Sound Transit 170 results

LIGHT RAIL: See West Seattle station-area ‘street concepts’ in new city survey

Though the Sound Transit Board is still at least a few months away from its final decision about a West Seattle light-rail route, the city is moving full speed ahead on its share of the plan – designing how the areas around the likely station locations will change. Latest example: A new survey asks you to take a look at the “street-concept plan” for the three station areas in West Seattle.

The survey link first appeared on X/Twitter; after spotting it there, we asked SDOT for more information. Spokesperson Mariam Ali says SDOT is working on the street-concept plan with the Office of Planning and Community Development, “in consultation with Sound Transit” and incorporating previously received community feedback. Before you start the survey, in which you can give feedback on street concepts for one, two, or all three station areas, she offered a little more context:

What Are Street Concept Plans? Street concept plans illustrate how streets could look in the future with specific improvements, such as trees and landscaping, distinct paving options, relocated curbs, and features like benches or unique lighting. To learn more about how SDOT uses Street Concept Plans, visit Seattle Streets Illustrated.

What’s Happening in West Seattle? SDOT and OPCD are creating a street concept plan for the areas around the future light rail stations in West Seattle. This plan provides a vision and guidance for how streets will look and function when light rail opens. The concepts included in the street concept plan will be used to develop designs for future projects that enhance walking, biking, and transit access around these station areas.

Community Involvement: Community members are encouraged to provide feedback through a survey. This feedback will help refine the vision for these streets. Additionally, more information about the plan, the City’s role in advancing light rail in West Seattle, and the option to sign up for an email listserv can be found on the City’s West Seattle and Ballard Link Extension webpage.

If you don’t have time to answer it now, we recommend saving the link and taking a look when you can spare a bit of time – the concepts have many proposed features, such as a vehicle-free “plaza” section of 42nd SW by the Junction station entrance. What you’ll see aren’t full station designs – just the concepts for key streets/intersections nearby.

ADDED WEDNESDAY: If, like one commenter, you’d like to see the images without answering the survey (yet), we asked SDOT, and they’ve sent this PDF version of the survey, images included, replies not required. Also, there’s now a webpage from which the survey is linked – and there’s word of two opportunities to talk with SDOT in person this weekend, one at Roxhill Park at Saturday, another at the Farmers’ Market on Sunday.

Rethink the Link’s ‘route walk’ draws light-rail supporters as well as skeptics

(Across from potential Delridge station location)

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Today’s West Seattle light-rail “route walk” organized by Rethink the Link wasn’t a rally or protest.

What we heard and saw, walking along, was more like a collection of conversations. The three-dozen-plus participants included not just the light-rail skeptics of Rethink the Link and curious residents but also light-rail supporters, including at least one member of the Transportation Choices Coalition, and an advocate who toted this sign throughout the hour-and-a-half event:

Other transit advocates, including writers for the Seattle Transit Blog, were there too. So there were many perspectives in play as participants talked one-on-one along most of the round-trip mile-long walk from West Seattle Health Club to the middle of the low bridge and back, between multiple stops along a potential path for the train. At those stops, whoever was in earshot heard from RTL’s Alan McMurray, a route-area resident described as someone who walks to work in SODO and is therefore quite familiar with the route: “For the last four years, as I walk, I wonder how they’re going to do it.” The group gathered in the parking lot of the health club, whose management has expressed concern about a potential path that could take out its pool.

From there, walkers headed over Longfellow Creek via the SW Yancy footbridge – where environmental concerns were noted – then to Andover and into the office park that’s in a potential Delridge-station footprint, home to Alki Beach Academy and other businesses, alongside the Nucor steel plant, and looked upslope at the back of Delridge-fronting businesses also facing displacement – Ounces, The Skylark, Mode Music Studios (WSB sponsor) and Mode Music and Performing Arts. Here’s the station rendering that’s been most recently shown:

Walking toward the low bridge, participants’ attention was directed toward Pigeon Point, along which the high bridge already runs, with West Seattle light rail requiring an additional new bridge to cross the Duwamish River.

The new bridge is expected to be at least as tall as the existing bridge, McMurray noted. How that’ll be built has yet to be finalized, but it’s expected to require some digging into Pigeon Point – “some kind of major cut” –
where herons nest. One took wing as walkers looked on, while birds’ coexistence with human-built infrastructure was on display too, as peregrine falcons’ nesting boxes on the underside of the high bridge were pointed out.

After trooping back along the path on the east side of Delridge, the group stopped for another perspective of the Skylark/Mode business building, when a person standing along the road shouted, “We don’t need no damn light rail!” A few participants responded “hear, hear”; he then said cheerfully, “OK, I’m done.”

Wrapping up shortly thereafter, McMurray explained the intent of the walk was “just meant to give you an idea of what it’s going to take” to build the West Seattle Link Extension through that area. A participant asked, “What can we do?” McMurray noted that the Final Environmental Impact Statement – precursor to a final vote on a route – is expected to be published this summer, and then there’s a “30-day window” before that final action can be taken. That’s the time to “be heard … make sure they hear you,” he said. Someone else pointed out that comments can be sent to Sound Transit now, too. (Contact info is on the project website.)

