The Sound Transit II (ST II) vote in 2008 funded an ambitious plan to build a light rail line all the way to Lynnwood. University Link between downtown and the UW is under construction; Northgate Link from the UW to Northgate is in final design; and Lynnwood Link from Northgate to Lynnwood is completing scoping and is ready to move into formal environmental review. That means that if Seattle wants input on a line that will open ten years in the future, we have to make our preferences known now.
And we just successfully did that. While the ST II ballot measure did not include any Seattle stations between Northgate and 145th, the Sound Transit Capital Committee has now unanimously approved considering a station at 130th Street and I-5. The Committee agreed to study the Sound Transit staff recommended configurations for the portion of the line within Seattle and Shoreline – the original ST Ii line with stations at 145th and 185th, and an alternative with stations at 130th, 155th, and 185th.
I proposed an amendment to the list of EIS alternatives that would consider an alignment with stations at 130th, 145th, and 185th, and the Committee approved my proposal without dissent – immediately after an intense debate about studying a possible station at 175th over the opposition of Shoreline and a negative analysis by Sound Transit staff. We partnered with the City of Shoreline to put together this proposal — Shoreline considers 155th and 175th as poor prospects for transit oriented development (TOD) and station siting.
I advanced my proposal with the unanimous support of the Seattle City Council, which approved Resolution 31168, supporting the study of a light rail station at 130th in addition to the proposed station at 145th Street. We supported this alternative because 130th would have frequent and convenient transit connections to the nearby Bitter Lake Hub Urban Village and Lake City Hub Urban Village. In addition, the Northgate Area Comprehensive Plan recommends including at least one station in Seattle north of Northgate and adjacent to I-5 in order to provide access for Seattle residents while reducing traffic congestion and other impacts on the Northgate area. And, while 130th and I-5 is not a great location for transit oriented development, it does offer some opportunities.
Sound Transit has already made a major decision on the Lynnwood corridor that limits TOD prospects by finding that an alignment oriented around SR 99 was not affordable. This alignment, unfortunately, was estimated to cost some $800 million more than the I-5 corridor. The I-5 corridor does have the advantage of providing direct and rapid service for the two urban centers of Mountlake Terrace and Lynnwood, but the TOD opportunities in King County are limited. Shoreline, however, believes that we can develop TOD around the 185th Street station, and that 145th also has some possibilities. By adding 130th to this configuration, we open the possibility for TOD work within Seattle: as noted above, there is some potential near the station as well as two nearby urban villages.
A final alignment decision will be made after the EIS has been completed, in the summer of 2013. At that time, we will have better information on the costs and prospects for the configurations under study, and hopefully will be able to make a good case for including the 130th station in the Preferred Alternative. Construction would start in 2018, with service beginning in 2023.