too has the tunneled Junction but also proposes the DEL-6 “lower height Andover” station alternative.
As the Sound Transit Board gets closer to choosing a West Seattle/Ballard light rail “modified preferred alternative” for the final phase of environmental study, its Executive Committee just got its first look at an “example” drawn up by staff. You can see it in its entirety in the full slide deck; here’s the slide with the West Seattle section:
The “example” includes the West Seattle Junction “medium tunnel” (41st SW) option that the city is also supporting (as reported here earlier this week). While a Junction tunnel previously was expected to require “third-party funding,” this is now considered to be comparable in cost to an elevated option. As for Delridge, the “example” proposes the Andover lower-height option, aka DEL-6, which has been at the center of a lot of discussion lately because its displacement would include Transitional Resources, which provides supportive housing and behavioral-health services, and the Alki Beach Academy child-care center. TR’s CEO Darcell Slovek-Walker was among the speakers at the meeting-opening public-comment period, saying, “Not all displacements are created equal,” saying DEL-6 would take out two of their buildings housing formerly homeless people living with mental illness, as well as their headquarters.
Meantime, ST’s Cathal Ridge, while presenting the “example,” also made note of previously presented modifications that are still in play for cost-saving consideration, including eliminating the Avalon station, which he said could save $60 million:
Board chair Kent Keel took pains to stress that the “example” is a starting point for board discussion, not a fully shaped proposal awaiting approval or rejection. Some discussion ensued at today’s meeting, but rather than opinions on specific sections, it focused on the fact the board probably needs extra time before making a decision – so that may not happen at their July 28th meeting after all. Next discussion will be one week from today, when the board’s System Expansion Committee meets (1:30 pm July 14th). Whatever “modified preferred alignment” the board settles on, that still won’t be the final decision – that would follow the final Environmental Impact Statement next year.
One month after a City Council committee got its first look at which West Seattle/Ballard light-rail routing/station alternatives were proposed for official city support – as covered here – there’s been a big change. At its meeting this morning, the Transportation and Utilities Committee voted unanimously for amended city-supported recommendations – including no preference for the Delridge station location.
(Light-rail discussion starts 33 minutes in)
As we reported last month, the draft recommendations included support for the alternative known as DEL-6, which was a late addition to what Sound Transit decided to study in the draft Environmental Impact Statement. Much recent concern centered on two specific facilities that DEL-6 could take out – the Alki Beach Academy child-care center in the business park off SW Andover, and Transitional Resources supportive housing for people living with mental illness, most of whom had previously been homeless. The amended resolution passed today says the city can’t support a “preferred alternative” for the Delridge station because of inadequate study of those effects. Bottom line, there’s “no clear community consensus” for a Delridge option, West Seattle/South Park Councilmember Lisa Herbold said during this morning’s meeting. Here’s the Delridge-related language in the amendment:
The resolution did not change the other two alternatives recommended for city support in this leg of ST light rail (currently expected to open in 2032) – the WSJ-5 “medium tunnel” option for The Junction, with an underground 41st SW station and a “retained cut” Avalon station, and a south Duwamish River crossing (DUW-1a). However, as pointed out during the meeting, the city recommendations are just recommendations – the decision on which alternatives to pursue for the final EIS and then the construction decision are wholly up to the Sound Transit Board. Its next vote is expected on July 28th, and board committees will talk about it before then, including the ST Executive Committee this Thursday (July 7th), 10:30 am. It’s a hybrid meeting; the agenda explains how to sign up for public comment, either online or in-person.
The Sound Transit Board‘s June meeting just wrapped up less than an hour ago – last one before it’s tasked with “confirming or modifying” a “preferred alignment” for West Seattle/Ballard light rail. ST staff is working on a proposal for that, board members were told, and will present it at the Executive Committee‘s meeting in two weeks. The board in the meantime were presented an overview today of the 5,195 comments received regarding the Draft Environmental Impact Statement between January 28th and April 28th. You can see them all here. Today’s meeting also featured a substantial amount of public comment from people in West Seattle, primarily expressing opposition to the DEL-6 station location/alignment (see page 10) for its prospective displacement of Transitional Resources – which provides supportive housing and mental-health services – and Alki Beach Academy.
Board chair Kent Keel insisted that when staff presents its draft alignment, that will not be “the final say” – the board will consider it over the course of three meetings, with a vote expected during the full board meeting on July 28th (for which the ending time has been potentially stretched to 5 pm, an extra hour). The two committee meetings at which this will be discussed before then are the Executive Committee meeting at 10:30 am July 7th and the System Expansion Committee meeting at 1:30 pm July 14th. ST has moved to hybrid meetings, so you can attend online or in the board room at Union Station downtown. One other thing to watch in the meantime: The city is drafting its official recommendations for the routing and station locations – which, when previewed earlier this month, included DEL-6.