Whatever your view, McMurray concluded, “There is this common ground we all agree on – better transit.”

WEEKEND PREVIEW: Rethink the Link walks potential light-rail route Sunday

1:30 PM: “All opinions are welcome.” That declaration is part of the invitation on the flyer for Rethink the Link‘s “route walk” of the proposed Delridge light-rail station vicinity (and beyond) on Sunday. They’re looking ahead to a community forum requested by King County Executive and Sound Transit Board of Directors chair Dow Constantine (we checked with ST this week and there’s no date set for that yet). They’ll be gathering at the West Seattle Health Club (28th/Andover) at 10 am Sunday (June 9). The map is on the group’s website in case you can’t join the walk or prefer to explore on your own. The group in general contends there are better alternatives for moving more West Seattleites across the Duwamish River, such as improving existing transit service. The Sound Transit Board is on a track to finalize a light rail route later this year, but first the agency has to release the Final Environmental Impact Statement, expected in the next few months. This is the second major public “route walk” that Rethink the Link has offered since it formed last year.

3:04 PM: This afternoon, Sound Transit sent its email list a note reiterating what we noted above – no date yet for the West Seattle light-rail final EIS to be published. From that email:

… We expect to publish the Final EIS later this year, which will include responses to comments received on the Draft EIS. While we’re getting close, we do not have a date set for publication yet. We will share more information about specific timing for the availability of the Final EIS when we can.

After the Final EIS is published, the Sound Transit Board will select the project to be built. Their decision will consider the years of technical study and public engagement since 2018. In the past, we gathered your feedback through station planning and neighborhood forum events, scoping and Draft EIS comment periods, community briefings, and one-on-one meetings. Following the Board’s decision and the Record of Decision by the Federal Transit Administration, the project will move into the design phase.

What is the design phase? The design phase will focus on advancing detailed design of the guideway and stations and preparing for construction. This includes refining what the facilities will look like, how the stations fit within neighborhoods, and how people will move through the station. We look forward to engaging with you as the design advances. …

FOLLOWUP: West Seattle Health Club says its light-rail-route concerns are gaining traction

1:42 PM: Two weeks ago, we reported on West Seattle Health Club‘s request for member support in opposing a possible light-rail route that would among other things take out their pool, which in turn followed County Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda‘s plea to the Sound Transit Board to consider alternatives that would spare area businesses. Today, WSHC has sent a followup with word that the concerns are gaining traction. Thanks to those who forwarded us the email, which tells members, in part:

… Your support has made a difference. The Executive’s office has responded positively to our request, and questions are being raised about modifying route options. The original plan to finalize this location in June has been delayed. A summary of all the public comments they received on the gym/pool was read out loud into the record at yesterday’s Sound Transit Board meeting and the turnout was impressive. Executive Dow Constantine has requested that Sound Transit host a community forum. We will keep you updated as we learn more.

Our petition will remain available at the front desk and online at https://chng.it/VH4L96c6Dn . Additionally, we invite you to join members of our community for a “Walk the Route” event on Sunday, June 9th at 10 am, starting in our parking lot and ending at the West Seattle lower bridge. …

The next step before the ST Board can finalize the West Seattle routing will be the release of the final Environmental Impact Statement; for months, ST has said only that it’s expected to be out “midyear” (we’re checking on whether they’ve refined that timeline yet). Environmental studies are continuing (as noted here last week).

2:44 PM: ST spokesperson Rachelle Cunningham says “summer” is the only current timeline for the final EIS. She also says that since Executive Constantine just made the community-forum request yesterday, there’s nothing official on that yet, but we might hear more next week.

LIGHT RAIL: Two more rounds of Sound Transit drilling in West Seattle Junction area

Sound Transit is still working on its final Environmental Impact Statement for West Seattle light rail – that’s the next major milestone before final routing decisions. Environmental studies have included drilling for samples at various sites around the area, and two more rounds have been announced. Sound Transit sent us the notices:

*”As soon as” May 20 (next Monday), 41st SW south of Edmunds (here’s the notice with details)

*”As soon as May 29, 41st SW (here’s the notice with details) north of Edmunds

No date yet for the final EIS to go public – ST has most recently said “midyear.”

LIGHT RAIL: West Seattle Health Club seeks members’ support for shifting route

It’s been a month since we first reported on County Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda standing before the Sound Transit Board and asking them to put West Seattle light rail on a Delridge route that could bypass and potentially save local businesses. Those local businesses also have been taking their case to the board, while making contingency plans; we talked with Erin Rubin of Mode Music Studios (WSB sponsor) and Mode Music and Performing Arts in this report. Now another business in the project’s path, West Seattle Health Club, is asking its members for support. Several readers have forwarded us this message sent to WSHC members by club management today:

We have been informed of the recent decision by Sound Transit to alter its initial plan for the West Seattle Light Rail. Rather than running it around the West Seattle Health Club, the preferred route would require placing a pillar through our pool. We have been working diligently, alongside local businesses and King County Councilmember, Teresa Mosqueda, to ensure that our concerns are heard by the Sound Transit board. Specifically, we have requested a refinement of the plan to place the pillar 20 feet west of the club or over the top. The board has acknowledged our request, and a final decision will be made in June.

