Gross: Sound Transit wanted to decimate trees; residents demanded better 

Sep 29, 2023, 11:42 AM | Updated: 12:52 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)

Sound Transit was ready to decimate tree life in one Western Washington community, but residents pushed back and won some concessions.

But the fight isn’t over. 

Lake Forest Park residents were livid when they heard about a potential new Sound Transit project that would destroy tree life in the community. The Stride bus rapid transit S3 Line is meant to connect Bothell to Shoreline while going through multiple north Lake Washington communities — including Lake Forest Park.

This purported improvement to mass transit would come at the expense of several hundred trees.

Citizens Organized to Rethink the Expansion of HWY 522 (CORE) is a local group that led the fight to maintain the lush tree canopy in Lake Forest Park.

“They require essentially to deforest our main throughway,” said Jeff Snedden, a representative with CORE. “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.”

Sound Transit authorized a final budget for the project in July. Construction is expected to start this year and with potential to be completed as early as 2027.

More on residents’ fight: Community fights Sound Transit’s plan to remove hundreds of trees

Outreach meetings were held throughout the course of the summer. The Lake Forest Park City Council also heard many citizens speak out during public comment.

“I urge you to consider the preservation of the land and the financial savings that will be gained by abandoning the plan to remove 90,000 tons of soil and up to 500 trees,” Grace, a resident of Lake Forest Park, said during a city council meeting with a Sound Transit Representative present.

“This is a forever project for Lake Forest Park,” Grace added. “There is a better way.”

Responding to the tree concerns

Sound Transit CEO Julie Timm addressed these worries in a letter to Lake Forest Park city officials earlier this month.

“Sound Transit has been working with the city on a tree replacement plan for the trees identified to be displaced,” Timm wrote. “We have refined the project design to reduce the number of trees impacted by the project by roughly 20%.”

Opponents of the plan argue that using “bus-queue jumps” could be a more efficient way to implement this plan. The National Association of City Transportation Officials define queue jumps as “dedicated transit facilities with either a leading bus interval or active signal priority to allow buses to easily enter traffic flow in a priority position.”

Pushback from organized residents, like those in CORE, has led Sound Transit to initiate a study that can potentially find alternative solutions. It is expected to be completed by next month.

If there is any possible way for this project to have less environmental impact, you would think Sound Transit would be on board. The agency pledges to support people, planet and prosperity by providing affordable, environmentally friendly public transit that connects residents to where they live, work and play.” So why didn’t they come to the table with better plans to save trees?

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Using mass transit is meant to be an environmentally conscious option for getting around. This concession of 20% reduction in impacted trees hardly feels like a commitment to the environment. You either support the environment, or you don’t.

For many in Lake Forest Park, it feels as if Sound Transit is only begrudgingly listening to their requests. In her letter, Timm promised that organization would host “engagement activities” alongside CORE and other interested parties.

As this project progresses, it will be interesting to see if Sound Transit really cares about the community it claims to be serving.

Jason Rantz on AM 770 KTTH
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Gross: Sound Transit wanted to decimate trees; residents demanded better