UW proposes promising modification to U-District light rail route

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Sound Transit Board Chair and King County Executive Ron Sims today welcomed a letter from the University of Washington Regents proposing the addition of a modified route to the options currently under review for extending light rail to the University District and Northgate (see attached). The Sound Transit Board on Thursday will consider the UW proposal, Sims said.

"We're committed to extending Link to the north without a negative impact on the University of Washington's critical research facilities," said Sims. "Their proposed minor modification to our Montlake route option is promising and warrants a thorough review."

Sound Transit is currently gathering public input on North Link route alternatives outlined in a Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (DSEIS) released last month. The DSEIS analyzes route alternatives starting from the north end of the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel and travelling via tunnel through either the Capitol Hill or South Lake Union areas, beneath the Ship Canal to the University District, and on to Northgate.

"We appreciate the joint work of Sound Transit and UW staff to analyze the potential benefits, impacts and mitigation for each of the route alternatives through the University District," Sally Jewell, chairperson of the University of Washington Board of Regents Capital Assets Committee, wrote in the letter encouraging consideration of the modified route.

In the letter, Jewell also addressed a separate West Tunnel DSEIS route option. It appears the West Tunnel route's isolated impacts on research activities can be remedied or mitigated, and therefore that the University could support the route, the letter states.

"We want you to know that each member of the University of Washington Board of Regents and administration is supportive of Sound Transit's mission and committed to finding an alignment that works for Sound Transit, as well as for the University of Washington," Jewell wrote.

An initial Sound Transit staff assessment of the modified Montlake route suggests it is feasible and promising. The motion that the Sound Transit Board will consider on Thursday calls for staff to conduct a detailed study, including engineering work, cost estimation, environmental analysis and ongoing coordination with the University.

Sound Transit will hold public hearings on the DSEIS alternatives on Wednesday, Jan. 7 and Thursday, Jan. 8. Information on the DSEIS and public comment period is available at: http://www.soundtransit.org/linkrail/central/construct/North/ClNKNorth.htm

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