We are advocating for a change in the decision, which, while not immediately impacting the gym, would, over time, have significant ramifications. The removal of the West Seattle Health Club would not only result in the loss of a gym but also the displacement of a community. We believe that the decision-makers on the board may not fully appreciate the gym’s value to our community. Some of you have been members since the early 2000s when the gym was known as Allstar Fitness. You have shown remarkable loyalty and dedication to the club and its community, even during challenging times of poor management and financial struggles. We are aware that you have expressed concerns about the proposed changes because you do not wish to lose a community staple that has become so important to you. Some of you have made lifelong friends at the West Seattle Health Club, formerly known as Allstar Fitness, and have been members for over two decades. We are not merely a gym. We are an all-inclusive community that provides a sense of belonging and support. While there may be several other gym options in the area, none can match the feeling of walking through the doors of the West Seattle Health Club.

We support Sound Transit’s efforts to bring the Light Rail to the West Seattle community. However, the removal of our gym will have a profound impact, not only on our community of over 6200 members but also on over 100 employees who travel to West Seattle and support the businesses in the area. We implore you to support us in our efforts to communicate to the Sound Transit board that placing a pillar through the pool of the West Seattle Health Club is not merely a matter of relocating another business. It would have far-reaching consequences.

If you wish to voice your opinion, please contact Cali Knight at CKnight@kingcounty.gov and Shannon Braddock at Shannon.Braddock@kingcounty.gov.

Shannon Braddock, a West Seattleite, is deputy county executive for County Executive Dow Constantine, also a West Seattleite, who is on the Sound Transit Board. Calli Knight is also on the executive’s staff, as infrastructure initiatives director. The board has not yet made a decision about final routing but is expected to vote in the second half of this year, after the final Environmental Impact Statement is released (no date for that yet beyond “midyear”).

With light rail ‘becoming a reality,’ Mode Music Studios has to build a new band – of backers to cover their move

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Imagine a band, orchestra, choir, mega-group of more than 500 musicians, stretching from the century-old brick building at the north end of Delridge onto the neighboring West Seattle Bridge, playing a song together. Maybe “Don’t Stop Believing.” Or “Let the Music Play.”

That would suit the determined mood of Erin Rubin, whose Mode Music Studios has that many students, something you might be surprised to hear, given how unassuming Mode’s building looks to passersby as they head to or from the bridge or the industrial zone below it.

Mode Music Studios (a WSB sponsor) is not the entirety of her tuneful 10-year-old enterprise, either. Erin also leads nonprofit Mode Music and Performing Arts – headquartered in the same building in the 3800 block of Delridge Way SW – which brings music and theater into schools, and into the lives of students whose families might not be able to afford it otherwise.

Not all small-business owners run nonprofits too. But most know the challenge of keeping a business not just surviving, but thriving. In the past four years or so, that’s been especially grueling. “When you’re trying to tread water, since the COVID shutdown and the bridge shutdown, it’s been one thing after another … you aren’t able to make the moves you want to, now it’s just kind of survival mode.”

“Moves” has a double meaning for Erin, Mode Music Studios, and Mode Music and Performing Arts. She is almost certainly going to have to move, with the likely location of Sound Transit‘s Delridge light-rail station spanning the location of her business and others, including music venue/restaurant/bar The Skylark next door, Ounces Taproom and Beer Garden just down the block, and other North Delridge businesses to their west, including Alki Beach Academy and others in the Frye Commerce Center.

Erin and her neighbors stress that they are not trying to stop the light-rail project. “I welcome public transportation but I’m concerned we’re gonna lose a lot of what we love.” Despite the near-certainty that her business will have to move, the building is not included in the recent “early acquisition” decision, meaning she’s in a unique kind of limbo. The circumstances are so difficult, Erin sent an open letter to the Mode community last week, as we noted here; we spoke with her the next day, just before Mode’s monthly all-ages open mic at The Skylark next door.

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LIGHT RAIL: ‘Refinements’ in Delridge station and routing could save businesses, County Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda tells Sound Transit board members

The Sound Transit System Expansion Committee‘s monthly meeting just wrapped up. The only formal mention of the West Seattle Link Extension was this brief update toward the end of the meeting:

While presenting that slide, ST’s Don Billen mentioned another possible stretch in the timeline, saying – without elaboration – that the time between the Final EIS and the Record of Decision (which follows the board’s final vote on the exact routing and station locations) might be “longer than we’re used to.” They’re also waiting for final federal signoff on the plan recently approved to start the process of “early acquisition” of some properties in North Delridge and SODO.

At the start of the meeting, during open public comment, the only person to speak about West Seattle light rail was King County Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda. She pleaded with the board members to consider slight “refinements” in the Delridge station location and route that she said could save money and businesses. Along Yancy, for example, a short distance west of the Delridge station, she said a 20-foot shift in pillar locations could prevent some demolition. Same for moving the station location about 100 feet. “Use surface streets and parking lots” rather than going over existing businesses on which a thriving community – including her family, North Delridge residents – relies. She told the board that, to be clear, she and the businesses are all very much in favor of light rail – “we WANT light rail” – they just think that “refinements” could make it more of a win-win. (Added: Here’s everything she told, and wanted to tell, the board members, in PDF.)

