Seattle Center’s new light rail stop will be less disruptive on Mercer Street, city staff say

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Instead of building a light rail station under the Seattle Center grounds, Sound Transit should choose a site on Mercer Street that won’t disrupt the center’s KEXP radio station or the performing arts, city officials say.

This is part of a series of route preferences Mayor Bruce Harrell’s administration was unveiled at the city council’s Seattle Transportation and Utilities Committee on Tuesday.

Sound Transit would spend an estimated $13 billion connecting Ballard, Seattle Center, Downtown and West Seattle by the end of the 2030s under the behemoth ST3 plan passed by voters, plus taxes on sales, ownership and car tabs higher in 2016.

Final routes will be chosen next year by 18 members of Sound Transit’s regional board of directors, but politically they will have to consider city demands, not to mention the leverage Seattle could exert through land use permit. The city went through more than 8,000 Sound Transit study pages released in January and posted 1,500 detailed comments.

Seattle Center

Sound Transit preferred a station at Republican Street that includes land owned by the city of Seattle Center next to Climate Pledge Arena. In March, nearby KEXP, the Seattle Repertory Theatre, the Seattle International Film Festival and the Vera Project all-ages concert hall warned of “a veritable existential crisis” that could doom them with noise and building vibration.

In a statement, KEXP CEO Tom Mara said he was encouraged by the city’s recommendation to place the station under Mercer Street, one block north.

But a station under Mercer requires $100 million more and would displace 140 households, Sound Transit predicts. Traffic would also be worse while portions of Mercer are blocked.

Although generally supportive of Mercer’s location, Rick Hooper of the Uptown Alliance neighborhood group said: “A lot of additional analysis, brainstorming, evaluation lies ahead…Our challenge is how to get there. to this result without wreaking havoc on our community during the lengthy construction process.”

A finished station would have one entrance facing downtown Seattle and another facing Queen Anne Hill and Uptown businesses. Ease of access is crucial because 12 million people a year visit the Seattle Center, including massive post-event crowds, said Sara Maxana, program director for the Seattle Department of Transportation.

City Councilman Andrew Lewis, whose district includes Seattle Center, called it a “very high priority” for the city “to make sure we do everything we can to fight for that Mercer alignment in the neighborhood. Uptown”.

Another challenge with Mercer is whether the rail tunnel can bend south to reach the city’s favorite site, South Lake Union Station, where Harrison Street meets the Highway 99 tunnel entrance and King buses. County Metro E Line.

Joe Reilly, director of policy and communications at Seattle Subway, a light rail advocacy organization, would like to see the line swing further north and east, and then into the bustling and dense neighborhood of South Lake Union.

“When we’re trying to revive our downtown and get people back to the offices a certain number of times a week, the station should really get you to the front door of your work,” he said. .

Delridge

Tuesday’s other highlight was a proposal to move Delridge Station in West Seattle a few blocks north, alongside Nucor Steel Mill, which could lower the height of concrete columns rising toward Alaska Junction and reduce the demolition of housing in the neighboring district of Youngstown.

The columns would cross Southwest Andover Street, then skirt the four-lane hillside road of Fauntleroy Way, setting the way for a short “middle tunnel” from Avalon Way Southwest to the junction, terminating at 41st Avenue Southwest.

But Delridge Station’s new location makes access more difficult for people from Delridge Way Southwest and White Center, who will have to sit longer on northbound buses before they can catch trains.

West Seattle Councilwoman Lisa Herbold added that the north site, currently home to an isolated cluster of offices and small businesses, would displace child care centers serving 300 children, affecting West Seattle families and a mental health services center. .

Herbold suggested more study and discussion before approving a Delridge station site.

Harrell and SDOT called for “a focused planning process of six to nine months” to decide where to place the second station in the International District/Chinatown – either below Fifth Avenue South at Chinatown Gate or farther west at Fourth Avenue South, which worsens traffic during construction but protects neighborhood businesses and apartments.

Council member Alex Pedersen, who leads the committee, said Wednesday morning that the council could declare its ST3 station choices in a resolution as early as mid-July, taking a few weeks longer than the June 28 timeline staff indicated. of the mayor on Tuesday. Sound Transit’s board is targeting similar action on July 28. This would kick off another year of environmental impact studies and discussions.

Seattle Times reporter David Kroman contributed to this report.

Jose P. Rogers