Community fights Sound Transit’s plan to remove hundreds of trees

Aug 4, 2023, 4:02 PM | Updated: 4:20 pm

sound transit trees...

More than 400 trees in Lake Forest Park are on the chopping block if Sound Transit's design moves forward as community advocates are asking Sound Transit to halt the project and consider an alternate approach. (Photo from Vicki Scuri/CORE)

(Photo from Vicki Scuri/CORE)

More than 400 trees in Lake Forest Park are on the chopping block if Sound Transit’s design moves forward as community advocates are asking Sound Transit to halt the project and consider an alternate approach.

Last month, the Sound Transit Board approved a final budget and schedule for the new Stride Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) service, which includes a new bus base and BRT lines on SR 522/NE 145th Street and I-405. Construction is expected to start this year and will be open for service between 2027 and 2029.

The group, Citizens Organized to Rethink the Expansion of HWY 522 (CORE), is spearheading a movement to force Sound Transit to reconsider its roadway design.

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“The current plans are devastating to our community,” CORE representative Jeff Snedden told KIRO Newsradio. “They require essentially to deforest our main throughway. It’s going to push traffic well into the side roads of our city. We have several elementary schools where traffic is going to become much more involved. There’s just a whole host of issues that are associated with the decision to build a dedicated eastbound bus lane.”

Snedden confirmed that CORE supports mass transit, including Link light rail.

“We’re not anti-transit in any way shape or form,” Snedden said. “But what we are asking and, in fact, found ourselves demanding is for Sound Transit to show us that they have considered a second alternative to the decision to build a dedicated eastbound bus lane bustling through the community.”

Snedden and Vicki Scuri, another CORE spokesperson, are both concerned that the 1.2 miles of bus lane from the corner 145th in Shoreline to the town center will disrupt wildlife, the environment, and daily living for residents.

Sound Transit spokesperson John Gallagher stated the department was able to drop the number of trees to under 400, an approximate 20% reduction, while Sound Transit will be involved in replacing the lost trees.

But CORE claimed that’s not enough.

“They aren’t replanting them on the alignment and there isn’t room to put 500 [trees] back, which is another issue,” Scuri said. “There was an issue like this in LA recently where they removed Ficus trees because they were basically disrupting the sidewalk. But this created heat islands by taking out these trees, and even though you’re replacing them with palms, there’s no shade left. And that’s what they’re doing along this corridor. They’re creating a heat island in the backyards of 110 residents.”

Heat islands are urbanized areas that experience higher temperatures than outlying areas, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Structures such as buildings, roads, and other infrastructure absorb and re-emit the sun’s heat more than natural landscapes such as forests and water bodies.

Scuri and Snedden told KIRO Newsradio they don’t believe Sound Transit has looked at their proven alternative plan, but hoped Tuesday night’s community meeting at Lake Forest Park Elementary School with Sound Transit’s CEO Julie Timm will move their efforts along.

“Sound Transit’s goal [Tuesday] night was to share information in response to feedback the agency has heard to date on the SR 522 BRT project and to create further dialogue on key issues within this community on the upcoming transit improvements,” Timm told KIRO Newsradio.

Several hundred residents were in attendance Tuesday night to discuss this construction project with Sound Transit representatives.

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“The crowd did not buy it,” Scuri said in response to the residents’ reaction to Sound Transit’s presentation during the meeting. “Comments were taken for over an hour. Every citizen who spoke made valid points as to why Sound Transit needs to reopen the design and engagement process and revisit their original presumptions about the design. Sound Transit’s presumptions are flawed. He stated that in 100 years, buses will not be even running on these streets.

“Most likely, this project has a 20-year lifespan before it is a teardown,” Scuri continued. “None of the 50 or so commentators favor the current design. Had there been more time, there would have been more comments.”

Follow Micki Gamez on Twitter or email her here.

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Community fights Sound Transit’s plan to remove hundreds of trees