Sound Transit Board identifies preferred alternative for West Seattle Link Extension, requests further study of Ballard alternatives
Identification of Ballard Link Extension preferred alternative deferred to early 2023 pending further studies and community engagement
The Sound Transit Board today identified preferred light rail route and station locations for the West Seattle Link Extension and directed staff to conduct further studies and community engagement, primarily on the Ballard Link Extension.
The Board weighed community priorities, regional needs, input from agencies and the City of Seattle, as well as analysis in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in its action. Before confirming or modifying the Preferred Alternative for the Ballard Link Extension, the Board directed further study and engagement in certain areas from the Chinatown-International District through Downtown, Interbay and Ballard.
"We recognize the impact this project will have on the Chinatown-International District, and we will continue our conversations with community members to gather information and fully understand their concerns," said Sound Transit Board Chair and University Place Council Member Kent Keel. "At the same time, moving forward with a preferred alternative for West Seattle allows us to continue making progress on light rail expansions that will provide a hub for the entire region."
"By confirming West Seattle extension’s light rail route, we’ve made major progress, while also taking the necessary time to study and engage in areas that require further work. This approach allows us to spend more time listening to the needs of the community, particularly in the Chinatown-International District, while exploring additional solutions as we continue to move the project forward where we can," Sound Transit System Expansion Committee Chair and King County Council Chair Claudia Balducci said. "The challenge from here will be to make sure the agency engages openly and effectively with community members, and fully explores concepts requested by the community and our agency partners before confirming the preferred alternative for the CID, Seattle Center and other parts of the Ballard Link Extension."
"WSBLE is one of the largest and most transformative infrastructure projects in Seattle's history, and we are excited to be a partner in moving this project forward to deliver fast, reliable, accessible light rail. We are committed to building the best project for the Chinatown-International District, Ballard, Downtown, South Lake Union, West Seattle - and every neighborhood along the project alignment," said Bruce Harrell, Sound Transit Board member and Mayor of Seattle. "Thank you to the countless community members and stakeholders who helped inform today's Board action."
"Today Sound Transit takes a major step in the process to deliver the West Seattle and Ballard Link Extension. I want to thank members of the public, community leaders, my fellow Board Members, and Sound Transit staff for your leadership and thoughtful engagement. Through this collaborative process the Board has identified key refinement concepts, and areas for further study and refinement in response to feedback from community and key partners. Today’s Board action moves us closer to realizing the promise of a world-class high-capacity transit system this region deserves," said Sound Transit Board member and King County Executive Dow Constantine.
In the West Seattle extension, the Board identified the Preferred Alternative for the West Seattle Link Extension as the Medium Tunnel 41st Avenue Station alternative in the West Seattle Junction segment, the Andover Street Station Lower Height alternative in the Delridge segment, the South Crossing alternative in the Duwamish Segment, and the At-Grade Alternative Staggered Station Configuration in the SODO segment. The Board will also consider the At-Grade South Station Option as a possible Preferred Alternative with future endorsement contingent on resolving with partner agencies federal property acquisition requirements and project funding needs in a manner that does not impact the West Seattle Link Extension schedule. A report for Board consideration is due no later than September 2022.
The Board also directed further studies in the West Seattle extension to enhance station access, prioritize an integrated and well-designed transfer experience from buses to light rail, and address concerns over potential displacements of organizations serving low-income and communities of color and determine potential third-party funding needs. Studies will include exploring a station entrance at 42nd at the Alaska Junction station, opportunities to provide access north and south of Andover Street at the Delridge station, enhancing access from the platform to South Lander Street at the SODO station and considering eliminating the Avalon Station in the West Seattle Junction segment.
For the Ballard Link Extension, the Board directed further study before confirming or modifying the preferred alternative. The Board requested further study to recognize past harms, minimize displacements and potential loss of cultural identity; conduct additional engagement between community and agency partners; support investment in public spaces; improve experience for riders; minimize construction impacts and risks; and determine potential third-party funding needs. Specifically, further study and engagement will include concepts requested by community and agency partners in the Chinatown-International District segment; a number of additional studies in the downtown segment including connecting Denny/Terry station to SLU/Harrison station and connecting SLU/Harrison station to Seattle Center/Mercer station; and additional studies in the South Interbay and Ballard segments.
Staff will provide updates to the Board on progress in November 2022 and February 2023, after which the Board may confirm or modify the preferred alternative for the Ballard extension.
Detailed information on the preferred alternative for West Seattle and areas for further study is included in the Board motion at https://www.soundtransit.org/st_sharepoint/download/sites/PRDA/ActiveDocuments/Motion%20M2022-57.pdf.
Information about the West Seattle and Ballard Link Extensions project is at www.wsblink.participate.online and https://www.soundtransit.org/system-expansion/west-seattle-ballard-link-extensions.