Photo by Shane Harms
Citizens collect at BHS to give feedback of expansion project for light rail. Mayor McGinn said a few words about the study.

Ballard to Downtown light rail options presented for feedback

Back in April of 2012, the Seattle City Council took on the Transit Master Plan (TMP). Sound Transit and the City of Seattle joined forces to conduct the study that will eventually improve the plan to build rail transit. The plan has an overall goal of connecting communities in Seattle. Ballard to Downtown Seattle corridor is the first one

Last June, eight preliminary corridor plans were shared with the public at a second open house. According to Sound Transit, 1,350 citizens showed up to deliver feedback on corridor options. Since then, the project team reviewed the feedback and narrowed the corridor plans to five.

According to Bruce Gray, spokesperson for Sound Transit, ultimately the feedback packets will help the project team determine which of the five corridors is the best fit for citizens living Downtown all the way up to Ballard.The feedback will show how the project fits with Sound Transit’s Long Range Plan, which also affects
implementation of the City of Seattle’s Transit Master Plan.

“The feedback has made a huge difference. Some of these options weren’t on the table when we started a year ago. There were things that we weren’t looking at very seriously, like for one thing we weren’t considering a 100 percent tunnel route to the stations in lower and upper Queen Anne then going to Fremont and Ballard. So the feedback we received throughout the process has gone a long way to narrow things down and on end it
has gone a long way to expand the thinking of the team,” said Gray

“Ballard to downtown is one of nine corridors we are updating the long range plan for. This one has generated the most interest of the corridor studies that we have going on and that makes a big difference to the board and to the Seattle officials that are on the board.”

As of September, the INRIX Traffic Scorecard Annual Report places Seattle as the 8th most congested U.S. city. Seattle drivers waste an average of 36.9 hours waiting in traffic. Yet, traffic levels appear to be declining, showing an 11% drop from a measurement taken in 2012. Adding rail from Ballard to Downtown would ease traffic and riders could experience 15 minute rides from Ballard to Downtown during rush hour.

Of the five corridor plans there are different options like full underground tunnels, moveable bridges, elevated rails and exclusive roadway lanes. Out of the all the corridor plans one received a lot of attention from citizens, Corridor D. The D plan is a backward “S” shape and fully underground tunnel that has stations in Downtown, Belltown, Queen Anne, Fremont, and Ballard. This plan would be the closest to a typical subway and has the least amount of disruption to other modes of transit already operating. Plus, it would have the capacity to service up to 30 thousand passengers daily. However, it is also tied with Corridor A as the most expensive plan to the tune of $3,200 to $3,600 million.

“I think its way to early to say which is most viable. All this work is so far out and we are so early in the process. The most viable option is really what the board decides it to be and what we have funding for.”

The team will review the findings and issue a final report in early 2014. Then in the spring, city officials and the Sound Transit Board consider rail transit expansion based on the report’s findings.

“So the idea is that we have these 5 options now from the low end up to the high end, like D, that the board will be able to pick from should - with all those caveats - should they decide they want to go with it in 2016. …But they have a lot more to think about and a lot to choose from than they did a year ago.”

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