EVERETT — Sound Transit leaders last week narrowed their options for light rail between Everett and Lynnwood that’s eyed to arrive in 2037 amid calls to avoid bulldozing long-standing churches and community centers.
In a 9-0 vote with some members absent Thursday, the Sound Transit board approved which station and track alignment alternatives to evaluate further. A final vote on exact alignment and station locations is still years away.
The decision came almost a week after documents outlining potential displacements of businesses and homes for some of the options were mistakenly published online, as first reported by The Urbanist. The report assessed that currently proposed alternatives could run through existing buildings instead of rights of way, such as streets with light rail above them similar to Seattle’s monorail.
Board member Claudia Balducci, who is on the King County Council, asked the agency’s staff to see alternatives that are “cheaper, quicker” and don’t require as many “takings” for property. The hope is that placing an elevated track above or along streets or other rights of way can avert displacement near high-capacity transit hubs.
Extensive property acquisition, whether by negotiations or eminent domain, can slow a project and boost expenses. Neither result is desirable for a project that has already seen its timeline slip with service not starting north of the Paine Field-area station until 2041 unless money is secured to move it up to 2037.
But some in-road alignments were already considered and dismissed because of public input and technical analysis, Sound Transit North Corridor Development Director Eric Widstrand said Thursday. That includes along Broadway and Casino Road in Everett.
Sound Transit’s official documents give a high-level overview of light rail’s alignment alternatives as the line extends 16 miles from the Lynnwood Transit Center into downtown Everett. That stretch includes at least six stations, with a seventh if money is secured to build it at Airport Road and Highway 99, and the Operations and Maintenance Facility North that needs space for around 450 employees and at least 150 light rail vehicles.
North from Lynnwood Transit Center, where the light rail station is called Lynnwood City Center, the track moves:
• Northeast toward Alderwood mall;
• north toward Ash Way and 164th Street SW near Interstate 5;
• north toward 128th Street SW;
• west toward Boeing and Paine Field along Airport Road;
• east along Highway 526 to Evergreen Way near Casino Road;
• and north along either Broadway or I-5 toward downtown Everett.
The potential alignment and station location for the Alderwood, Ash Way and Casino Road sites have drawn a lot of comments throughout the process that started last year.
Several people associated with the Alderwood Community Church at 3403 Alderwood Mall Blvd., asked at Thursday’s Sound Transit meeting to have their campus spared from bulldozers.
Wyatt Martin, the lead pastor, said the current proposed alignment for the Alderwood station would cut through the church’s property and be a “tragic loss” after operating since 1920 and recently expanding to provide food assistance and tutoring programs.
Similarly, Mill Creek Foursquare Church associate pastor Jennifer Manginelli asked the board to not pursue the Ash Way alternative east of I-5 that could displace the church along 164th Street SW.
The station near Casino Road has drawn consistent concern over displacement of businesses, many of which are owned by people of color and serve south Everett’s diverse population.
Alvaro Guillen, executive director of nonprofit Connect Casino Road, asked the board to not identify a preferred alternative for the Evergreen Way and Highway 526 station. His group specifically wants to avoid the alternative identified as EVG-B, on the site of the current Casino Square strip mall.
“My team and I have spoken about the light rail station with hundreds of people who live and work in the neighborhood,” Guillen said from prepared remarks. “This place is the home of some of Snohomish County’s largest groups of Spanish-speaking households, low-income families, and undocumented people. Many of the people I spoke with are used to being marginalized and left out of public processes, and their experiences have taught them that powerful people will do what they want regardless of community input.”
Lynnwood Mayor and Sound Transit Board member Christine Frizzell’s request to remove the preferred alternative tag there was approved unanimously Thursday.
Everett leaders’ official preference for the Everett Station light rail site is between Broadway and McDougall Avenue closer to downtown near Pacific Avenue or Wall Street. Such a location would be closer to the Angel of the Winds Arena, county campus and city buildings, but farther from the existing services at Everett Station.
The Sound Transit board’s vote dropped a Mariner station north of 128th Street SW and an Evergreen station east of Evergreen and south of Casino Road.
As it moves to the draft environmental impact statement, staff further evaluate the potential consequences of the remaining alternatives.