Where will the Ballard light rail line go? Process enters next phase

Sound Transit has poured through community feedback and narrowed the list of alternatives for where to build the Ballard light rail line. Now Sound Transit has entered the next phase — called “level two” — as it works toward agreeing on a single route by early next year.

Ballard now has 8 routes on the table. This is a bit hard to read — here’s the Sound Transit deck with more detail — but here there are on a single map (click for larger):

You may remember Sound Transit’s first proposal — down 15th Ave., across a movable bridge to a station at 15th and Market — was countered by Ballard and Interbay businesses who said they’d be impacted by the traffic disruptions.

After receiving a plethora of options over the last few months, Sound Transit has narrowed them down to this list, in addition to their original proposal. Each of these end with the Ballard station:

– Enter on 20th Ave., fixed bridge to 17th Ave. and Market
– Enter on 20th Ave., tunnel all the way to 15th and Market
– Enter near 16th Ave., fixed bridge to 15th and Market
– Enter near Interbay railway, movable bridge to 14th and Market
– Enter near Interbay railway, fixed bridge to 14th and Market
– Enter near Interbay railway, tunnel to 15th and Market
– Enter on Armory Way, tunnel to 14th and Market

These options now enter level 2 discussions with an updated set of evaluation criteria, which include rising construction costs and how the proposed stations fit in with local land use plans. The stakeholder advisory group and elected leadership group have several more meetings before making its level two recommendations — a shorter list — by September 26.

Then things move into — you guessed it — level three discussions before landing on a single route to propose to the leadership team for a vote by early next year.

(Photo of planning session from SoundTransit.org)

Geeky Swedes

The founders of My Ballard

42 thoughts to “Where will the Ballard light rail line go? Process enters next phase”

  1. Well, they’ve only been arguing about the teeny tiny missing link of the Burke Gilman for what, over 10 years? I’m sure this decision will be much easier. :D

    1. “…over 10 years”
      The missing link has been discussed for over 20 years. Amazing how a holes with lawyers can slow the inevitable.

  2. Why is it so hard for these guys to rotate the map 90 degrees?
    Oh right, i forgot everything in Seattle is backwards and sideways.

  3. Read through SDOT’s info on this project, and also look at their other public statements. Of the design criteria THE ABILITY TO CONTINUE THE LIGHT RAIL BEYOND A SINGLE BALLARD STATION is explicitly not included. It says so right in the document. They affirmed this at public meetings.

    What this means is that they will purposefully exclude how easy it will be to continue on north when choosing which route to take. Now — I get that a 2nd ballard station will be in something like 2107 at the rate they will get to ballard (the station with the highest projected use rate/ passengers per mile/ and most self funding due to high ridership – per their own projections), or the last one to be built in ST3.

    But still – this is the lack of forward thinking that ends up costing tax payers even more.

    1. There is also a school of thought of going east to UW (with stops in Fremont, Wallingford, etc). But like you indicated, probably not until much later. It would be nice if the station built did not foreclose either option.

    1. Cabbies are a protected class; valuable citizens that have been unfairly labelled as “hacks” by cruel (probably racist) dwellers in bigger cities. Give them your money, BIGOT

          1. Elenchos is a single handle that they use. Harley uses a revolving door of delusional handles to convey his bizarro lack of reality unto the world.

      1. Why should I use a cab that smells and looks like a garbage dump with a driver who hasn’t bathed in days? Take half an hour to clean you POS cab out and maybe take it through a car wash once a year.

  4. I find it ironic that the ST3 Interbay route was chosen over the much more widely wanted Queen Anne/Fremont route because the latter would need to be a tunnel and be too costly while interbay could be on the surface….

    … and now the Interbay route might become a tunnel. More expensive, while missing Queen Anne and Fremont.

    I have a sneaking suspicion that property owners along that Interbay route are having undue influence on this decision making process.

    1. If the Fremont/Queen Anne tunnel route was built, West Seattle probably would not have gotten light rail because it would have busted the North Seattle budget of ST3.

    2. I think it’s quite obvious, magnolia citizens want the route in Ballard so they can bring more of their kids in and displace the kids in north Ballard from being able to go to Ballard high school.

    1. Do you really want Crown Hill to become more of an “urban village”? More condos, more apartments and zero parking , because we have mass transit.

  5. I don’t quite understand the dead-end “spur” to Ballard. They need to keep a future connection to UW or Nothgate (or both) in mind.

    1. When the Third Avenue tunnel was built they had in mind eventual use as a light rail facility so they laid tracks.
      When came time to implement Sound Transit they decided the tracks were of wrong gauge so they were all ripped out and replaced. Those who decided to lay the tracks were not held accountable for the extra expense.
      Planning ahead is overrated.

      1. I think the ST build out is at the point where they’ve solidified things like track gauge and other design intricacies. The reason they are not extending past Market is that’s all they had budget for in ST3. If construction cost go down over the next decade, instead of continuing to skyrocket, or if federal grants for transit projects don’t dry up, they might be able to add in a station beyond Market.

      2. It wasn’t the wrong gauge, 99% of US light rail systems use the standard North American rail gauge. It was that the rails were embedded in concrete and weren’t sufficiently insulated (one rail needs to return the power back to ground) for the system that was used by Sound Transit. When the tunnel was built it was not known what system that Sound Transit would be using county wide.

  6. A hundred years from now, that generation will see anything we did wrong. Why consider Ballard a spur line? I really think either a loop from Ballard to Fremont (tunnel) till you go south to hit Westlake and then go over ground down Westlake back downtown. Many cities globally have loop lines. Or a tunnel from Ballard to Fremont, Wallingford, meeting up in the U District. So yes, I went off on a tangent as far as getting to Ballard but my point is that I would not plan on Ballard being a terminus of that line. I would eventually take that line east either to loop back downtown serving Westlake or to link up with the U District line. Also remember that nowadays you can build a line and add a station later, at more cost but who knows how much the city will change over this century?

    1. I also liked a Ballard to UW line instead of — but the powers that be (SDOT) recommended to ST the line that the current line was built– and wanted to cover the areas of Amazon and Expedia. And as I mentioned in another post, the West Seattle folks wanted to be covered as well, so the Ballard line could not swallow up too much of the North Seattle ST3 budget. We could really get off on a tangent whether West Seattle should have been covered– but they are politically powerful.

  7. The logical plan would be to replace the Ballard Bridge with a slightly higher fixed bridge. That would allow passage for 90% of the pleasure boats that currently back up traffic. The new bridge would work for cars as well as a train that would be elevated going south.

  8. Wrong. We need a station at Commons Park for the valuable community member drifter junkies to go from Pioneer Square to Ballard without being stuck in traffic. The loss of hobo theft and assault productivity due to traffic congestion is unacceptable, and Metro can only offer so many free rides for them. We solved the Homeboy transit problem, now we should do the same for our junkie brethren.

  9. Still angry no one is considering a stop for the Sounder Train in the mean time. We already have a rail line that runs through Ballard, why not take advantage of it???

    1. Sound Transit did consider it. The amount of money to build a Golden Gardens stop that will serve a dozen people was a non-starter. From Ballard, buses are just as fast and more convenient, especially considering the next Sounder stop is south of downtown, requiring a transfer or a walk to get back to downtown,

        1. So, most people would have to drive to Shilshole, park, wait for a train to arrive get off at King Station, then take another bus to where you work. How long do you think that would take? 60-90 minutes?

        2. @John Smith
          Ok, here’s another funny one: spending billions on making junkies comfortable and expecting it to turn out differently than the Bay Area.

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