Seattle City Council members went on record Tuesday in favor of new light rail stations on Northwest 15th Avenue in Ballard and Mercer Street in Uptown, as well as for a tunnel into West Seattle and a host of other recommendations for a new line from West Seattle to Ballard.

But on some of the thorniest questions, particularly in the Chinatown International District and Delridge neighborhood, the City Council punted on choosing a preference.

The City Council’s transportation committee voted on the series of recommendations for the train’s future path Tuesday morning. How the roughly $13 billion megaproject, part of the voter-approved 2016 Sound Transit 3 ballot measure, will unfold is up to the Sound Transit board, made up of elected officials from across the region.

As the largest member city of Sound Transit, Seattle’s desires carry significant political weight while the transit agency tries to stitch together the project through at least 2035.

“Seattle has been the biggest supporter of Sound Transit and continues to be the crucial linchpin for the entire regional system,” said Councilmember Alex Pedersen, who chairs the transportation committee. “Doing right by Seattle will benefit the region because it will smooth and speed implementation.”

Building out a mass transit system in a well-established city is a recipe for conflict, and that was clear in Tuesday’s resolution, which could be considered by the full council as early as next week.


Most notably, when it comes to adding a new station in the Chinatown International District — a complicated balancing act of transit access, cost and community impact — City Hall has declined to weigh in without more information on impacts on businesses and residences. Sound Transit is deciding between a deep-bore or shallow station between Fourth and Fifth avenues. While the Fifth Avenue option is cheaper and more centrally located, local organizations have raised alarm about disruptions to the community, especially as it recovers from the pandemic’s impacts.

The City Council also backed away from stating a preference in the Delridge neighborhood. City Hall initially signaled support for an elevated station at Delridge and Andover but is no longer taking a stance. Among the concerns is that Sound Transit has not sufficiently considered the impacts of the station on the Alki Beach Academy, a child care center that’s concerned construction would displace it.

The city is now saying support for the Delridge station is contingent on Sound Transit addressing the possible impacts to Alki Beach Academy as well as to a nearby behavioral health center.

“These are conditions that are achievable,” said Councilmember Lisa Herbold, who represents West Seattle.

Seattle officials supported a tunnel beneath 41st Avenue Southwest, with the train emerging near the entrance of the West Seattle Bridge. From there, the train would run north through Sodo before dipping underground into a newly dug downtown tunnel.

In addition to the complicated dynamics in the Chinatown International District, the city has also sought to reckon with competing demands near Seattle Center.


Sound Transit prefers a station near Republican Street, but arts organizations, including KEXP, The Vera Project, Seattle Repertory Theatre and the Seattle International Film Festival, have all raised concerns about trains traveling below their venues. The city’s preferred map sought a compromise and now has the line veering west from a station at Denny Way and Terry Avenue, to a station on Harrison Street and then up to Mercer Street — a block north of Republican and sidestepping most of the organizations.

In Ballard, business and community representatives have pushed for a station that serves the west side of 15th Avenue Northwest, as opposed to one proposal to place the station on 14th Avenue Northwest. The city agreed in its recommendation, despite a likely higher price, calling a station east of the busy corridor “unacceptable.”

“The conversation you’ll hear from me today is really, how can we make that crossing [over 15th] safe?” said Councilmember Dan Strauss, who represents Ballard. “How do we make sure riders have access to the station so that we have the highest ridership possible?”

Final routes will be voted on by the Sound Transit board next year.