Meantime, two of the businesses in the current path of the station location, Mode Music Studios (WSB sponsor) and The Skylark, both have sent open letters to their mailing lists in the past 18 hours, asking for community help. We’re working on a separate followup about that.

FOLLOWUP: Sound Transit Board gives staff go-ahead to pursue first ‘early property acquisitions’ for West Seattle light rail

Only one member of the Sound Transit Board voted “no” this afternoon on the first proposed “early property acquisitions” for the West Seattle light-rail extension – 25 parcels, including three in WS, as previewed here. Board member Bruce Dammeier, the Pierce County Executive, said he was concerned about granting potential condemnation authority for some parcels before the board even took a final vote on the actual routing, which isn’t expected before midsummer. Board chair Dow Constantine, the King County Executive (and a West Seattle resident), said it’s important to work with affected businesses early, and this approval was needed before they could do that. ST staff said the routing vote would likely come long before they completed the process of buying (or, if necessary, condemning) these properties, a process they said usually takes about two years, with initial negotiations lasting at least several months, and if those negotiations don’t succeed, condemnation (taking the property by “eminent domain”) would be “further down the road.” As reported here Tuesday, these are the three West Seattle parcels (the others are mostly in SODO) that were included in today’s vote:

(WSB photo, Delridge/Andover building that’s part of Frye Commerce Center parcel)

-Parcel # 7666704005 at 2414 SW Andover, the Frye Commerce Center (home to multiple businesses, east of Nucor, including Alki Beach Academy, PNTA, Uptown Espresso, Delridge Deli Mart, among others) – 191,113 square feet, currently valued at $17.4 million per King County

-Parcel # 7666703290 at 3800 West Marginal Way SW, the Riverside Mill site, 269,452 square feet, currently valued at $14.5 million per King County

-Parcel # 9358000465 on the northwest corner of 28th/Yancy, described as “vacant” – 10,000 square feet, currently valued at $357,000 per King County

The presentation at the meeting did not elaborate on any specific properties or describe why they are needed (the Frye center, however, has been clearly shown recently as in the footprint for the “preferred alternative” Delridge station). Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell (one of the city’s two reps on the ST Board) asked what happens for businesses once authorization like this is given, saying he’s heard businesses’ concerns. They’ll get immediate notice of eligibility for relocation help, he was told. Then Dammeier voiced his concerns; staff attempted to reassure him that no tenants would be displaced before the “record of decision” (that follows the board’s final routing decision, expected to follow within a month of the Final Environmental Impact Statement release “later this spring”). Some businesses might decide they want to move sooner rather than later, he was told, but none would be forced out any time soon.

The board heard from one nearby business owner during the public-comment period at the start of today’s meeting – Erin Rubin of Mode Music Studios (WSB sponsor), on property not part of today’s vote but adjacent to the Frye parcel. Saying she also was speaking for The Skylark next door, Rubin spoke of displacement concerns and the difficulty of finding a suitable location elsewhere in West Seattle. She pointed to Sound Transit policies that stipulated more consideration for businesses in those situations.

Also speaking during the comment period was Marilyn Kennell, a homeowner in the light-rail line’s potential path between the Delridge and Avalon stations. She asked for a “seat of the table” and further discussion of the impacts of the project, both financial – businesses and job losses – and environmental, citing “needless deforestation and destruction of natural habitat.”

WHAT’S NEXT: For the owners and tenants on the “early acquisition” sites, notification and negotiation. For the project overall, ST continues to proceed toward the aforementioned Final Environmental Impact Statement, which is supposed to include responses to concerns raised after the Draft EIS was released, and a final decision on “the project to be built” will follow. On the current timeline, construction is supposed to start in 2027, and West Seattle service in 2032.

LIGHT RAIL: ‘Early acquisitions’ including three West Seattle properties are up for Sound Transit Board vote Thursday

The Sound Transit Board is still months away from a final routing decision for the West Seattle light-rail extension. But it’s scheduled to vote Thursday on 25 “early acquisitions” of property already considered necessary for the project. 22 of them are in SODO – including three that are deemed necessary for both the West Seattle and Ballard extensions – and the other three are in West Seattle. Sound Transit had said two years ago, as we reported here, that it might need “early property acquisitions,” likely for “a small subset of critical properties.” The three West Seattle parcels in the early-acquisition motion going to the board are:

-Parcel # 7666703290 at 3800 West Marginal Way SW, the Riverside Mill site (per King County, 269,452 square feet, currently valued at $14.5 million)

-Parcel # 7666704005 at 2414 SW Andover, the Frye Commerce Center (home to multiple businesses including Alki Beach Academy [added] plus PNTA, Uptown Espresso, Delridge Deli Mart, among others) – 191,113 square feet, currently valued at $17.4 million)

-Parcel # 9358000465 on the northwest corner of 28th/Yancy (described as “vacant” – 10,000 square feet, currently valued at $357,000)

The motion seeking authorization to acquire those properties notes, “The early acquisitions will not limit the Board’s final choice of alternatives for either project.” But it also says this authorization would include approval to acquire the 25 properties through “eminent domain” if necessary: “Condemnation will be initiated should negotiations between Sound Transit and the property owners reach an impasse.” We’ve noted the West Seattle parcels’ valuations above, but the ST document says they won’t be talking dollars in open session: “In accordance with Sound Transit policy, budgets for specific parcels will be discussed with the Board in the executive session.” According to the document, the owners have all been notified of the acquisition plan, including letters sent by certified mail three weeks ago. Thursday’s 1:30 pm meeting includes a public-comment period as usual, either in person downtown or remotely, as explained on the agenda.

