Proposed light-rail routes find little love in Lynnwood

LYNNWOOD — The city’s not happy with Sound Transit’s proposed light rail routes.

One would go through a city park and take out a condominium complex and two small office centers containing 30 businesses. Another would displace a handful of other businesses. Each of three proposed routes would likely affect wildlife and wetlands in or near Scriber Creek Park.

“Everyone we spoke to said, ‘Are you kidding? Why are these even on the table?’ ” said Linda Willemarck, who has lived in the targeted condominium complex for 17 years.

She helped gather 1,800 petition signatures opposing two of the three proposed routes, which are all trying to end at the Lynnwood Park and Ride lot at 20100 48th Ave. W. A route is needed to keep the regional light rail plan on track, which means providing service in Lynnwood by 2023.

Lynnwood now is pitching a fourth option, which is getting a serious look.

The Sound Transit board of directors, a collection of elected officials from Snohomish, King and Pierce counties, could choose one of the routes for further study as soon as Nov. 21.

Sound Transit proposed three routes to have options to study, said Matt Sheldon, the agency’s development director for the future extension of light rail to Lynnwood.

“We have a responsibility in an environmental process to look at a broad range of alternatives,” Sheldon said. “That’s the whole point here, to get the information out there, let people react to it and let our board (of directors) know what they think.”

The transportation agency is currently tunneling under Capitol Hill in Seattle to bring light rail from downtown Seattle to the University of Washington by 2016. Plans call for rail to then be extended to Northgate by 2021 and Lynnwood by 2023.

Voters in 2008 authorized the work under a $17 billion sales tax measure that added bus service and light rail into Bellevue and south King County.

The rail line from Northgate to Lynnwood would run mostly along the east side of I-5, with several stations along the way. The total cost of the 8.5-mile line is estimated at $1.2 billion to $1.7 billion.

In Lynnwood, whichever line is chosen would be elevated between I-5 and the park-and-ride.

The route through the park, condos and business park would be the most costly of Sound Transit’s three proposals, at $300 million to $350 million.

This route would leave I-5 at 52nd Avenue W. and run up the east side of 52nd and Cedar Valley Road, skirting several businesses. It would then swing east across Scriber Creek Park and turn along the south side of 200th Street SW, through what is now the 77-unit Cedar Creek condominium complex and the two small business centers. A station would be built along 200th, at the north end of the current park-and-ride.

The second choice also would go up 52nd but would cut east sooner, directly through a small business park of four buildings, skirting a trail along the south side of the park. A station would be built just south of the current bus bays at the park-and-ride. The cost of this segment is pegged at $270 million to $310 million.

Sound Transit’s third option would hug I-5 through a wetland area along the freeway. This would be the most direct route to the park-and-ride. It also, however, could interfere with maintenance or expansion of a city sewage pump station and would require a train platform to be built at the south end of the park-and-ride, at the opposite end of the large lot from the current bus bays.

Whichever option is built also requires 800 feet of elevated “tail track” beyond the platform to allow plenty for room for the trains. This proposed route would run across 44th Avenue W. and displace businesses in a mini-mall across the busy thoroughfare.

The cost of this route is ballparked at $270 million to $340 million.

The first and second proposed routes were lambasted by the public at meetings in August. In addition to people from the condominiums and businesses, others who live in a neighborhood on the west side of 52nd Avenue W. said they were worried about noise and other drawbacks.

Lynnwood’s city-proposed option would bypass the pump station and enable a train platform to be built relatively near the current bus bays.

It also would miss businesses and condos along 52nd and 200th, though the tail track for this choice could affect businesses east of the park-and-ride lot, according to one sketch.

The Lynnwood City Council unanimously endorsed that choice on Sept. 23. There’s no cost estimate yet for that alternative.

Each of the choices would have some effect on wetlands, though from that perspective, the fourth choice would likely be the best alternative, said Jared Bond, environmental and surface water supervisor for the city of Lynnwood.

Adding concrete in Scriber Creek Park could exacerbate wintertime flooding problems at the nearby intersection, he said.

Sheldon said in any situation where a wetland or creek is involved, the rail columns would be placed for the least possible effect. Any wetland area that’s compromised would have to be replaced, he said.

Mike Mayes is the owner of Mayes Testing Engineers, on Cedar Valley Road just down the road from Scriber Creek Park.

Sound Transit’s first option would run trains “right through my parking lot and be about 20 feet from my front door,” he said. It “just wipes out so much stuff. It will turn the area into an industrial graffiti junkyard.”

Katherine Dovinh, a State Farm insurance agent, has leased an office in the Bentley Office Centre on 200th for 18 years.

“I like the community, I like the small office,” she said. “It costs money to move, I don’t want to move. But my main concern is for the people who live in the condos and apartments who would have to pull up and move.”

Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling is one of three Snohomish County members of the 18-member Sound Transit board of directors.

Earling said he and the other two members from Snohomish County — Everett City Councilman Paul Roberts and Snohomish County Executive John Lovick — have had some conversations about the city’s alternative.

“It doesn’t mean we’ll stop looking at the others, but it has some appeal,” he said.

Many of those who oppose Sound Transit’s first two proposed routes agree that Lynnwood’s proposal would be a better choice.

“I love that alternative. It seems to solve everyone’s problems,” Mayes said.

After the board picks a route, a full environmental impact study will be done, through the other alternatives will stay on the table during the study, said Sheldon of Sound Transit. He expects that study to be done by early 2015, and the public will again have a chance to weigh in. The board could settle on a permanent option by mid-2015, he said.

Sound Transit also is considering building a $250 million storage yard for light-rail trains near the park-and-ride, near where the rail line would run. The agency is looking at three sites in Bellevue, too.

The Edmonds School District owns most of the property being studied and plans to use the land for a new administration building and bus barn.

Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439; sheets@heraldnet.com.

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