Editorial: The right call has been made to keep Paine on the light rail track

Looking north, an aerial view of Paine Field in Everett. (Paine Field / Snohomish County)

By the editorial board of the Herald

Those who lead brainstorming sessions like to start with the encouragement that “there are no bad ideas”.

The truth, however, is that, yes… yes, there are bad ideas. Bringing Sound Transit’s Link streetcar line to Everett but bypassing Southwest Everett’s manufacturing jobs center and Paine Field transportation hub is one of those bad ideas.

Snohomish County representatives on the Sound Transit Board of Directors – County Executive Dave Somers, Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin and Lynnwood Mayor Christine Frizzell – made it clear that, when considering a route for Sound Transit’s Link streetcar line, anything that avoids Southwest Everett manufacturing jobs and Paine Field airport is not worth discussing further.

Such a major realignment deviates from the original plan and ignores the purpose of bringing light rail to Everett in the first place, moving commuters not just from homes in Everett to jobs south, but homes south of Everett. to jobs here.

ST3, the tax package passed by Transit District voters in Snohomish, King, and Pierce counties in 2016, outlined a general route that would bring light rail to Everett as the system’s northern terminus, but specifically included the Southwest Everett Industrial Center as prime for service before its final stop at the downtown Everett Transit Station.

That’s why Somers, Franklin, and Frizzell were unanimous in recently rejecting further work by Sound Transit to formally include a detailed study of route changes that would have removed stations and a route that included the manufacturing area and the airport. instead, considering routes along Interstate 99 or Interstate 5 as part of the transit agency’s early work to examine lane alignment and potential stations. The apparent benefit—though without guarantees—is that such a realignment would cost less and could bring light rail to Everett sooner.

In June, these considerations were presented to a larger group of local officials – the Elected Leaders Group – for further discussion. This group voted last week to reject the two alternative routes from further study. In July, with no apparent direction from the whole group or the three members of the local council, Sound Transit planners indicated at a council meeting in July that they were beginning work on exploring alternative routes during a full council meeting in July.

Told about the alternate route study, “it was a surprise,” Franklin said this week, because it wasn’t part of the route route that was offered to voters in 2016.

A significant realignment of plans from what voters approved, Franklin said, is reason enough in itself to stop that train of thought. But a closer look at what would be lost by bypassing Paine Field and its jobs with little possible benefit from either alternative route should definitely derail further study.

“We are constantly looking for alternatives. We look at station locations and line movement. But those types of alternatives move it a few blocks one way or the other,” Franklin said. “It’s like saying, ‘Hey, let’s just not go to Ballard or Queen Anne,’ light rail branches that will serve neighborhoods in Seattle.

In building a light rail system that fully serves Everett, the line must include the southwest region of the city, just by sheer force of numbers. Currently, that number is 40,000 jobs in the industrial zone, mostly Boeing jobs, but also other aerospace companies and those dependent on the airport, including FedEx. Boeing accounts for about 30,000 of those jobs, according to Paine Field figuresbut it also includes important jobs in other aviation maintenance, repair and overhaul companies and new players in the aviation industry, such as those developing electric-powered aircraft, such as magniX and Eviation.

“It’s the largest job center on the entire Sound Transit lineup,” Franklin said. “If we’re not servicing this employment hub, what we’re doing is prioritizing southern employment hubs over the largest manufacturing hub in the state.” … Why would we do this to our city?

A reduced cost for the whole project or an earlier arrival – with no guarantee that either would happen – is not enough to justify avoiding the jobs – and commuters there. Currently, Link is expected to arrive at Paine Field by 2038 and Everett Station by 2042.

What would be lost, Franklin said, is about $1 billion in investment in South Everett, an area that has lacked such investment for decades.

In addition, realignments along I-5 or Highway 99 would mean at least two fewer stations along the Everett line, an additional loss for a community that Link was to serve that relies on public transit services. common and economic growth that the light rail system should generate.

Concerns about possible gentrification along the road, which could crowd out existing low-income housing, especially along Casino Road, are legitimate, but can be addressed by placing the road closer to the 526 Freeway. Franklin said the city and Sound Transit have time to plan this route.

Alternate routes also do not provide opportunities for future transit-oriented residential and commercial development, particularly along I-5, where there are no realistic options for train stations. and the development that would develop around them.

“We should be advocating for more stations, not fewer,” Franklin said.

The timeline for the arrival of light rail in Everett may seem far enough away not to raise concerns about plans and alternatives now, but bad ideas have a way of laying foundations that can be difficult to change. Local reps advising Sound Transit decisions are right to derail all bad ideas now.

Jose P. Rogers