By Bill Sheets Herald Writer
LYNNWOOD — Sound Transit is considering building a large lot in Lynnwood to store light-rail cars in anticipation of expanding its train system in the coming decade.
The agency is looking at four sites in Bellevue in addition to the Lynnwood site. It will choose one of the five locations to house and maintain 80 light rail cars for the system, in addition to about 100 cars that currently spend their off hours in Seattle’s Sodo district rail yard.
Some neighbors of the Lynnwood site don’t want a storage yard there, citing potential noise, bright lights and even concerns about crime.
“I’d get massaged to sleep at night, I guess, with the vibration it would cause,” said Terry Requa, who lives nearby. “It would turn (the neighborhood) into a ghetto.”
Edmonds School District currently owns most of the property being studied — on 52nd Avenue W. near I-5 and the Lynnwood park-and-ride lot. The district plans to use its land for a new administration building and bus barn.
Which of the two projects will eventually be built there, if either, is unclear.
Light rail is scheduled to be extended to Northgate by 2021 and to Lynnwood, Bellevue and Des Moines (south of Sea-Tac airport) by 2023, as part of the Sound Move 2 tax measure voters approved in 2008.
Sound Transit needs a 20- to 25-acre parcel either on the north line or east line to store the trains because those routes are expected to be the most heavily traveled once the system is expanded, spokesman Bruce Gray said.
The plan is to have the yard built by 2020. The current estimated cost is about $250 million, regardless of location. Sound Transit hopes to narrow down the sites by November for further study, Gray said.
The Lynnwood site would work well because it’s close to I-5 and the Lynnwood park-and-ride lot, where the trains would stop, Gray said. The school district property is about 20 acres, while several other small parcels add roughly five more, making it the only chunk of land along the I-5 corridor north of Seattle that meets the need, Gray said.
The school district site was home for years to Cedar Valley Community School. The elementary school was moved in 2001 and the buildings were torn down, district spokeswoman DJ Jakala said.
The school district’s plan in 2006 was to bring administration, warehouse, maintenance and transportation operations into one big building.
The district’s current headquarters is next to Edmonds Community College at 20420 68th Ave. W., and its bus barn is at 3009 Alderwood Mall Blvd. The slow economy put the project on hold, Jakala said.
Now that the district has built a new Lynnwood High School and leased the former high school property near the mall for construction of a Costco store, the district might be in a position soon to move ahead with its plans for the new headquarters, she said.
The school district has no cost estimate for its project, Jakala said. The 20-acre parcel is valued at $9.2 million, according to Snohomish County property records.
The district’s plans already have been approved by the Lynnwood City Council, building permits included, city economic development director David Kleitsch said.
Regarding the Sound Transit plan, school district superintendent Nick Brossoit said in an email “we are working with the commercial real estate consultants we have hired to review and refine our plans.”
Brossoit said this information will be shared with the board of directors at a public meeting in mid-November.
Kleitsch said it will be up to the City Council to determine whether the city prefers the school project, the rail yard or neither. The council is scheduled to discuss the Sound Transit plan at its meeting at 7 p.m. Monday at City Hall, 19100 44th Ave. W., Kleitsch said.
Mary Monaghan, who lives on 201st Place SW near the site, fought the school district plan six years ago and opposes the rail yard, as well.
“I’m picturing football fields of lights over there with noise,” she said. “And I’ve got asthma. And the anxiety of it all.”
Tim Sorensen, who lives nearby on 53rd Avenue W., said he worked as a reserve police officer at rail yards operated by public transportation agencies in San Jose and Torrance, Calif., and those yards drew vandalism and other gang-related crime.
“My main concern is we already have quite a bit of crime in the area,” including prostitution, he said. “It’s going to increase whether they say it’s going to or not.”
Gray said crime hasn’t been an issue with the Sodo yard. “There are no public areas. Access is secured by fencing and security gates,” he said.
He also said work on the trains will occur indoors.
“The new facility could be designed to have the storage track area separated from the neighborhood by the actual maintenance building, which would act as a buffer for noise,” he said in an email.
“Modern lighting systems can be designed to keep light from illuminated areas from bleeding outside the property very well,” he added. “At our Sodo base, we don’t completely light up the outside train storage areas anyway.”
He said all these issues would be examined in an environmental study.
Also, Gray said there’s a difference between a light-rail maintenance yard and a freight-train yard in terms of noise.
“We have none of the banging, rumbling and general industrial noises associated with heavy rail facilities,” he said.
Light rail is a separate Sound Transit service from Sounder commuter rail. Light rail currently operates between downtown Seattle and Sea-Tac airport, while the Sounder runs from Everett and Tacoma to Seattle.
Sounder rail between Everett and Seattle was criticized in a recent citizen advisory panel report for low ridership.
How to comment
A report on the project is at http://tinyurl.com/c9u7cd2.
Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org.