MYNORTHWEST NEWS

Sound Transit 3: Could it improve commute near JBLM?

Sep 22, 2016, 5:31 AM

DuPont Station is right beside railroad tracks, but no trains stop here.

Buses are the only option for commuters to Tacoma or Seattle, and they get stuck in ever-worsening I-5 traffic by Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

“No matter what day of the week it is, there’s traffic,” said DuPont resident Chris Elfrank.

Sound Transit 3 would extend Sounder south line commuter rail service, which now ends in Tacoma and Lakewood, to Tillicum and DuPont.

The agency said it would serve military families and a community that could see 75 percent growth in the coming decades.

“I think it’s a great idea,” Elfrank said.

A DuPont extension would cost around $300 million and would serve between 1,000 and 1,500 riders each day by 2040. Because that number is so small, the cost of the extension for every new rider brought to transit, $171, is the highest in all of ST3.

Compare that with the $33 per new rider for a second Downtown Seattle light rail tunnel that could cost billions, but far more people would use.

“It strikes me as a bizarre disregard for costs,” said Mark Ahlers, of the group Smarter Transit, which opposes ST3.

“It’s not a census-based or data-based rail map, it’s a political alignment,” said Troy Serad, of Smarter Transit.

KIRO 7’s Graham Johnson asked Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff if the project map was designed to get votes.

“No,” Rogoff answered. “I think it’s designed to create a regional mobility plan to actually give people the opportunity to go from one corner of the region to another.”

ST3 includes light rail expansions in less-dense areas, like south Kirkland, where trains would run to a park and ride, and Northeast 130th Street in Seattle, where the station would go in a neighborhood of what’s now single family homes.

An agency analysis last spring showed a 130th Street station would cost $79-85 million and serve fewer than a thousand riders a day.

Sound Transit passed over a 130th Street station in its draft plan, but added it to the final plan in June after intense lobbying led by city council member Debora Juarez.

Rogoff said the station was added to the final plan because Juarez, “in combination with a great many people in the community, called our attention to the fact that the zoning was going to change.”

City planners tell KIRO 7 there’s the potential for rezoning near 130th Street to create a dense urban village, but no changes would be made without an extensive public process.

The already-dense Seattle neighborhood of Belltown will be passed over for light rail.

“It literally goes around the neighborhood,” Serad said of the proposed alignment.

Serad said other parts of Seattle don’t have enough people to justify light rail.

“The city is largely pocketed with single family homes and light population densities so there is not some extraordinary need for gold-plated subway lines, no, not at all,” Serad said.

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Sound Transit 3: Could it improve commute near JBLM?