SEATTLE, Wash., March 1, 2023—The Sound Transit Board of Directors heard several dozen public comments during their board meeting on February 23. Residents and businessowners voiced concerns over possible locations for stations and the overall routes of the link light rail expansion project.
Sound Transit is in the process of expanding the rail system to connect several cities and metropolitan areas with several lines. This includes the route from Northgate to Lynnwood that is currently under construction and the planning phase for Lynnwood to Everett. Eventually, there will be a line from West Seattle to Everett and from Burien to Lynnwood.
Public comments during this meeting largely focused on the West Seattle and Ballard Link Extensions.
The Sound Transit board has difficult decisions to make deciding the routes, particularly through the densely populated areas of Seattle.
“I think that this a real opportunity — and that is an opportunity whether there is a 4th Avenue or a north/south alternative ultimately selected — to reinvest in this area for the benefit of the Chinatown International District (CID) and Pioneer Square and the entirety of downtown,” Board Chair Dow Constantine said. “I’m looking forward to hearing more about what we think is possible. I’m interested in… if a north/south alternative is selected, about how close we can draw that south station to the CID.”
Arguably the largest area of contention for the project is the CID area — Chinatown-International District. Even the residents and businesses of the CID are divided on where the proposed stations should be.
“I’ve been studying this for a few years now and checking with outside experts and find that 4th Avenue is the best for the new station because it has the most direct connections close to other transit modes,” a CID resident said.
“We believe that the 4th Avenue option will provide the best compromise between the needs of Sound Transit and the CID,” a representative for International Community Health Services (ICHS) Seattle said. “The 4th Avenue option location will not be impact free, but it promises the fewest impacts while providing the best outcomes for the neighborhood, our patients, residents and staff. Other options that Sound Transit is considering, both north of CID and south of CID stations, bring too many construction and travel impacts without benefits to the neighborhood or mitigation for neighborhood residents and businesses.”
While many spoke in favor of the 4th Avenue location, others disagreed with placing the station directly within the CID.
“We urge you to support the north or south alternatives that have greater potential for meeting transit objectives without displacing BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) Seattleites of their homes and cultural roots,” a representative of Puget Sound Sage said. “We believe that any station in the heart of CID on 4th or 5th Avenue would have disastrous consequences for our neighborhood for the advantage of white and suburban interests. Nine to eleven years of construction in CID’s core would destroy this neighborhood and would only make way for predatory development that leaves POC neighborhoods and cultural core out to dry. ”
Most opposed to the 4th Avenue station echoed concerns about the decade-long construction in the center of the CID.
“Regardless of what the decision is, I — along with many others in this neighborhood — are concerned about the negative impacts that long-term construction will have on the quality of life in this neighborhood and have not heard any satisfactory arguments to support the idea that the neighborhood will be safe from negative impact or how harm will be mitigated,” a representative of the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience said.
“I fear the strangulation and chaos created by 10-plus years of construction, pollution and gridlock… that it’s going to be the death of our community,” another CID resident said.
Unlike the CID discussion, most who spoke of the station options between Westlake or Terry were in favor of having the station on Terry Avenue. It was argued that the closure of Westlake is expected to be far more detrimental to businesses, residents and commuters in the area.
As some of the routes are in the planning phase, Sound Transit staff and the board are still collecting data, so a decision has yet to be made. Those interested in the phases of each extension can visit: soundtransit.org/system-expansion.