UPDATE: Sound Transit’s West Seattle station-planning open house, including a bridge view

5:49 PM: Just under way at Alki Masonic Center (40th/Edmunds, lower-level entrance off the parking lot), Sound Transit reps are back in West Seattle to talk about station planning again. This is the promised followup to last October’s open house, and another precursor to the next major milestone in the West Seattle light-rail project, publication of the final environmental-impact statement, currently projected for the “middle” of this year. This event is mostly open-house style, with easels and renderings around the room focusing on the extension’s four stations (Junction, Avalon, Delridge, SODO), and many Sound Transit staffers to listen to your comments and/or answer questions. They’re promising a “short presentation” around 6 pm, and then this continues until 7:30 pm. We’re checking to see what’s new, and will add more to this report later.

7:50 PM: We’re expecting to get all the renderings/info boards in PDF tomorrow, and will publish that separately. We circulated and photographed some of the most interesting ones we saw, such as a concept for the bridge that will be needed to get the light-rail line across the Duwamish River:

Station concepts like these two were a little more fully fleshed out than last meeting:

Also shown, a concept for redesigning SW Alaska when the Junction station is built underground in the 41st/42nd/Alaska vicinity:

The turnout was sizable – we were there for the first hour and it felt busier than the one in October:

Again, we hope to have all that and much more in digital format tomorrow. Remember that the routing is not finalized yet, but the stations are being planned in what ST considers to be the most likely locations per the “preferred alternative” currently on the books. Woven through the boards with renderings and concepts were results of last fall’s community survey – for example, one board listed what survey respondents had said was most important to them in station planning, and safety topped the list, followed by “easy to navigate” and “welcoming.” Another board listed results of a question about bicycle and scooter parking; top preference was to have lockers, followed by a “secure room,” and then racks. Some boards also listed preferences that had emerged from “in-language focus groups,” and a common theme there was “wider sidewalks.” And others had details of what’s ahead in the process – including Seattle Design Commission consideration of station plans this spring. But this year’s main event – no date yet – will be the release of the Final Environmental Impact Statement, followed by the Sound Transit Board finalizing the routing, aka “the project to be built.”

ADDED WEDNESDAY: Here are the renderings etc. shown last night. (And the city-produced boards are here.) We’ll publish separately as promised later, too.

WEEK AHEAD: Another round of West Seattle light-rail station planning Tuesday

The Sound Transit Board is still months away from finalizing the light-rail route into West Seattle – that will happen after the final Environmental Impact Statement is made public. In the meantime, the agency, working with the city, is continuing to plan the four stations (Junction, Avalon, Delridge, SODO) – based on the locations that are so far considered the “preferred alternative.” Tuesday night, the agency returns to West Seattle for an open-house-style meeting following up on the one held four months ago. They promise that the meeting will be “an opportunity to see how your feedback informs ongoing station area designs” – feedback from a survey last fall as well as from the October meeting. (Additional station-planning info was shown at a subsequent meeting of the West Seattle Transportation Coalition.) “Station area designs” is a reference to not only the stations themselves but also how other transportation – buses, bicycles, etc. – will be routed for arrivals and transfers, and also what will happen to station-adjacent sites that will be used for construction staging. Some are envisioned as “transit-oriented development.” The Tuesday meeting is set for 5:30-7:30 pm “with a short presentation at 6 pm,” at Alki Masonic Center (40th/Edmunds, lower-level entrance off the parking lot). The projected launch date for the $4 billion light-rail extension remains late 2032.

WEST SEATTLE LIGHT RAIL: Sound Transit wants to talk with you again about stations

(Rendering from Sound Transit’s draft environmental impact statement on West Seattle extension)

Toward the end of last October’s West Seattle meeting about light-rail station planning, Sound Transit managers promised a followup event here in “early” 2024. Last night, they announced the date: March 5. They’re promising that what they bring will reflect what attendees said at the October event plus via other means of feedback – “a summary of community priorities for future light rail station design in West Seattle and SODO, based on feedback we heard from the public in fall 2023.” Currently three stations are planned on this side of the Duwamish River – Delridge, Avalon, and The Junction – and ST has presented relatively detailed layouts for the likely locations, though the exact routing hasn’t been finalized yet (that’s expected in the second half of this year). So set your calendar for 5:30-7:30 pm Tuesday, March 5, same place as the October meeting – the Alki Masonic Center at 40th/Edmunds. The $4 billion West Seattle light-rail extension is still projected to start service in 2032, after five years of construction starting in 2027.

