Relief over proposed light-rail routes in Lynnwood

Linda Willemarck and some of her Lynnwood neighbors have been sweating for months over whether they could lose their homes to a Sound Transit light-rail line.

Those fears were calmed on Thursday as the Sound Transit board of directors, meeting in Seattle, voted unanimously to focus environmental studies on two routes through Lynnwood that mostly avoid homes and businesses.

Sound Transit plans to build light rail to Lynnwood by 2023.

Willemarck and about two dozen of her neighbors along 200th Street SW and Cedar Valley Road have been fighting two possible rail routes proposed for study.

One would have taken out Willemarck’s 77-unit condo complex and two small office centers and would have run on elevated tracks through Scriber Creek Park.

The other route would have taken out several businesses.

Willemarck and others gathered 1,800 signatures opposing both.

The board voted to focus the agency’s attention on two other routes that would run closer to I-5, through a mostly vacant area between Cedar Valley Road and the freeway.

“It was a handful of people who got together in a community and it feels wonderful to be able to make a difference,” she said Thursday.

The 18-member Sound Transit board is made up of elected officials from Snohomish, King and Pierce counties. Board member Paul Roberts, an Everett city council member, said there’s no doubt the opponents influenced the outcome.

“I think the citizens had a real impact,” he said.

Of the routes selected for further study, one would hug I-5 until reaching the southern end of the present Lynnwood park-and-ride lot. The fourth route, which was proposed by the city of Lynnwood, would veer slightly away from the freeway and enter the park-and-ride about halfway between the north and south ends. The park-and-ride lot is at 20100 48th Ave. W.

The board vote directs planners to focus environmental studies on the route options nearer the freeway. A week ago, a board committee voted to recommend those two routes. The environmental studies could be finished in 2015, officials have said.

Plans call for light rail to start running from downtown Seattle to the University of Washington by 2016, to Northgate by 2021 and along I-5 to Lynnwood by 2023.

The board’s vote on Thursday also called for studies of stations at N. 145th Street in Seattle, N. 185th Street in Shoreline and the park-and-ride at I-5 in Mountlake Terrace, in addition to the stops at Northgate and in Lynnwood.

After the line is built, stations could be added at N. 130th Street in Seattle and 220th Street SW in Mountlake Terrace, Roberts said.

The total cost of the 8.5-mile line from Northgate north is estimated at $1.2 billion to $1.7 billion.

The committee last week voted to add the stations at 130th and 220th, but the full board removed them from plans, except as future options.

Roberts supported their removal.

“I know we don’t have the money to build those stations with the budget we have,” he said.

Roberts noted that while there’s no timetable for light rail to come to Everett, the more money the agency saves, the more will be left over for potential expansion northward in the future.

“What I’m trying to do is stretch the dollars as much as possible to build as much of the system as possible,” he said.

For Willemarck and her neighbors, one battle seems to be won but another remains.

Sound Transit also is looking at the same vacant area near I-5 in Lynnwood for a $250 million storage yard for light-rail cars. Three sites in Bellevue also are under consideration.

Many of those who fought the rail options also oppose the rail yard, citing a potential for noise, bright lights and other problems.

That decision could come next year.

“They better watch out; we’re organized now,” Willemarck said.

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

Find out more

Learn more about the proposed Sound Transit light rail routes in Lynnwood with a map of the proposed line and stations at tinyurl.com/LynnLightRail.

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