Two of the planned Sound Transit Link light rail stations, so far named Ash Way and Mariner, in the extension to Everett are in unincorporated Snohomish County. The county selected its preferred locations in February, but the final decision is up to Sound Transit. (Sound Transit)

Two of the planned Sound Transit Link light rail stations, so far named Ash Way and Mariner, in the extension to Everett are in unincorporated Snohomish County. The county selected its preferred locations in February, but the final decision is up to Sound Transit. (Sound Transit)

Snohomish County picks favored light rail station locations

To anticipate development, the county is suggesting preferred locations 15 years before they’ll be built.

More than 15 years before light rail is extended north from Lynnwood, Snohomish County planners already are looking at the best ways to configure stations along I-5 near the 164th Street and 128th Street exits.

They’re also looking for public input with an online survey at tinyurl.com/y9deyssx.

Sound Transit has the final say about where, precisely, the stops go. But county planners wanted to get a head start on anticipating growth.

Long before stations are built, they likely will transform their neighborhoods as nearby developments rise around the sites. That’s what’s happened in Seattle at Link light rail locations, and it is already happening in Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace, where construction for the Lynnwood extension is under way.

David Killingstad and Jay Larsen are the two Snohomish County planners leading the process.

“In almost every place where a light rail station has gone in, it’s been a catalyst for growth,” said Larsen, the county transportation planning coordinator. “If you don’t start early on these projects, they won’t be there on time.”

Killingstad added: “Setting this table allows us to be in a much better position when this comes.”

The county’s planning department is so far ahead, their submission surprised Sound Transit, which is years from drawing up location preferences to present to its board of directors.

“It’s way down on our radar,” Sound Transit spokesperson Scott Thompson said.

The general locations at 164th and 128th were part of the package approved by voters in 2016, called ST3, which is funding the light rail extension from Lynnwood to Everett. At least six stations are part of that plan — and possibly a seventh stop, if money’s available.

Two of the funded stations are in unincorporated Snohomish County. They are at 164th Street Southwest and I-5, dubbed the Ash Way station, and at 128th Street Southwest and I-5, the Mariner station. The specifics, including on which side of I-5 the stations would be, are still up for discussion.

After an 18-month process, the Snohomish County Council in February approved the county’s locally preferred configurations at Ash Way (east of I-5 near 164th) and at Mariner (west of I-5 on 130th).

The county’s preference for the Ash Way station leaves a lot to be determined, including whether it will be north or south of 164th. When the county’s planners made conceptual drawings of the stations, they put the Ash Way stop north of 164th because of development opportunities, Larsen said.

One reason the county’s favored option is east of I-5, instead of near the park-and-ride to the west, is the proximity to the Interurban Trail and connections with transit. Moving light rail away from apartments and other developments adjacent to bus stops and the park-and-ride lot makes more sense, with a proposed bridge over the freeway.

Another reason the county would like the station east of I-5 is to make it accessible to anticipated growth to the east.

“If you look at the (rail) line in its entirety after coming up from the (King) County line, after Mountlake Terrace, it’s always on the west side,” said Killingstad, who is planning and development services planner.

For the Mariner station, the preferred location is pretty specific, on 130th Street Southwest between Eighth and Fourth avenues west. There is a storage facility and apartment buildings there. If Sound Transit agrees, those structures would be demolished and people who live and use them displaced.

Instead of putting the stop on 128th Street, moving it away from that high-traffic arterial could limit spillover.

“It’s a very congested roadway,” Larsen said of 128th. “There’s already a lot of activity there.”

Similar to their hopes for Ash Way, they’d like another overpass on I-5 at Mariner for bikes, pedestrians and transit, connecting at Third Avenue on the east side of the freeway.

“It gets all of them out of that busy interchange,” he said.

So far, there aren’t any dedicated bike/walk/transit crossings in Snohomish County. But there are direct-access ramps for high-occupancy vehicles and transit in Lynnwood and Everett.

The survey is one of the those opportunities people often claim they wished they knew about. Instead of wondering why the buildings are so tall later, this is an opportunity to talk about how tall, or where, they should even be.

Have a question? Email streetsmarts@heraldnet.com. Please include your first and last name and city of residence.

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