West Seattle Blog… | VIDEO: What the Community Advisory Group for the West Seattle Light Rail Transit Project Heard and Asked During the First Briefing on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement

By Tracy Records
West Seattle Blog Editor

Part of the sound transitThe West Seattle/Duwamish Community Advisory Group’s role is to help neighbors understand the light rail project before it’s built – and while the 2032 opening date seems a long way off, construction could take just four years .

Now that the Draft environmental impact statement has been out for a week and a half, evaluating route and station possibilities, CAG members had a briefing and Q&A on Tuesday evening.

Sound Transit cathal ridge reminded band members that while you’ll have to transfer to SODO in the early years, by 2042 building the system will mean a commute from Seattle to Everett.

Ridge also reminded the group that the draft EIS includes preferred alternatives and other potential alternatives, to be winnowed down by the ST Council in some months. Ridge stressed. He recommended reading the document itself, not just summaries like this. (Later in the presentation, the list of topics it covers was posted – so if you’re interested, that’s another reason to read it 🙂

Again, the group was reminded that the Seattle city government also has a role to play in this – SDOTthe reference person is Sara Maxanawho noted that the current city representatives on the ST board are the mayor Bruce Harrel and President of the City Council Debora Juarez. Maxana also said the city’s role will include helping neighborhoods plan stations and center racial equity.

PREVIEW: This was the heart of the meeting – Jason Hampton, currently in charge of the West Seattle/Duwamish segment of the project, went over the main solutions for many alternatives, starting with some high-level views. First, estimated daily boardings for stations (The Junction in general would see the most, Delridge not far behind, Avalon far behind). Hampton went through other “transit integration” numbers. Next – opportunities for “transit-oriented development”, residential and commercial space for each option, although these numbers were presented without comparison of the amount of existing residential and commercial space that would be demolished, and Hampton mentioned that some zoning changes may be required to accommodate these hypothetical potentials.

This advisory group is also tasked with looking at alternatives for crossing the Duwamish River, of which the DEIS is studying three, so this is where it all started. The “preferred alternative” goes south along the SODO bus lane, curves west around 4th/Spokane and crosses over an elevated bridge that would “match the elevation” of the current bridge at West Seattle. It would have a construction challenge along the northern edge of Pigeon Point, Hampton acknowledged.

There is a “southern edge” option that would go much further south. It would require columns in the water and would affect, among other things, two marinas.

And an alternative on the north side:

Here is the comparison of the three:

Heading further west it showed some combinations of Junction and Delridge alternatives – but not all of them. This is what Elevated Fauntleroy Way and Dakota Street (Delridge) stations would look like:

Or – if “third party funding” could be found – here is the combination of a tunnel junction station and a lower height Dakota (Delridge) station:

And a similar “third party funded” alternative – the junction station at a different location, Delridge station further down:

There are even more possible combinations – such as a “short tunnel” junction station plus a higher Delridge (Dakota) station:

Or another “short tunnel” Junction station associated with a “lower height” Andover station for Delridge:

Elevated Fauntleroy/Andover is the combination that would among other things eliminate new mixed-use buildings in Fauntleroy, just south of Alaska.

In the side-by-side comparison, Medium Tunnel/Andover wins out on all four comparison criteria:

Again, these were just a few of the possibilities – the draft EIS contains cost, displacement, height, and other types of information about whatever was surveyed.

Q&A/COMMENTS: Here are most of the questions posed by CAG members – mostly comments intended to guide future briefings/discussions, not necessarily for immediate response. Would West Seattle buses still run downtown after Link launches? At least until the line to Ballard is fully completed in 2037, Hampton said. (This was confirmed by the King County Transportation Policy Advisor Chris Arkills in the chat on the meeting screen.) … CAG member Inaki Longa wanted to see the criteria “how many accommodation units would be added” displayed for comparison purposes as well as a more detailed look at the driver experience – how much time would be added to using a certain type of station , for example. … ACG member Deb Barker asked how the projected ridership numbers were developed. ST Daniel Turner explained the formula, which includes growth projections and planned/allowed projects as well as transit connections to stations. … ACG member David Betterock wants to see what the elevated line would like above Delridge; he also said it would be good to break down the number of moves between landlords and tenants. He also asked for more details on constructability issues along Pigeon Point. Hampton responded to this: They are working on engineering solutions for the steep slope – “there is an engineering path forward, we just wanted to note” the issues (including heron nesting). Facilitator Leda Chahim noted that tenants are compensated for relocation as well as landlords.

Member of CAG Pete Spalding wondered what the massing of the railway bridge would look like compared to the current high bridge. He also wanted more details about the move – counting the rooms – as well as more information about the environmental impacts of the crossing. Longfellow Creek, “a sensitive salmon habitat”. ST’s Ridge said the rail bridge would be “much narrower” but of similar height. No, travel information does not count rooms. Re: The creek, it’s mostly dug in this area, said ST’s environmental rep. … ACG member Mr Miller pointed out that the presentation did not include all the alternatives, especially for Delridge. She also asked for more information about bus integration and she was concerned about the passenger experience – say someone taking the South Delridge bus one day at the Delridge stop and then having to get off the train at SODO for years until the Ballard expansion was complete… ACG member Kim Schwarzkopf questioned the mixing and matching of alternatives in a way not shown today – Ridge reiterated that all possibilities are shown in the DEIS. Why is Avalon not exploded? It is included in the “Joint segment” distribution. He added that all of the Delridge alternatives can connect to any of the Duwamish crossings. … ACG member Ella McRae said the number of displacements was “shocking” and also wanted information on the number of residents potentially affected, not just the number of houses/apartments. Travel times are also of interest to him. … ACG member Charlie Capable noted that the Avalon station, with projected low ridership and proximity to the other two stations, appears potentially unnecessary. “The fact that we don’t even question the need for this seems like a mistake.” … ACG member Emily S said it would be helpful to see more details on bus routes in the discussion of transit integration… CAG Member Willard Brown also expressed concern about how people will get to downtown smoothly. He wondered about budgets and what are the critical decision points of cost versus functionality. He was on the Stakeholder Advisory Group earlier in the planning process and noted “we were told (then) ‘never consider the numbers’.”

THIRD PARTY FUNDING: The definition has been described, as a reminder, as anything above realignment plan funding — $1.6 billion, according to Ridge — so there is at least one junction tunnel option that at this stadium, would not require it.

AND AFTER: It’s time for feedback now. June is when the board members will confirm or modify the “preferred alternative” for the final level of the environmental study.

Watch the orange line for what this group will consider in upcoming meetings – including a “deep dive” into DEIS next month.

You can keep up to date and comment via the online open house, as detailed here. CAE members received these tips for comment:

Comments are expected by April 28. Further briefings for this group and others will take place before then – including a workshop with the West Seattle Transportation Coalition on March 24 and a Sound Transit workshop on March 30. (Next meeting of this group is March 8.) Other ways to ask questions or even request a personalized briefing are listed here.

Jose P. Rogers