WEST SEATTLE LIGHT RAIL: Business at likely station site sends open letter ‘reaching out to our community for support, solidarity, perhaps even some shared strategies’

If Sound Transit keeps West Seattle light rail on its current schedule, construction could start in 2027 – three years away.

That might seem like a long time (especially considering seven years already have passed since the ST3 ballot measure that laid the groundwork for it), but for those with homes and businesses in its path, the clock is ticking. The Sound Transit Board won’t finalize the West Seattle station locations and routing until after the Final Environmental Impact Statement is published in the “middle” of this year, but is already focusing planning on likely station sites – including this one at the north end of Delridge Way.

Near the arrow labeled “north to West Seattle Bridge” is the current site of music venue/restaurant/bar The Skylark, whose owner Matt Larson sent an open letter to the community last night. We saw it via their mailing list and obtained permission to republish it:

Hello Skylark Friends, Family, Beloved Patrons,

I hope this message finds you well, and I want to take a moment to share something close to our hearts—something that directly impacts the heartbeat of our community.

You’re likely aware of the impending West Seattle Light Rail Extension, a reality that is drawing ever closer as we are directly in its path. However, what may not be as widely known are the challenges faced by businesses like ours, as well as our dear neighbors at Mode Music, Alki Daycare, and countless others in the West Seattle and Seattle area.

The city, in recognition of the impact this extension will have on local businesses, is offering support in the form of moving, storing, and hooking up our equipment. While they have committed to covering up to $50,000 in associated costs, it’s important to understand that this sum, though significant, falls short of the financial hurdles we would face. This would certainly not cover paying ourselves and our staff during the downtime, any buildouts that would most likely be necessary, the exponential increase in rent, plus all of the other costs that would be incurred with such an undertaking.

This looming inevitability not only disrupts our daily operations but also poses a significant obstacle when it comes to the future of our businesses. Even if one wanted to sell their business at this point, selling at their true value becomes impossible under these circumstances. Furthermore, we find ourselves in a challenging position as we await the letter informing us of the timeline for evacuation — ranging from 1 to 5 years (but probably closer to 1-2) — and the undetermined period we’ll have to vacate thereafter.

I share this not to debate the merits of the light rail or delve into the politics surrounding it. At this point, it’s an unavoidable reality we must collectively navigate. As the only music venue in West Seattle, one of the few all-ages venues in the city, and a hub for community events and LGBTQ gatherings, we’ve proudly been part of this vibrant community for over 16 years.

We’ve weathered storms together—from the challenges of the past years to enduring the bridge closure. Still, as we strive to find our footing amidst the rising costs of everything, the prospect of relocation without the necessary support feels disheartening, to say the least.

I share this not seeking sympathy but understanding. Our story is one of resilience, and we’re reaching out to our community for support, solidarity, and perhaps even some shared strategies for navigating this uncertain path.

In the meantime, I just ask that you perhaps pay an extra visit to us here and there! Support the other businesses and if you have something to offer, I know we are all ears and open to help, thoughts, ideas, or just moral support! We want to be here for you and we don’t want West Seattle to lose something very unique that will be terribly difficult to replicate or replace.

Thank you for being the heartbeat of West Seattle. Together, we’ll find the rhythm to face the challenges ahead and preserve the spirit that makes our community truly special.

With Gratitude,

Matt Larson
Owner, Skylark Cafe and Club

As Matt’s open letter notes, The Skylark is not the only business in this situation. But he felt this was the time to make a plea to the community. If you read our daily “what’s happening today/tonight” lists, Skylark events are a mainstay, including weekly open-mic, trivia, and bingo, plus live bands almost every Friday and Saturday. The venue is also a restaurant and bar. He’s owned it for a decade. Two years ago, we talked with Matt about The Skylark’s pandemic-survival story.

FOLLOWUP: Sound Transit Board votes to hire Goran Sparrman as interim CEO for $385,000+

Three days after Sound Transit announced Goran Sparrman was under consideration to become interim CEO, board members voted this afternoon to hire him for a year. Outgoing CEO Julie Timm‘s last day will be tomorrow, and Sparrman will start work right after that. Timm was hired less than a year and a half ago for $375,000; Sparrman’s salary will be $385,000, plus a $30,000 signing bonus and $29,000 retention bonus if he stays the entire year, according to the board-motion document. Sparrman is a former director of the city of Bellevue’s transportation department as well as former deputy director and interim director of SDOT; most recently, he worked for private-sector infrastructure firm HNTB. Major ST action expected during his year at the helm is expected to include the board’s final vote on West Seattle light-rail routing and station locations, after the Final Environmental Impact Statement is published (currently expected “midyear”).

