Some in the Ballard and Magnolia neighborhoods want expensive light-rail add-ons to November’s Sound Transit ballot measure: a tunnel under Salmon Bay and elevated tracks west of 15th Avenue West.
Now that they’ve seen Sound Transit’s expansion proposal for the November ballot, people from Seattle’s Ballard and Magnolia neighborhoods are demanding a quicker and more expensive light-rail connection to downtown.
Business and civic groups in the Northwest Seattle Coalition for Sound Transit 3want a tunnel beneath Salmon Bay instead of a 70-foot-high drawbridge. They also seek elevated tracks west of 15th Avenue West in Interbay, instead of tracks in the median.
Transit activists from the volunteer group Seattle Subway are also arguing for elevated tracks through Interbay, and a bridge high enough to avoid nearly all boat traffic on the Ship Canal. Experience in Rainier Valley and Sodo shows how collisions can block light rail on the street, they argue.
City Councilmember Sally Bagshaw — whose district includes Queen Anne, Interbay and Magnolia — declared her support during a Tuesday night Sound Transit outreach forum at Ballard High School. So did Councilmember Mike O’Brien, who represents Ballard.
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A tunnel and elevated tracks would add about $600 million, a draft comparison shows.
That would leave fewer dollars to finance the $2 billion light-rail spur that transit-board Chairman and King County Executive Dow Constantine has promised his neighbors in West Seattle, using the Seattle area’s share of future transit tax.
The Ballard project as proposed in March by Sound Transit calls for a new tunnel through Uptown, South Lake Union and downtown, bringing the full price to $5 billion.
“Doing something that’s dramatically more expensive will bump against the financial capacity we have to build out the whole system — the goal of both West Seattle and Ballard in the same ballot measure,” Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff said in an interview.
The Sound Transit 3 proposal — now being aired in public forums before a final plan is set for the ballot in June — calls for a $50 billion, 25-year program for construction, trains, buses and maintenance, including suburban light-rail extensions to Everett, Redmond, Issaquah and Tacoma via Federal Way, using new and existing taxes.
If approved, the increases in property, sales and car-tab taxes would average $400 per household per year.
The coalition highlights a threat to road capacity for cars, if some of the six road lanes through Interbay are taken for rail corridor.
“We know it would be more expensive to do a tunnel, but 15th Avenue West is the only north-south through-street in the area,” Bagshaw said.
Bagshaw argued that predicted ridership on the Ballard line is far higher than for a West Seattle line.
“We need to consider this,” Bagshaw said. “I want Sound Transit to come back and tell me how much it would cost.”
This issue is bringing Seattle’s new system of electing City Council members by district to the forefront.
Metro King County Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles, who represents northwest Seattle, also supports a route that separates light rail from traffic, Bagshaw said.
City Councilmember Debora Juárez, of North Seattle, is asking for a light-rail stop where I-5 meets North 130th Street, even as Lynnwood officials warn that such stations would slow commuters on that line.