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Photo of people walking on a pedestrian bridge next to Mount Baker Link Light Rail Station, West Seattle and Ballard Link Extensions

Reintroducing: West Seattle Link and Ballard Link 

Publish Date

Now that the Sound Transit Board has identified preferred alternatives for both the West Seattle Link and Ballard Link Extensions, you might’ve caught wind of these light rail projects undergoing a “conscious uncoupling.”  

The rumors are true: while both are still in the planning phase, these two major projects are now living their best lives independently. West Seattle Link is heading toward a Final Environmental Impact Statement (or Final EIS, for short), while Ballard Link is on the path to a new Draft EIS after further studies resulted in alternatives that weren’t in the original document.  

One important point to keep in mind: No final decisions have been made on either project. The Board won’t determine the exact routes and stations to build until after the projects publish their respective Final EIS documents.  

It’s been a busy year for both projects, so let’s take a moment to review where we are in the overall project development process for each because, with the passage of some recent milestones, we’ve turned a corner.   

West Seattle Link

The Preferred Alternative for West Seattle Link was identified July 2022. We expect to publish the Final EIS in the late spring or summer of 2024. That means that less than a year from now, after extensive planning and engagement dating back to the ST3 ballot measure in 2016, we anticipate finally concluding the environmental process for West Seattle Link. To learn more about the range of alternatives being studied in the Final EIS, stay tuned to future blog posts and check out this map

While we’re finishing up the Final EIS, we’re also advancing the detailed design of the preferred alternative, or Preliminary Engineering. You can help inform this design effort by providing feedback on stations in West Seattle and SODO at a West Seattle Link Extension Station Planning Forum on October 25 at 5:30pm at Alki Masonic Center and a follow-up forum in early 2024. There will also be an online survey for people who can’t make it in person.  

We’re also continuing to have conversations with potentially affected property owners. While the property acquisition process will not begin in earnest until after the environmental process concludes next summer, we may look into the possibility of early acquisitions of certain critical parcels even before then.   

So, we are turning a corner. By the middle of next year, West Seattle Link will have fully transitioned from planning into implementation, including final design, permitting, and property acquisition. Learn more about project timelines and milestones here.  

Things will start moving quickly once we get to final design. Utility relocation could begin as early as 2025 with early construction activities getting underway as soon as 2026. This will keep us on target for opening revenue service in 2032.  

Ballard Link

The Preferred Alternative for Ballard Link was identified in March of this year and then modified slightly again in July. Several new ideas emerged during the public comment period on the original January 2022 Draft EIS and further study period.  

To address those new ideas and to allow West Seattle Link to continue making progress, we’re developing a new Ballard Link Draft EIS. We are still coordinating with our federal partners on the timeline, but we expect the new Draft EIS to be published in late 2024. The new Draft EIS will rely and build upon the existing work to date on the January 2022 Draft EIS including all previous scoping comments, public outreach and feedback, and environmental analysis. Publication of this new Draft EIS will be followed by another public comment period. To learn more about the range of alternatives being studied in the new Draft EIS, including the new ideas mentioned above, stay tuned to future blog posts and check out this map

At the same time, we are advancing Preliminary Engineering, and continuing conversations with potentially affected property owners.  

After the Draft EIS comment period, we’ll move to a Final EIS, which likely would be published in 2026. Following the Final EIS, the project would transition to implementation, including final design, permitting, and property acquisition, and ultimately construction. Learn more about project timelines and milestones here

Revenue service is targeted for 2039. 

South Downtown Hub Planning

In parallel with the work we’re doing on West Seattle Link and Ballard Link, Sound Transit, the City of Seattle, and King County are partnering to advance the South Downtown Hub planning effort. 

The goal of the effort is to create a list of potential improvements targeted at improving the public realm and improving connections in the C-ID/Pioneer Square area, and ways to activate Union Station. The intent is to engage the community in identifying and testing those ideas and to understand feasibility, cost, potential schedule for implementation, lead agency responsibility, potential funding partnerships, and other project components. 

We hope to kick off the engagement with a community workshop process later this fall, which will include an ongoing series of workshops through 2024 and beyond. This process is still coming together, and we’ll update you after we have more conversations with agency and community partners. 

So that’s a high-level snapshot of where we are in project development and what’s next for the projects. We hope you’ll join us on October 25 for the West Seattle Link Extension Station Planning Forum, and again in mid-November (date to be determined) for the kickoff of the South Downtown Hub Planning effort.  

There will be many other ways to engage with us as project development continues, including future blog posts digging into key topics and questions. We’ll be updating our websites and project materials to reflect that West Seattle Link and Ballard Link are following separate planning timelines from here on out. You’ll soon be able to subscribe to project alerts for one or both projects. You can subscribe to alerts here.  

And, as always, if you’re confused about what’s happening, we’re here to help.  You can call or email us with questions or comments or request a briefing or meeting with project staff.  

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