Sound Transit Needs Your Input!

Seattle voters will soon have an exciting opportunity to consider a ballot measure asking whether we will support a regional light rail system, including a light rail line connecting Downtown to Ballard, with stops at South Lake Union, Seattle Center, and Interbay. The most recent openings of the Capitol Hill and University District light rail stations have brought Seattle into the 21st century of transit, and the coming wave of transit investments contained in Sound Transit’s next package, known as ST3, will revolutionize how we live and get around our region (see the full draft package here). This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity we must not take lightly.

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Light Rail in the Downtown Tunnel. Photo courtesy of Dan Nolte.

The ST3 package, as it stands, proposes a second downtown tunnel, stretching from Royal Brougham Way to Elliott Avenue before the tracks move to street-level along 15th Avenue West, posing challenges to a critical freight, transit, and commuter arterial.  As any of us who have attempted to commute on 15th Ave West from 4 to 7pm can attest, the traffic conditions are frustrating, to say the least.  We can only imagine conditions if two lanes are fully dedicated for rail.  But what if the light rail route didn’t need its own lane on 15th Ave West?  What if we could place it farther west, saving everyone who uses the corridor from ever-increasing gridlock?

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15th Ave West is the critical corridor serving Northwest Seattle. Photo courtesy of the City of Seattle.

Currently, the ST3 proposal suggests the line be at-grade, but that’s what this package is at the moment–a proposal.  The Sound Transit Board of Directors, consisting of elected leaders from around the region, are currently accepting feedback before they make changes and ultimately send a final for voters to consider at the ballot this November.

The communities in my Northwest Seattle district are deeply invested in shaping this plan, and have begun to speak with a united voice about how this plan can best serve our neighborhoods. The Northwest Seattle Coalition for Sound Transit 3 formed not months ago, and is composed of community leaders and more than a dozen organizations from Ballard, Interbay, Magnolia, Queen Anne, and Uptown. This group is gaining traction to advocate for the fastest and most reliable alignment.

The Coalition is advocating for an alignment I affectionately call the “West is Best” option. This proposal would run light rail parallel to 15th Avenue West (the equivalent of four blocks to the west) and cross the ship canal via a tunnel. This plan will ensure speed and reliability, preserve the existing lanes on 15th, and create an underground station in Ballard that would be the best option for future northern and eastern expansion.

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Studying the plans at the Ballard Open House.

Why should we make this kind of investment in the Downtown-Ballard line? The expected ridership in the Downtown-Ballard corridor is projected to be roughly 140,000, the highest of any sub-area in the entire Sound Transit region. It is critical this corridor is done quickly and done right. The Downtown-Ballard line will be a regional corridor—that is a fact. Our communities deserve infrastructure investments to meet the demands of regional ridership.

I have voiced my support for the “West is Best” option, and the coalition of voices continues to grow. Before the Sound Transit Board closes the public outreach period today, let’s ensure they’ve heard our voices. Fill out the ST3 survey and in the comment box at the end say “I want a #TunnelToBallard and the #WestIsBest route in Interbay.” Or send a letter to soundtransit3@soundtransit.org and cc: me at Sally.Bagshaw@seattle.gov.

Thanks for letting Sound Transit know West is Best!

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