Sound Transit North Corridor project narrowed to five options

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According to our friends at Shoreline Area News, alternatives for the Sound Transit North Corridor Transit Project – extending mass transit to Lynnwood – have been narrowed to the following:

  • The TSM (Transportation System Management)/bus baseline
  • Interstate 5 elevated and mixed profile (surface, tunnel, elevated) light rail
  • State Route 99 (Aurora Avenue North) elevated and mixed profile light rail
  • Interstate 5 Bus Rapid Transit
  • Multi-route Bus Rapid Transit: Interstate 5, Highway 99, and 15th Avenue Northeast
  • The following alternatives were eliminted: Light rail on 15th Avenue Northeast, light rail being entirely at grade on Aurora Avenue North, and light rail on Lake City Way (which was brought  up at a public meeting).

    All of the options continuing were evaluated at a high level. Criteria included:

  • consistency with Sound Transit’s Long-Range Plan
  • travel time
  • reliability
  • capacity
  • regional system connectivity
  • land use and economic development compatibility
  • extraordinary cost considerations
  • environmental considerations
  • regional growth center accessibility
  • Sound Transit staff used a rating system the opposite of Consumer Reports: In Sound Transit’s case, a filled black circle represented “good performance or potential vs. the transportation system management alternative,” while a filled red circle represented the opposite. An empty circle is neutral.
     
    Feedback from Public Workshops
    Matt Shelden, Sound Transit Light Rail Development Manager (North Corridor), presented the report, indicating the following themes from participants at the three public workshops they held this fall, including the one in Shoreline, online survey respondents, 90 comments via mail and email, and other:
    • Light rail is strongly preferred
    • Access to stations is key: parking, pedestrian, bicycle, east/west transit
    • Interstate 5 was preferred due to being faster, more direct, and more efficient; whereas Highway 99 (Aurora Avenue North) was deemed better in terms of land use and economic development potential.

    There were many ideas for stations: “We had picked some representative locations…but there are other possibilities…there’s interest in more stations than what we’ve been thinking in ST2 (the proposal that voters passed)…we’ll have to see how that plays out.”

    Of the public outreach process, Shelden said: “We learned a number of things that helped us refine the alternatives.”

    What’s next?

    All of the continuing options will have a ridership forecast developed for them, as well as a capital cost and operating cost estimate and an assessment of the environmental impact risk. They will be evaluated against criteria, with possibly some alternatives being dropped by next spring.

    Shelden fielded a number of questions about using the Interurban Corridor, conceding that this was “a major power transmission right of way for Seattle City Light and Snohomish County PUD … there’s (also) a trail issue there … it’s too early to say if any of the Interurban Corridor is usable.”

    Costs, which aren’t known yet, will be a major factor, and he conceded that both elevated and at-grade options there would be expensive.

    The results will be shared with the public during the EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) Scoping that is expected next spring/summer. Out of this will come the alternatives that the Sound Transit Board of Directors selects for advancing to the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, or DEIS, with FTA (Federal Transit Administration) agreement.

    The latter is needed since a federal “New Starts” grant is involved. Despite the agency’s continuing economic challenges, the project is expected to be up and running by 2023: “the travel demand in this corridor is roughly equivalent to both the east and south corridors combined.”

    The presentation is available for download in Adobe Acrobat format at this website

    (This post was written by Brian Donnebrink, a former chair of the Shoreline Planning Commission who follows transportation issues for the ShorelineAreaNews.)

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