SOUND TRANSIT: Former SDOT executive Goran Sparrman proposed as interim CEO

Four weeks after Sound Transit‘s CEO Julie Timm announced her plan to leave, ST has announced a prospective interim CEO. Goran Sparrman served as acting Seattle Department of Transportation director under two mayors last decade, the second time for about half a year in 2018. At that time he was described as having “come out of retirement” but apparently he didn’t go back into it, as the Sound Transit announcement says he’s most recently worked as an executive at infrastructure firm HNTB (which the city hired in 2020 to design a potential West Seattle Bridge replacement). He’s also a former director of Bellevue’s city Transportation Department. The announcement also notes he’s a licensed professional engineer. The Sound Transit Board will consider appointing Sparrman to be acting CEO for a year at a special meeting this Thursday (January 11th). The year ahead will be pivotal for West Seattle’s planned light-rail extension, as the ST board is expected to decide later this year on the routing and station locations. We’re following up on ST regarding the time of Thursday’s meeting as well as what salary they’re proposing for the interim CEO.

ADDED TUESDAY: The meeting is set for 3 pm Thursday – here’s the agenda.

WEST SEATTLE LIGHT RAIL: 3 new Sound Transit Board members nominated

With the final major decisions for West Seattle light rail expected to be made this year – finalizing the routing and station locations – the Sound Transit Board will be down to just one West Seattleite. That person is King County Executive Dow Constantine, the current chair, who just nominated replacements for three King County vacancies: Succeeding former King County Councilmember Joe McDermott, the West Seattleite who did not run for reelection, would be County Councilmember Girmay Zahilay of South Seattle; succeeding former Seattle City Councilmember Debora Juarez, who also did not run for reelection, would be City Councilmember Dan Strauss of Ballard (which is also getting a light-rail extension), and succeeding former Kenmore mayor Dave Baker would be Redmond Mayor Angela Birney. They’ll all serve four-year terms on the board if approved by the King County Council. As the announcement explains, the board “includes 17 local elected officials – 10 from King County, four from Pierce County, and three from Snohomish County, and members are appointed by their respective County Executives.” Also on the board is state Secretary of Transportation Roger Millar. The ST Board will make those major West Seattle decisions after the Final Environmental Impact Statement comes out in a timeframe ST current describes as “the middle of” this year. The board also has to find a new CEO. Its first full meeting of this year is January 25th.

LIGHT RAIL: Sound Transit CEO leaving after less than a year and a half

As light-rail planning for West Seattle approaches a key point, Sound Transit will be changing leadership again. 15 months after starting as CEO, Julie Timm announced she’s leaving the $375,000/year job “in order to return to the East Coast to take care of family matters.” That’s according to an ST news release that says her last day will be January 12th, one month from today. The ST board will appoint an interim CEO “in the weeks ahead.” Their next meeting had been scheduled to include Timm’s performance rating and bonus, according to agenda documents. Before Timm, Peter Rogoff was CEO for more than six years. Around the middle of next year, the board is supposed to get the final Environmental Impact Statement for the West Seattle Link Extension, after which the final routing (alignment) will be decided. There also will be some board changes early next year, since some of its current members are leaving, including West Seattle-residing County Councilmember Joe McDermott, who didn’t run for re-election.

LIGHT RAIL: Sound Transit talks about stations with West Seattle Transportation Coalition, asks for your feedback

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Though the Sound Transit Board won’t decide on the final West Seattle light-rail routing (“alignment”) before the middle of next year, the agency is proceeding with station design based on the “preferred alignment” that got preliminary board approval.

And as ST reps reiterated to the West Seattle Transportation Coalition last Thursday night, this is prime time to tell them what you think about how the design of West Seattle’s stations is shaping up. Your primary way to do that is to answer this survey – also pitched at ST’s recent meeting in The Junction (WSB coverage here and here) – if you haven’t already. That meeting did not include a briefing, just a chance to circulate and look at maps and sketches, so even if you attended, the materials from the WSTC meeting might provide a somewhat closer look.

Here’s the full slide deck from Thursday’s meeting. It includes three views of each planned station (Delridge, Avalon – still potentially on the table for omission, but design continues – and Junction). Below are the three major design views on which presenters focused:

First, the Delridge station (elevated) – some key points mentioned by ST’s Sloan Dawson included that the platform will be about 55′ above a reconfigured Charlestown Street. They’re working on pickup/dropoff/pedestrian zones to minimize having people crossing “a busy arterial.” The station itself eventually won’t front on Delridge – the street was shown as running alongside transit-oriented development projects that could be up to 85′ high (three stories higher than the platform). They don’t believe 26th/Andover will warrant a new signal but a new intersection at 23rd/Delridge will.

Next, the Avalon station (underground in what ST calls a “routine cut”):

This station will “straddle 35th SW,” underground, so entrances will be roughly where Taco Time and Pecos Pit (WSB sponsor) are now. Dawson also pointed out a plan to “reroute” part of SW Genesee in the area, as well as “a lot of new bike infrastructure” planned. He said they’re not currently envisioning any changes to the existing intersection signalization.

And next, the westernmost West Seattle station, in The Junction (tunneled):

Its entrances are envisioned on 40th and 42nd SW, and the platform would be 65′ below street level. There is new bicycle infrastructure here too, with protected bike lanes envisioned “all along the Alaska corridor.” Transit-oriented development in the area could go up to 75′.

Again, the full slide deck (here it is again) also has station-by-station looks at two other views – development near the station, and how you’ll get to the station (where buses and other vehicles will drop people off, for example).

