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Where will next Sound Transit light rail line go?

Sound Transit ID station PIXLR 1.jpg
A new report pushing for the expansion of Sound Transit light rail in Seattle raises a series of new questions about the feasibility of where to build more spendy mass transit. (photo: KVI Staff){ }

COMMENTARY: Our sister station, KOMO News, reports that a Seattle group is pushing for the next light rail line to be built along the city's Aurora Avenue North corridor. The plan suggested by a group called "Seattle Subway" is very vague, prompting some obvious questions.

Listen to KOMO's version of the story by clicking the image above.

First, how are you gonna pay for light rail to go across the Aurora Bridge? Or are you going to build it across the Fremont bridge at grade level? Either way, that is going to be exorbitantly expensive. In fact, that whole project could come close to the $54 billion price tag of ST3, the last time voters approved light rail expansion to Tacoma, Redmond and several routes within Seattle (i.e. West Seattle and Ballard).

Splitting an Aurora Avenue rail line off from the soon-to-be opened Northgate light rail station wouldn't make any sense unless it can be built all the way south on Aurora Avenue, across the Ship Canal to the south side of Queen Anne Hill to South Lake Union or the existing Westlake station. The costs for mitigating and building across the Ship Canal will be astronomical, let alone the timeline to complete it.

Two, any extra taxpayer money for expanding light rail in north Seattle would be better spent along the Highway 522 corridor (aka Lake City Way). For starters, you could connect it to the nearly complete Northgate station and run light rail out to the Bothell or Woodinville area. That spur would provide far more equity than trying to cross the Ship Canal over Aurora or Fremont. It would also give people in Woodinville, southern Bothell, Juanita and Kirkland an option to park (or bus) and ride into the U-District or downtown area from a spot near the I-405 and Highway 522 interchange. The Highway 522 corridor has potential for being widened from the Lake City neighborhood through Lake Forest Park to Bothell to accommodate both rail and cars.

Three, light rail on Aurora Avenue North is the least of that area's concerns right now. Given all the drugs, crime, shootings, murders and homelessness along the Aurora corridor between Greenlake and the 145th street city limit with Shoreline, that stretch of Seattle needs to solve those problems first before expanding a light rail line that nobody will feel safe riding. Then again, tearing up Aurora Avenue to build light rail might displace a lot of that activity. Maybe that's the ulterior motive of this oddly named group, "Seattle Subway".

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