The first wave of light rail feedback from Ballard neighbors has focused on Sound Transit’s plans to build a movable bridge over Salmon Bay.
Many residents suggested a tunnel into Ballard would be less disruptive: light rail would not be interrupted by boat traffic, and businesses and drivers would not be disrupted by the above-ground construction and inevitable lane closures along 15th Ave. W.
Sound Transit video showing a Google Map flyover of the current route
Now that idea is gaining some traction. Two neighborhood groups are formally supporting a tunnel alternative: the North Seattle Industrial Association (NSIA) and the Coalition of Magnolia, Queen Anne and Interbay Neighborhoods.
“It would destroy many of our businesses,” explains the NSIA of Sound Transit’s current plan to run an elevated track down Elliott/15th Ave. in Interbay and across a movable bridge into Ballard. The NSIA pointed to a 2016 letter (.pdf) — signed by most major neighborhood groups in Ballard, Queen Anne, Magnolia and Interbay — that urged Sound Transit to avoid the 15th Ave. route in Interbay and build a tunnel under Salmon Bay to an underground station in Ballard.
The Coalition of Magnolia, Queen Anne and Interbay Neighborhoods agrees. It has created an online petition and organized a letter-writing campaign asking Sound Transit to shift its route to the west of 15th Ave. and consider a tunnel under the bay into Ballard.
Both groups point to a map in that 2016 letter that proposes the alternate route:
The map doesn’t specify a specific route in Interbay, but the Coalition is recommending using 20th Ave. W, just to the west of the railroad tracks and a quarter mile from 15th Ave. The groups suggest running the elevated track up to Dravus, and then tunneling underground into Ballard. The Coalition argues an underground Ballard station would allow more flexibility in future expansion to the north and east of Ballard.
Of course, the tunnel option would cost more money — and potentially lengthen the time horizon on the project as well.
Have an opinion? You only have a few more days to send in your feedback. The public comment period ends March 5th.