A light-rail station at Northeast 130th Street would be ideal as a pedestrian and bicycle access point and would ease congestion at the Northgate and Northeast 145th Street station stops.
I RAN for Seattle City Council because I was tired of North Seattle being ignored in citywide and regional matters. I am hard-pressed to think of a more poignant example of this phenomenon than a future that leaves taxpayers staring helplessly at light rail as it breezes through their neighborhood without stopping.
Neighbors pushed hard for a Northeast 130th Street station. Their efforts were rewarded with crystallized public support, dedicated staff time from Sound Transit and constructive conversations regarding the community’s vision for growth and density.
City of Seattle staff spent months toiling over citywide growth plans and housing-affordability goals, both of which hinged in a meaningful way on new transit and housing at Northeast 130th Street. Then, the Northeast 130th Street station was given a “provisional” designation in the Sound Transit 3 draft plan, with zero guaranteed funding and no targeted completion date. All the ongoing community efforts came to a screeching halt. Once again, North Seattle was ignored.
Research shows investments around Northeast 130th Street could make it an excellent pedestrian and bicycle access point, one which could alleviate stress on the heavy traffic projected to choke the Northgate and Northeast 145th Street light-rail stations. The research also found stopping at a Northeast 130th Street station would add a mere 42 seconds to light-rail travel times. As a matter of comparison, increased congestion has slowed travel times on Interstate 5 by a minute every three months over the last five years.
The Northeast 130th Street Station would be the focal point of a powerful east-west transit connection. Frequent buses would connect the booming urban villages of Lake City and Bitter Lake with light-rail service. These communities have high concentrations of communities of color, English-language learners and low-income households. Car ownership is below the citywide average. These transit-dependent communities lack adequate resources to meet their existing and future transportation demands, and desperately need new ways to get around.
Furthermore, the Northeast 130th Street station was originally estimated to cost $25 million if built concurrently with Lynnwood LINK, opening in 2023. The price would more than triple to $80 million if we were to add the station at an even later date.
Sound Transit board members, as well as agency staff, have told us they understand these facts and agree with them. My understanding is the late-breaking, “provisional” designation was due to concern that adding the station would disrupt a federal grant application.
The grant concern has been portrayed as an insurmountable obstacle. I hear this, but I disagree. Let me explain:
The argument I have heard is that the grant application for the section of rail in question has already been submitted, without a Northeast 130th Street station. Some say adding the station now would put us “in the back of the line” for a billion dollars from the U.S. Federal Transit Administration.
This argument is stunningly defeatist and ignores several crucial realities.
First, the grant application in question is chock-full of mentions of future plans for adding a Northeast 130th Street station. It should come as no surprise that the community is now looking to actually build the station.
Second, a constituent recently drew my attention to a similar project in Denver. There, city and county officials successfully added a station while construction of a federally funded light-rail line was actually in progress. Denver’s federal funding was never jeopardized and the local community was not penalized for prioritizing its needs. As the Northeast 130th Street station is at an earlier developmental stage, it should theoretically be easier for us to modify our application.
The logic behind designating the Northeast 130th Street station as “provisional” is flawed, and the penalty for continuing to do so will be paid for by my constituents as well as all of Sound Transit’s taxpayers.
This is why district representation matters. This is why it is important to have people in leadership positions who know the needs of their communities. That is true democracy. I’m not taking my marbles and going home on this one.