The Everett Link Extension will add 16 miles of light rail and six new stations connecting Snohomish County residents to the regional light rail network. (Sound Transit)

The Everett Link Extension will add 16 miles of light rail and six new stations connecting Snohomish County residents to the regional light rail network. (Sound Transit)

Elected leaders narrow options for Everett light rail stations, tracks

The Sound Transit group agreed to stop studying nine station alternatives, but disagreed over some preferred locations.

EVERETT — Elected leaders helping steer decisions for Sound Transit light rail from Lynnwood to Everett have narrowed the options for stations and track routes to study.

Off the table are nine potential station alternatives, four locations for an operations and maintenance facility and two alignment options.

But there’s some disagreement about the best locations for many of the stations, including the Southwest Everett Industrial Center near Boeing and Paine Field.

“It’s exciting to be at the point where we’re narrowing the options a little bit,” Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin said at the elected leadership group’s video conference Tuesday.

When the special district’s voters approved the then-$54 billion tax-and-build measure ST3 in 2016, they backed general station areas and line alignment.

Everett light rail is expected to reach the Boeing and Paine Field area in 2037, later and more expensive than originally envisioned. Without a $602 million funding gap resolved, it won’t get to Everett Station until 2041.

Now Sound Transit staff, a community advisory group and an elected leadership group are evaluating specifics for Everett Link’s 16 miles, six stations, a provisional station and an enormous operations and maintenance facility.

Eventually those groups will make official recommendations to the Sound Transit board, which years from now will decide where the stations go.

Elected officials for Everett, Lynnwood and Snohomish County already weighed in on their preferences for stations in their jurisdictions. Some differ from what Sound Transit proposes as its representative alignment.

Snohomish County supported the Ash Way station on the east side of I-5 near 164th Street SW. Sound Transit’s representative rail alignment is at the existing park and ride, west of I-5.

Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers said his staff still prefers a station east of I-5. It is closer to the Interurban Trail and could lower some costs if the park and ride isn’t demolished to build a station there.

Franklin, Somers and Lynnwood Mayor Christine Frizzell also are on the Sound Transit board.

The county and state are working on plans to ease congestion on 164th Street SW across the freeway, especially for transit. That could spur more dense housing construction in that area similar to what has gone up near the Ash Way Park and Ride.

“We recognize the station and alignment areas are amazing opportunities for us in the county to locate growth,” Somers said.

The SW Everett Industrial Center Station area has four route alternatives and three station alternatives. (Sound Transit)

The SW Everett Industrial Center Station area has four route alternatives and three station alternatives. (Sound Transit)

The elected group supported further studying one option east of Ash Way and one west.

Another station they initially differed on — before agreeing to study all three alternatives — is for the Southwest Industrial Everett Center.

One option is just north of Paine Field on Airport Road. Another is north of Kasch Park Road. Sound Transit’s representative project is between Highway 526 and Casino Road, southwest of the interchange with Seaway Boulevard.

Somers called the station “one of the more interesting areas in terms of potential” because of its proximity to the commercial airport, passenger terminal and manufacturing centers, including Boeing.

But Franklin worries a station closer to the airport would mislead people into thinking they’ll be dropped off at the terminal. It would be at least a half-mile from the passenger terminal’s door, a long walk when carrying luggage.

“When people see Paine Field they think we’re going to get them to the airport, and we’re not,” Franklin said. “No one’s going to get out of these stations at Paine Field and walk a half-mile to the terminal.”

Instead, the alternative should be close to Boeing and Casino Road, “the most impoverished and diverse area” of Everett, Franklin said.

They included the option closest to Paine Field to study further and explain why it isn’t the best choice.

From there, the line would travel west toward Evergreen Way. The community and elected groups concurred with staff to further study the alignment alternatives along north and south of Highway 526, instead of running down Casino Road.

“For all the reasons we want to service Casino Road is why we don’t want the alignment smack dab down the middle of Casino Road,” Franklin said.

Once at Evergreen Way, the elected group backed further study of options north of the highway and others closer to Casino Road. But Franklin argued against the north station alternative, which appears on maps at the southern end of Beverly Lane toward Highway 526.

“It’s a nightmare of a station,” she said. “If you actually go to this area you’ll see what I mean.”

Existing traffic congestion and transit on 128th Street SW loomed over discussion of the Mariner station alternatives.

Snohomish County is looking into building a new crossing over I-5 near 130th Street SW. That could help divert some traffic from 128th Street SW.

“128th is a nightmare now,” Somers said. “It’s a traffic bottleneck and backs up for miles.”

County staff prefer 130th Street SW between Eighth and Fourth avenues because they view the location’s surrounding area as having the most potential for development.

The elected group supported further study of alternatives north and south of 128th, and near 130th.

The northern end of the extension also sparked debate. Franklin said it made sense to put a station close to downtown, one of the city’s major entertainment and retail areas. One alternative near Broadway and Hewitt Avenue fit that need.

Other alternatives are south and closer to the existing Everett Station transit hub at 32nd Street and Smith Avenue.

“That’s the heart of our downtown so it’s worth keeping on the table for that reason,” Franklin said.

Sound Transit needs 60 to 70 acres for the operations facility to support its light rail expansion north of Seattle. The complex would store about 150 light rail cars, compared to similar facilities in Bellevue and Seattle that hold 96 and 104 cars respectively. About 450 full-time employees are expected to work there.

Staff identified eight sites that could suit the facility’s needs. The elected group cut that in half for further study to locations at Highway 526 and 16th Avenue; 16th and 76 Street SW; Airport Road and 100th Street SW; and Highway 99 and Gibson Road.

The West Alderwood station had two alternatives with consensus support across the staff review, public feedback, and community and elected groups. One was along 33rd Avenue north of 188th Street SW, west of Alderwood mall; the other was north of the mall near 184th Street SW.

The Airport Road and Highway 99 station option north of the intersection, which would only be built if and when money is available, had broad support for further study.

Ben Watanabe: bwatanabe@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3037; Twitter @benwatanabe.

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