Next Tuesday morning, the City Council’s Transportation and Utilities Committee will get a look at what West Seattle/Ballard light-rail routing and station-location alternatives the city is proposing supporting, before the Sound Transit Board settles on its “preferred alternative” recommendation next month. You don’t have to wait until the meeting for a look – the slide deck is already published along with the agenda (which explains how to comment at the meeting).
To come up with these recommendations, the city presentation notes, “Nearly 100 subject matter experts from 15+ City departments reviewed and commented on the 8000+ pages of (Draft Environmental Impact Statement) analysis.” They submitted more than 1,500 “technical comments” before the deadline a month ago; now, the biggest comments of all – which routing/station options the city wants to officially support. First, for The Junction:
The slide deck goes into more detail about why the city’s behind each option in the draft recommendations. Next, for Delridge:
And for the new bridge to get light rail across the Duwamish River, here’s the city’s choice:
The city support doesn’t carry an official weight – the final decisions on routing and station locations are in the hands of the Sound Transit Board, whose members include City Council President Debora Juarez and Mayor Bruce Harrell. They’re expected to settle on a “preferred alternative” at their July 28th meeting, though the absolute final word isn’t due until next year.
P.S. The board has made a big decision in the meantime – they’ve settled on a potential new CEO, Julie Timm from Richmond, Virginia – here’s the announcement made today.
In case you didn’t get to watch it on Friday afternoon, that video shows the two-hour workshop held for the Sound Transit Board‘s System Extension Committee, looking ahead to July’s decisions on the West Seattle/Ballard expansion project. We watched it in real time; it was mostly an overview of the potential routing and station locations studied in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, as well as a brief mention of the possible cost-saving measures recently presented to the Community Advisory Groups. (Here’s the slide deck.)
We heard one noteworthy point during the workshop – when the topic of rising costs arose, particularly real estate, Sound Transit staff noted that they’re likely to propose “early property acquisition” after the board locks in on a “preferred alternative” in July. We immediately asked ST a followup question for more details on that, and finally got an answer this evening:
Potential early acquisitions would be reviewed and considered following the Board’s action to confirm or modify a preferred alternative later this year. There are a number of factors that the Board would consider before authorizing early acquisitions and potential acquisitions would likely be limited to a small subset of critical properties. Sound Transit would also require approval from the Federal Transit Administration prior to pursuing early acquisitions and would be required to follow all standard procedures.
The aforementioned board action is expected to happen at their July 28th meeting, but that’s still not the final decision on what will be built – the timeframe for that is now described as “late 2023,” after the final EIS is out. Key things to watch for before the July meeting include a summary of the 5,000+ public comments received on the DEIS; board members were told to look for that in June. Also, Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell – an ST Board member – said at Friday’s meeting that the city soon will finalize its position on the preferred alternative (City Councilmember Alex Pedersen, who chairs the council’s Transportation Committee, said today that could come to his committee in early June).
(Sound Transit rendering, possible routing at Genesee looking east toward Avalon)
The Community Advisory Group convened by Sound Transit for the most-recent planning phase of West Seattle light rail has met for the final time. The meeting this past week was for feedback from the group members, on their preferred routing and station locations as well as on the possible cost-saving ideas ST proposed at their previous meeting. Here’s the recording:
Since the meeting was about feedback, not presentation of proposals, there wasn’t much to the slide deck, but you can see that here. In general, regarding routing and station locations, most participants spoke in favor of as much tunneling as possible, particularly into The Junction. For the Delridge station location, feedback was more mixed, including a few calls for reviving the previously discarded option nicknamed the “purple line” (which would tunnel through Pigeon Point).
Regarding the cost-saving ideas – the idea of saving money by moving the Fauntleroy elevated station option east, avoiding the newly built 4754 Fauntleroy Way SW complex, did not get much traction, mostly because many group members didn’t like the elevated Fauntleroy option regardless of where it would be built. The other big cost-saving idea was potentially dropping the Avalon station. Several reiterated that removing a station should only be an option if West Seattle had something to gain from doing it – like “smart design,” one group member suggested.
WHAT’S NEXT: The ST board members who comprise the System Expansion Committee have a workshop focused on the West Seattle/Ballard extensions 1-3:30 pm Friday (May 20th). Then in July, they and the full board meet about confirming or modifying a “preferred alternative” before going into the final environmental-impact process – the committee on July 14th, the full board on July 28th. The board’s final decision on routing and station locations is expected in what ST now describes as “late 2023.”
Three quick notes about what’s next for the West Seattle (and beyond) Sound Transit light-rail project – scheduled to launch service in 2032 – after last Thursday’s end to the three-month comment period for the Draft Environmental Impact Statement:
HOW MANY COMMENTS? We asked ST about the final tally. More than 5,000, according to spokesperson Rachelle Cunningham. ST now has to respond to them in the final EIS, expected next year.
WHAT HAPPENS NOW? While ST had been saying the board was likely to decide in June what to send into the final EIS studies, its email update today says the board “is expected to confirm or modify the preferred alternative and station locations in July.” If that’s at the regular board meeting (usually the fourth Thursday of the month), the date would be July 28th.
