Sound Transit discussion on light rail extensions to West Seattle and Ballard points to recommendations
At a meeting on April 26 with the City of Seattle Sustainability and Transportation Committee and members of the Sound Transit Board recommendations were discussed on where to run the future expansion lines and locate stations for light rail into both West Seattle and Ballard.
After many months of community engagement they announced that 41st Ave or 42nd Avenue SW were optimal for station locations (with refinements) in West Seattle if 3rd party funding was secured with a south Duwamish crossing. In Ballard 14th or 15th Ave NW were selected. At the other end in the Chinatown-International District the board said Fourth and Fifth avenue were the choices.
The board determined that an elevated route that eliminates around 100 houses near the Alaska Junction was not preferred. They also said the rail line would most likely run at the surface through Sodo with east-west street under and overpasses. The discussion including consolidating three stations into two by eliminating the Avalon Station.
Now that the alternatives have been narrowed down, environmental impact studies will be done for some options.
Next up however a Sound Transit committee and the full Sound Transit board will consider these options next month.
The expansion plan under consideration adds nearly 5 miles of light rail between West Seattle and downtown Seattle with five stations between the Century Link Field, T-Mobile Park and the Alaska Junction. Barring unforeseen delays Sound Transit believes the stations will open sometime in 2030.
Five years beyond that in 2035, seven more miles of light rail will run from Ballard into downtown, including nine stations between the Chinatown-International District and Ballard.
Still under consideration were both elevated tracks and tunnels.
The $350 million price tag on a tunnel beneath the Ship Canal to Ballard is a serious issue. The cheaper alternative is a drawbridge that would be taller than the Ballard Bridge and would open multiple times a day for marine traffic, stopping trains.That bridge would have 15th Ave. NW elevated station.
Another expensive alternative is a high fixed bridge over Salmon Bay costing $100 million more than the drawbridge.
Many in West Seattle would prefer a tunnel into the Junction area since it would preserve the neighborhood aesthetic and be less disruptive to the neighborhood but at $700 million more than elevated tracks that option seems unlikely.
The final iight rail alignments won't be complete until 2022.