Running light rail along Interstate 5 or Evergreen Way through Everett is back on the table.
As approved by voters in 2016, the ST3 measure called for developing the system expansion north from Lynnwood. At the time light rail expansion east, north, south and west, Sounder service increases and bus rapid transit development, was estimated to cost $53.8 billion and reach Everett by 2036.
Another $6 billion is needed now after updated projections, and light rail may not reach north Everett until 2041.
The agency is in early phases to study station and track locations, called alternatives. Service on the 16-mile, six-station extension is estimated to reach the area near Boeing and Paine Field by 2037 and Everett Station by 2041. A projected $600 million funding gap is behind the opening date gap.
The ballot-presented route, called the representative alignment, generally followed I-5 with a “spur” to the Boeing and Paine Field area via Airport Road. Then it ran east along Casino Road or Highway 526 and into north Everett.
That remains the leading option at least among elected leaders who in April pruned nine potential station options, four sites for the operations and maintenance facility and two alignments.
But after public input from the winter and the agency’s board seeking ways to cut costs, Sound Transit announced additional track alignment options last week.
One follows I-5 north from the station near 128th Street SW with a shorter spur to the Everett Mall, then back to the freeway.
The other heads west from 128th to Airport Road and Highway 99, then runs north along Evergreen Way before turning east to the freeway again.
“We reviewed all early scoping comments, listened to this feedback, considered Sound Transit Board direction to look for cost savings, and are now studying these two new alternatives in the Level 2 analysis,” a Sound Transit email notice stated.
Sound Transit’s Snohomish County elected leaders have pushed for the line to reach the Boeing area, called the Southwest Everett Industrial Center station. It could serve the area dotted with aerospace companies as well as the Paine Field airport.
But it adds cost and travel time. In 2015, staff estimated it was almost $2 billion more than sticking to I-5 and added 13 minutes.
Snohomish County’s elected officials have continued to support the spur to serve the major employment center and because of the commercial and residential construction potential of the areas it would reach.
“We recognize the station and alignment areas are amazing opportunities for us in the county to locate growth,” Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers, a Sound Transit board member, said during an elected leadership group meeting in April.
Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin, who serves on the Sound Transit board, has touted the need for light rail reaching that area because it has at least 30,000 workers. More specifically, as a member of the Everett Link elected leadership group she noted the nearby Westmont neighborhood being the city’s most diverse when supporting the station alternative closest to Highway 526.
The other alternative would follow 128th Street SW west to Highway 99 at Airport Road, then north to Casino Road. When money is available, Sound Transit could build a station at the Airport Road intersection.
From there to Casino Road, it’s about 3 miles.
Light rail there could face issues seen in south Seattle, where most of it is at-grade with pedestrians and vehicles. Unless the agency pursues more expensive options like the elevated station and track at Northgate Station or underground like those in downtown Seattle.
Four options, down from six earlier this year, for the Operations and Maintenance Facility North are being evaluated. The facility will house 150 light rail cars and about 450 full-time employees. It needs 60 to 70 acres.
Early public input had more support for sites at Airport Road and 94th Street SW and Airport Road and 100th Street SW.
Sound Transit staff are analyzing the technical aspects of the alternatives and could report that information later this year. Then public input would be sought on which options to advance for environmental review.
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