In Q&A, ST reps were asked what happens if the board vote next year results in a different “alignment” than the ones these stations are on. The feedback provided now could be applied to other station locations, they said, but for the record, these are the only station locations getting some early design work now.

WHAT’S NEXT? The station-planning survey is open through December 20th.

WSTC’S NEXT MEETING: The group usually meets every other fourth Thursday, so that means the next meeting will be January 25, 2024 – watch westseattletc.org for info.

ADDED WEDNESDAY: Here’s video of the WSTC meeting, which the group just uploaded:

LIGHT RAIL: Sound Transit reps @ West Seattle Transportation Coalition tomorrow

Following up on last month’s West Seattle station-planning event (WSB coverage here), Sound Transit reps will be guests at Thursday night’s meeting of the West Seattle Transportation Coalition. The group usually meets on fourth Thursdays, every other month, but moved this meeting because of the Thanksgiving holiday. Chair Michael Taylor-Judd promises “an in-depth review and discussion with Sound Transit on the latest planning for light rail expansion to our side of the Duwamish.” The WSTC meeting is online, 6:30 pm Thursday (November 30), and you can attend via this link (meeting ID 885 1970 8802, passcode WSTC) – all are welcome.

LIGHT RAIL: Here’s everything Sound Transit showed at West Seattle event, as another round of drilling continues

Thanks to the reader who texted the photo of Sound Transit‘s drill rig by Taco Time at 35th/Fauntleroy. It’s another round of the sampling they’ve been doing around the area as part of environmental studies for West Seattle light rail. ST spokesperson Rachelle Cunningham tells us it should be done at that spot by today’s end. Meantime, we promised to let you know when all the graphics show on easels and tables at last week’s open-house-style station-planning meeting were available – we requested them the next day but it’s taken ST until now to get them into a sharable format. Here they are, in PDF (41 pages).

P.S. The related survey remains open through December.

Sound Transit returns to West Seattle to talk about light-rail stations, kicking off another round of feedback

Last night’s Sound Transit open house at the Alki Masonic Center in The Junction, the agency’s first in-person West Seattle meeting in many months, was largely a kickoff for a new round of feedback – which you can provide via this survey if you weren’t there to put sticky dots and/or notes on easel displays.

Though the final routing (alignment) of the $4 billion West Seattle Link Extension won’t be settled until after the final Environmental Impact Statement, its four planned stations – The Junction, Avalon, Delridge, and SODO – have ST-“preferred” locations on which the design discussion is focusing.

The feedback ST sought last night, and is seeking via the survey, focuses on possible projects near, and leading to/from, the stations, as well as the potential mixed-use Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) that’s likely to be built on station-adjacent sites that are used for construction staging. Regarding the station siting, here is the main graphic for The Junction’s station:

For Avalon (which, it should be noted, is still under consideration for removal from the plan to save money):

For Delridge:

We’ve requested the PDF version of all the meeting displays from Sound Transit and expect to have that later thi afternoon, plus it’s supposed to be added to the project website. Also note: We’re only focusing on the line as it crosses the Duwamish River and heads into West Seattle, but SODO is considered part of the West Seattle Link Extension too, so you’ll see that in the full package. In this round of feedback, the Delridge has the largest number of potential “projects” proposed, and the survey will take you through each one (you can choose to give feedback on one specific station, or all four). It’s open until December 20th.

Aside from an in-person version of the survey, last night’s gathering did include a few remarks from the stage, but rather than presenting project information, it was mostly an introduction of who and what was in the room. Nonetheless, we recorded video just in case. The first speaker is Jason Hampton, ST’s current point person for this project; the graphics projected onto the stage screen were images of ST stations elsewhere in the city:

As speakers noted, there was a significant city presence at the event too, since that’s who would lead the many potential transportation projects connecting to the stations. There was also a pitch for the draft Seattle Transportation Plan (feedback on that continues through Tuesday, October 31). Once the survey’s over, ST promised to return to West Seattle “early next year.” The timeline for the project continues to estimate the West Seattle extension will open in late 2032.

ADDED OCTOBER 30: We’ve also published this separately but for the record, the meeting graphics as shown on easels and tables are here.

WEDNESDAY: Sound Transit’s next West Seattle meeting

Reminder if you’re interested in Sound Transit‘s West Seattle light-rail plan, tomorrow night (Wednesday, October 25th), ST is hosting a “station planning forum.” It’s scheduled for 5:30-7:30 pm – with a “short presentation at 6 pm” – at Alki Masonic Center (40th/Edmunds) and will cover the stations in West Seattle and SODO. Recently, ST officially separated planning for the West Seattle and Ballard extensions, since the latter has fallen further behind and needs a new draft Environmental Impact Statement. Next key date in the West Seattle plan is the release of the final Environmental Impact Statement, which ST now says is due out in “mid-2024.” That would be followed by a final board vote on routing (“alignment”) for the extension. At the Wednesday meeting, ST says it will show “updated designs” for the stations – West Seattle has three proposed, Delridge, Avalon, and The Junction, though the possibility of dropping the Avalon station has not yet been formally ruled out. Current estimated date for West Seattle light rail to start service is late 2032.