Get ready for light rail construction: Sound Transit open house details plans

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Open house attendees had the opportunity to speak directly with project staff about their questions and concerns.

More than 100 interested citizens gathered Thursday evening to hear the latest from Sound Transit officials about what’s in store as construction activity ramps up on the much-anticipated 8.5-mile, four-station Lynnwood Link extension that will connect Northgate to the Lynnwood City Center. Trains are scheduled to start running in 2024.

The evening at the Nile Country Club in Mountlake Terrace included displays, maps and posters, a PowerPoint presentation overviewing the project and outlining what to expect in the coming months, and detailed information on the agency’s commitment to community outreach and opportunities for citizen participation and involvement.

There will be four new stations along the route from Northgate to Lynnwood.

While the evening provided a general overview of Lynnwood Link work, Thursday night’s presentation was focused on plans for the Mountlake Terrace light rail station. A separate meeting on work related to the Lynnwood station is set for 6-8 p.m. Thursday, April 25, at the Lynnwood Convention Center.

“Design work is now 100 percent complete on the guideways and attendant structures,” began ST Deputy Project Director Fred Wilhelm. “We’re staged and ready to begin, and as soon as final station design details and conditional use permits are finalized in May, construction equipment will hit the dirt.”

Wilhelm described the final station design details as including textures and color schemes that fit and coordinate with Mountlake Terrace design guidelines. “We’re working closely with city staff to make sure the stations reflect the unique character that fits MLT,” he added.

While the construction of guideways (the tracks and associated structures along which the trains run) is still a few weeks off, preliminary activity is already very much in progress. Part of this is the recent demolition of Roger’s Market in Mountlake Terrace to make way for what Sound Transit describes as “interim temporary parking” for the existing Mountlake Terrace Transit Center, as the parking lots adjacent to the station are taken over for construction staging and activity.

Deputy Project Construction Director Randy Harlow explains work activities and schedule.

Initial major activities will include clearing and preparing the guideway route. This will necessitate removing existing sound barriers along Interstate 5, and more than 5,300 trees — 3,000 between Mountlake Terrace and Lynnwood alone.

To minimize the impact on those who live in close proximity to the interstate and construction areas, ST will erect temporary sound barriers to help deaden the noise. “In most cases we’ll have these temporary barriers up before the old ones come down,” said Deputy Project Construction Director Randy Harlow. “Once work is completed, new permanent sound barriers will be installed.”

Existing noise walls along I-5 will be demolished this spring to make way for guideway construction, but will be replaced by temporary noise barriers during construction. New permanent barriers will be erected as the project comes to a close.

Sound Transit spokesperson John Gallagher went on to stress that noise abatement will be a big concern. “We’ve done noise testing,” he explained, “and for most folks these temporary barriers should be sufficient.” But for “the handful of folks who will be most affected,” Sound Transit will offer expanded measures including additional sound dampening barriers and white noise machines, Gallagher said.

Tree replacement will also be a major focus. While Sound Transit will be cutting an estimated 5,300 trees, the agency will be planting more than 20,000 new ones, focusing on native species chosen for appropriate size. Replanting will start as soon as the underground foundations, guideways and electrical equipment are installed, about a year in advance of when trains begin to operate in 2024. Learn more about the tree replacement program here.

“We’ll concentrate on lower-growing trees close to the at-grade guideways,” Gallagher said, “but will also include medium to larger trees along elevated sections and as a backdrop to provide visual enhancement along the route.”

With the first trains scheduled to run in 2024, construction will be tight, well-organized, and busy.

“We plan to work from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, with occasional additional night and Sunday work,” said Harlow.  “The major construction should be mostly complete by 2022, at which point we’ll enter the system testing phase. Actual service is slated to start in 2024.”

Sound Transit stressed its commitment to public information and outreach throughout construction. According to Erin Taylor, who heads up the project’s community outreach component, this includes providing advance notification of construction activity, providing outreach staff on site, maintaining a safe and secure construction site, minimizing noise, dust and debris, keeping traffic moving and providing a 24-hour construction hotline. Taylor then introduced Kurt Workman, the outreach specialist who will be the community point of contact.

“Kurt will be there to answer your questions and address your concerns,” she stressed. “Contact him anytime at 206-370-5664 or by email at [email protected].”

In addition to the project website, there is also an online open house  that offers opportunity for input, additional details about upcoming and future construction work, and information on the project team.  Citizens can also subscribe to email construction alerts here.

— Story and photos by Larry Vogel

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