Residents send wish list to Sound Transit officials

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  • Monday, March 3, 2008 6:43am

By Jenny Lynn Zappala

Enterprise writer

People have different opinions about how to ease traffic congestion. Some people want more buses. Others want to widen the freeways. Dave Kowalczyk, 26, of Mountlake Terrace prefers a little of both.

“You got to widen the highway,” Kowalczyk said. “Not everyone is commuting in and out of Seattle.”

Jim Cusick, 51, insists the real solution is more light rail, electric-powered rail cars that can travel on dedicated tracks or ordinary streets like a bus.

“There is never enough rail for me,” said Cusick of Bothell.

With bright green comment forms in hand, Kowalczyk and Cusick told Sound Transit officials what kind of mass transit services they want by 2030 during a June 16 open house in Mountlake Terrace.

Sound Transit is updating a 1996 long-range plan for mass transit service between Everett and Tacoma. The revision features expanding rapid bus service along Highway 99 and Interstate 405 and extending a light rail route from Seattle to Everett.

It’s not too late to send in your comments. The Sound Transit Board, an 18-person committee of city and county elected officials, is expected to approve the long range plan on July 7. Then it will take months to pick the high priority projects, gather cost estimates and put the list before voters in 2006.

“We will take whatever input we get whenever we get it,” said Matt Shelden, a senior Sound Transit planner.

Sound Transit formed in 1993 to build a mass transit system in Snohomish, King and Pierce counties. In November 1996, voters approved the first package of transportation improvements.

“You are going to have more choices and that is exciting,” said Paul Masten of Lynnwood, a transportation engineer who serves on the Sound Transit Community Oversight Committee. “But it is going to take a long time.”

Light rail service is in the more distant future for South Snohomish County. Sound Transit’s first priority is to link Sea-Tac to Northgate, which could happen by 2009.

Sound Transit considered extending light rail service along Highway 99 instead of Interstate 5, but it would be more expensive to build, according to Sound Transit documents. There are more existing park-n-rides, undeveloped right-of-way space and fewer overhead utilities like power lines to contend with along Interstate 5.

Bus Rapid Transit, which is considered faster and more reliable than a traditional bus service, is what Snohomish County residents will see in the near future. Buses are dispatched more frequently and bus lanes would be linked together to give buses a clear path along Highway 99. Sound Transit would also build more comfortable bus stops with seating and shelter.

Doris Cannon, a Mountlake Terrace resident for 45 years, supports mass transit but she is concerned that transportation projects will disturb old growth trees and endangered wildlife in urban parks. In particular, Veterans Park, Cannon’s longtime passion, is a block from the Mountlake Terrace Park-n-Ride.

“It (Veterans Park) is being invaded by the ambitions of transit and city employees,” Cannon said. “Once the trees are gone, they are gone.”

Sound Transit intends to build a pedestrian bridge from the Mountlake Terrace Park-n-Ride to a freeway station in the Interstate 5 median at 236th Street SW. The project is still on the drawing board.

Steve Goodman, 34, of Mountlake Terrace is not convinced everyone will feel safe enough to ride a public bus.

“There can be a lot of weird people on the buses,” said Goodman. “People want safety and convenience to some degree.”

Kowalczyk is looking for speed. By bus, it takes him about an hour one way to get to his Seattle office.

“I would like a faster option,” said Kowalczyk. “If the train is a faster option, I’m there.”

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