How should light rail get to Everett?

  • By Jim Davis <i>HBJ Editor</i>
  • Wednesday, March 26, 2014 10:22am

EVERETT — Light rail has long been envisioned to reach Everett.

As it slowly, steadily makes its way north from Seattle, the discussion is now beginning on how it should get there.

Sound Transit is looking at several alternative routes that would bring light rail to downtown Everett, some going straight north from Lynnwood and others going west to the Boeing plant at Paine Field before turning to downtown.

“Obviously the ones that veer to the west to serve the Boeing-Paine Field area are going to have longer travel times and have higher costs, but it will have a higher ridership,” said Geoff Patrick, a Sound Transit spokesman. “That’s the tradeoffs.”

The agency is conducting a study that identifies the cost, potential ridership and travel speeds for each route.

They’re also looking at alternatives to light rail such as adding rapid-transit bus.

A presentation on the strengths and weaknesses of the alternatives is due to be delivered April 3 to the Sound Transit board.

Everett City Councilman Paul Roberts, who sits on the board, said he wanted the agency to explore bringing light rail to the Boeing plant.

“The largest manufacturing center in the state of Washington, the largest manufacturing center is at the Boeing plant in Everett,” Roberts said. “If this were China or France or Japan, would we develop a transportation system that didn’t connect to the largest manufacturing center in the world? The answer is no.”

Sound Transit is currently working on an extension of light rail north from downtown Seattle that is scheduled to reach the University of Washington campus by 2016, Northgate by 2021 and head into Snohomish County to Lynnwood by 2023.

Voters in 2008 authorized the work under a $17 billion sales tax measure that added bus and light rail service in the area that agency covers. As part of the measure, money was set aside to study extending light rail to elsewhere in the system, including bringing it to Everett.

“These are the early steps to get light rail all the way into Everett,” said Bruce Gray, another Sound Transit spokesman.

The board can use that information to determine whether they will ask voters for another tax measure, Gray said.

“They haven’t said they will do a ballot measure in 2016, but they want all the early work ready and finished so if they want to make that call in 2016 it’s ready,” Gray said.

There’s no time table on when light rail to Everett would be built.

A public comment period on the long-range planning is scheduled for this summer, but the questions that will be asked won’t be about specific routes, but areas that transit should expand to serve.

Roberts has asked for Sound Transit to not only look at routes serving Paine Field, but also to extend light rail north from downtown Everett to Everett Community College.

That’s where city leaders are attempting to bring a Washington State University branch campus.

John Monroe, the chief operations officer for Economic Alliance Snohomish County and a former Boeing executive, said he would expect that Boeing employees would use light rail in high numbers.

“You go out there and talk to the employees and their No. 1 gripe is parking,” Monroe said. “It’s awful.”

He said he has recruited executives from three companies – two European and one Japanese – recently by taking them on tours around the county.

“I drove them over to the Boeing company and they were amazed at the cars in the parking lots,” Monroe said. “‘Those people all drive here every day?’ They couldn’t believe that 40,000 people work there every day and there’s no real mass transit.”

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