Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles has joined several community groups in support of an alternative plan for the Ballard light rail extension called “west is best.”
As we reported last week, the alternative route — shown in red above — would run to the west of 15th Ave. W through Interbay and tunnel underneath Salmon Bay to an underground Ballard station. The current plan (.pdf and video) calls for elevated track along 15th Ave., a movable bridge over Salmon Bay and an elevated station at 15th and Market.
Kohl-Welles sent a letter today to the Sound Transit board chair, Dave Somers, asking the board to reconsider the current route along 15th Ave. in favor of the “west is best” alternative. She writes:
My main concern is the impact this alignment will have on 15th Avenue West in Interbay and 15th Avenue in Ballard. With the addition of light rail tracks, the reduction of street lanes, and this street’s serving as a major freight as well as motorist corridor, I am concerned that instead of traffic relief we will see increased congestion and gridlock. Not to mention, this alignment may lead to train delays if the draw bridge is in constant use as a result of boat traffic through the ship canal.
Alternatively, the “west is best” plan would run light rail parallel to 15th Avenue West and under the ship canal via a tunnel. This plan will ensure speed and reliability, preserve existing lanes on 15th Avenue West, and create an underground station in Ballard that would be the best option for future northern and eastern expansion.
While this route may cost more money up front, I strongly believe it would save us money in the long run and have a positive impact on the economy and commerce in Interbay and Ballard
The most likely “west is best” alignment would run to the west of the train tracks at the border of Interbay and Magnolia on 20th Ave. W, switching from an elevated route to a tunnel at Dravus St. — avoiding any above-ground disruption around Fishermen’s Terminal.
“I strongly disagree with the suggestions to run the Ballard line thru Magnolia,” explains one comment on the Sound Transit feedback map. “This will have a negative impact on the neighborhood in terms of noise and traffic flow. This diversion would also add additional cost and time to the project. Keeping it either along 15th and/or in Interbay is the most logical option. I agree there are traffic concerns with having it on 15th, but there are other ways to solve this instead of ruining Southeast Magnolia.”
Here’s a cross-section view of the current plan (click image for larger). Elevated track runs down Elliott and onto 15th Ave. W at a height of about 55 feet through Interbay, 70 feet over Salmon Bay and about 50 feet above 15th Ave. and Market St. The tracks would likely displace at least one lane as well as disrupt traffic during the construction phase.
“It would destroy many of our businesses,” the North Seattle Industrial Association said.
Meanwhile over in West Seattle, some neighborhood groups are pushing for a tunnel in some portions of that alignment, as well.
There are only a few more days to submit your feedback — March 5th is the deadline. Sound Transit is in the “early scoping” phase of the Ballard-West Seattle light rail project, compiling input from the community before it embarks on the important environment impact phase of the project. In other words, now is the time to submit alternatives to the plan.