The odds improved Thursday for an early light-rail station opening at Northeast 130th Street in Seattle, with Sound Transit’s governing board approving $29 million for final engineering.
The elevated train stop could open by 2025, some six years earlier than the 2031 goal promised in the regional Sound Transit 3 tax measure passed by voters three years ago.
Under the early timeline, the station platforms, stairs, curbs and escalators can be built at about the same time contractors are erecting the concrete track beds and rails, during the 2024 Northgate-Lynnwood extension project already underway.
Full construction for 130th Street Station requires $144 million, some $30 million cheaper than waiting until almost 2031 and tearing up the area a second time, said Kamuron Gurol, project development director. A final vote to build the station is expected in spring 2021.
Cheerful North Seattle transit supporters, Seattle City Councilmember Debora Juárez and Mayor Jenny Durkan have encouraged the board to adopt an early timeline, while reassuring the public that city zoning in the woodsy, sparsely populated area will change to encourage denser transit-oriented housing development.
Otherwise, the station along Interstate 5 might attract only 1,500 daily passengers, staff have warned. Another tool to make the investment more useful is crosstown bus service that could whisk people from the Lake City and Bitter Lake areas to the train hub.
Snohomish County leaders often worry about straining regional ST3 money, putting at risk the agency’s ability to build from Lynnwood to Everett by 2036.
Transit board Vice Chair Paul Roberts, an Everett City Council member, said delays past 2036 are unacceptable for Everett residents of below-average incomes who have been paying for Sound Transit since 1997.
On the other hand, it would also be unacceptable to slow trains from Lynnwood into Seattle, while adding a 130th Street Station later, he said, embracing a key argument by Durkan. That would resemble this winter’s schedule that runs trains 14 minutes apart during downtown track work to connect a new line to the Eastside.
In other action, the board rescinded January’s decision to rename downtown’s University Street Station in 2021 as Union Street/Symphony Station, where there are no station exits at Union Street. The agency proposed the renaming to reduce confusion by some riders between University Street Station, University of Washington Station and U District Station, which will open in 2021.
Sound Transit intends to attempt a regional overhaul of its route and station naming policies before its Eastside line opens in 2023.