Bellevue leads Lynnwood for light-rail maintenance yard

SEATTLE — The chances of Sound Transit building a light-rail maintenance yard in Lynnwood diminished significantly Thursday, after the agency’s board voted in favor of a Bellevue location.

The board weighed four possible spots for building a 25-acre storage and maintenance yard: one in Lynnwood and three in Bellevue’s Bel-Red corridor. The facility is needed to accommodate an expanding fleet of trains, as the system expands to the north, east and south.

The Lynnwood site includes land mostly owned by the Edmonds School District between I-5 and 52nd Avenue West. City leaders, the school district and people in the neighborhood next to the proposed site mounted strong opposition.

“The alternative sites do not have existing adjacent residential development,” Lynnwood City Council President Loren Simmonds told the board before the vote.

Bellevue’s mayor and City Council members don’t want the maintenance yard in their city, either. They believe putting it in the city’s Bel-Red corridor would upend years they’ve invested in planning the area for redevelopment.

“Everyone is unanimous in wanting this facility to be somewhere else,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine, who serves as Sound Transit’s board chairman. “There is not going to be a perfect location.”

The board voted 15-3 in favor of one of the Bel-Red locations. It’s on land west of 120th Avenue NE and south of Highway 520, along railroad tracks Sound Transit already owns.

The preferred site was the cheapest of the four, at an estimated $345 million. That’s up to $10 million less expensive than the Lynnwood site. The most expensive option — a variant of the site they chose — would have cost an estimated $415 million. Another site father east near Highway 520 was pegged at $385 million.

Sound Transit hopes to build the maintenance yard by 2020, ahead of rail-line expansions to the north and east. That’s when its Seattle yard is projected to max out space for 104 light-rail cars.

The Lynnwood location was thought to be less efficient, because making it work would require building a secondary storage facility on the Eastside. The Edmonds School District was against it, because it had plans to build a new administration building and bus barn there.

Thursday’s decision isn’t the final word from Sound Transit. That’s expected to come in the fall of 2015, after the agency’s staff prepares a final environmental impact statement.

Sound Transit’s light-rail system is on track to expand to 50 miles by 2023 from 16 miles now. That should roughly triple the light-rail fleet to 180 from the current 62.

Light rail is on schedule to reach the University of Washington in 2016 and Seattle’s Northgate neighborhood in 2021. Extensions to Lynnwood and Bellevue are planned in 2023.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465, nhaglund@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @NWhaglund.

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