Alternatives Explored for West Seattle and Ballard Light Rail Extensions

Plans to extend the Sound Transit light rail system are moving forward. Elected officials have a big choice to make that will determine the cost and scope of the projects.

1 minute read

February 10, 2019, 1:00 PM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

"Sound Transit has developed two complete alternative concepts for the West Seattle and Ballard light rail extensions," reports Stephen Fesler. "The alternatives marry together remaining segment alternatives that the Elected Leadership Group had winnowed down in October." 

Fesler digs into the details of the alternatives proposed by Sound Transit, and offers this assessment: "On the basis of ridership and cost, it is not clear that the alternatives are more productive than the baseline alternative, but there may still be merit to the options that they present."

Elected officials met to discuss the alternatives a few days later, as detailed in a follow up article by Fesler, mostly agreeing with Fesler's estimates about the performance of each alternative. According to Fesler's assessment after the meeting, the choice essentially comes down to two options: one plan that includes funding from a third party, and one without.

The differences between the two versions of the project are substantial too: "The ST3 Representative Project alternative may hamstring the light rail system in the future as it expands, suppressing future ridership. Building the wrong type of crossing in Ballard may slow down trains in perpetuity. Building a cut-and-cover tunnel on 4th Ave S could heavily disrupt the community in Chinatown-International District and greatly impact businesses. And building a substandard light rail segment in SoDo could risk collisions and delays forever."

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