LOCAL NEWS

City mulls pricey tunnel for Ballard, West Seattle light rail

Apr 26, 2019, 6:46 AM | Updated: 9:33 am
seattle light rail...
(AP)
(AP)

After months of public feedback and study, a Seattle City Council committee will hear recommendations from Sound Transit on where to run the lines and build the stations for the light rail expansion to Ballard and West Seattle.

RELATED: Ballard ‘Missing Link’ to remain unresolved
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Once the alternatives have been identified, environmental impact studies will be done for some options. Before that happens though, a Sound Transit committee and the full Sound Transit board will weigh in at meetings next month.

The expansion plan adds almost five miles of light rail between West Seattle and downtown Seattle ,with five stations between the stadium area and the Alaska Junction. The stations are slated to open in 2030.

By 2035, another seven miles of light rail will run between Ballard to downtown, which would include nine stations between the Chinatown-International District and Ballard.

Some locations being considered for the West Seattle Junction are 41st Avenue, 42nd Avenue, and 44th Avenue.

Ballard options include 14th or 15th Avenue, and 4th and 5th Avenue in the Chinatown-International District.

As for where the rail lines would go, both elevated tracks and tunnels are being considered.

The loudest call for a tunnel is beneath the Ship Canal to Ballard, which would be $350 million more than a drawbridge in the ST3 plan. That drawbridge would be taller than the Ballard Bridge, and would open two to four times a day for marine traffic, stopping trains.

An alternative is a high fixed bridge across Salmon Bay, about as tall as the Aurora Bridge, which would cost $100 million more than the drawbridge (but $250 million less than the tunnel).

“The tunnel is definitely what would work best for everyone,” said Stephanie Bowan, president of the Port of Seattle Commission.

Grassroots group Seattle Subway is calling for a Ballard station to be on 15th Avenue Northwest instead of the quieter 14th Avenue Northwest, and a shallow tunnel in the Chinatown International District for easier transfers between trains.

Tunneling to the West Seattle Junction would be less disruptive to the neighborhood and more aesthetically pleasing, but it could cost $700 million more than running tracks above the street.

Light rail alignments won’t be final until 2022, but the city’s Sustainability and Transportation Committee meeting with Sound Transit leadership will help narrow the choices.

By Graham Johnson, KIRO 7

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City mulls pricey tunnel for Ballard, West Seattle light rail