ONE MORE MEETING: The Community Advisory Groups for the project have one more meeting scheduled. The group for the West Seattle/Duwamish segment will meet online at 5 pm next Tuesday (May 10th) – you’ll be able to watch here. (Here’s our coverage of the CAG’s previous meeting, at which ST said possible cost-saving measures could include dropping the Avalon station.)
It’s not necessarily your final chance to comment on Sound Transit‘s West Seattle light-rail plan, but it’s arguably the most important, and you now have one day left to get your comment in. Tomorrow (Thursday, April 28th) is the deadline for commenting on the project’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement – which examines the potential station locations and routing proposed for West Seattle light rail to get across the Duwamish River and through the North Delridge and Avalon areas on its way to The Junction. The DEIS has been out for three months, with more than 1,000 comments received as of our last check earlier this month. If you haven’t read a word of it, you can at least go through the Executive Summary. (All our coverage is archived here.) Once you’re ready to comment, here’s how. All the comments received by tomorrow will have to be addressed in the final EIS, expected to be ready next year, before the Sound Transit Board makes a final decision on what to build.
That’s the Seattle Channel video of this morning’s City Council Transportation and Public Utilities Committee meeting, almost two hours of which was spent on the West Seattle to Ballard light-rail plan, starting about 36 minutes in. The time was divided between two presentations – first, city staff explaining how they’re drafting official city comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, so they can get those in before the April 28th deadline. Much of this presentation was given to the West Seattle/Duwamish segment’s Community Advisory Group last week (WSB coverage here). Here’s the slide deck that the city’s Calvin Chow, Marshall Foster, and Sara Maxana used today:
One major area of concern in what they’re drafting so far – they want ST to better address potential BIPOC displacement in Delridge, “more truth-checking with the community,” as Maxana described it. In council comments, West Seattle/South Park Councilmember Lisa Herbold underscored a point made that “scope reductions” – like dropping a station – should be discouraged unless there’s a very clear benefit in return.
That came up again in the second discussion, which also was partly a rerun from last week’s Community Advisory Group meeting – ST’s view of possible cost-saving measures, including possibly dropping the Avalon station. This presentation was given by ST’s Cathal Ridge. Here’s the slide deck he used:
In this discussion, Herbold reiterated that dropping Avalon would require a clear benefit such as more tunneling. She also stressed that no matter what, tunneling should be the preference for the West Seattle Junction end of the line, as elevated rail through “the heart of” The Junction would be undesirable. She voiced one other concern about dropping the Avalon station, wondering where its projected 1,200 riders would go, and wondering if that would make light rail less accessible for residents coming down 35th from areas such as High Point. Ridge said they projected that half the Avalon ridership would come to the station by bus, and they would likely ride to the Junction station instead.
WHAT’S NEXT: City staff will return to this committee May 17th; their comments on the DEIS, though, like everyone else’s, are due by April 28th and will be submitted by then. (Here’s how to comment.)
A week and a half after Sound Transit released its feasibility report about whether gondola service could replace light rail for West Seattle, the organization proposing it has released its response. West Seattle SkyLink sent the eight-page response to us last night – read it here or below:
West Seattle SkyLink says the Sound Transit report was no substitute for a “technical engineering study by gondola experts.” They say, “The Feasibility Report was prepared in-house without any analysis by an engineering firm that has experience with gondola technology, design, or construction as is usually the case. There are several US firms qualified to undertake a feasibility study for an urban gondola feeder.” The response also says, “Another glaring deficiency in the Sound Transit Report is the lack of a review of current urban gondola projects … most of these urban gondola projects are being considered as feeders or connectors to a light rail or rapid bus system, just like an urban gondola would be for West Seattle.” The projects they cite range from Los Angeles Aerial Rapid Transit, for which a Draft Environmental Impact Report is due out this summer, to the “cable-car” aerial line that just went into operation a week ago in Haifa, Israel. Much closer to home, SkyLink also notes that Kirkland looked into using gondolas for a connection to a Sound Transit station (the city’s website says a feasibility study was done in 2018 but the gondola alternative was not included in recent environmental analysis).
Overall, the SkyLink response concludes, “The Sound Transit Report did its best to throw as much dirt as it could on urban gondolas as a feeder to its light rail system without noting the many other public transportation agencies, both domestic and foreign, that have found an urban gondola feeder is exactly the appropriate complement to their bus and light rail systems.” Their contention continues to be that a gondola line could be built more quickly and inexpensively, with much less residence and business displacement, but as for how much money and time it would take, that would be up to a “properly produced study” to determine.
Will such a study be commissioned? Sound Transit staff repeated last week, in a presentation to the 34th District Democrats, that it would be up to the board to order it. ST’s Carrie Avila-Mooney added during the 34th DDs’ meeting Q&A that the agency “has no voter-approved money” to study it. The board’s next meeting is Thursday, April 28th, and it will include a public-comment period; watch for the agenda here.
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