City Council Submits its ST3 Priorities

Today the City Council sent a letter off to Sound Transit listing its priorities for the upcoming Sound Transit 3 (aka ST3) initiative.

The letter, spearheaded by Council member Rob Johnson and signed by all nine Council members as well as Mayor Ed Murray, makes clear that a dramatic expansion of light rail should be top priority. “We need to connect our regional centers in Tacoma, Everett and Redmond, and expand light rail to more dense residential and employment centers in Seattle, and we need to do it as quickly as we can,” the letter says.

They prioritize the proposed new light rail lines to Ballard and West Seattle, and with that the new light rail tunnel downtown. Additionally, they would like to see light rail stations in the following locations:

  • SR99 and Harrison, serving Seattle Center and South Lake Union;
  • Interbay, near West Newton Street and 15th Avenue;
  • Graham Street;
  • 130th Street in Lynnwood, on the ST2 Northgate line currently under construction.

The City Council also gave the thumbs-up to the proposed Madison Street RapidRide line, to “early transit deliverables” such as adding bus lines now to run along future light rail paths; knowing that development follows transit connections, building the transit capacity now should jump-start development (which is desperately needed to address the housing crisis in the city and region). To that end, the City advocates for an expanded Transit Oriented Development (TOD) program to provide incentives for affordable housing along transit corridors. They also want to see “incentives” for cities willing to expedite permitting and approvals that allow transit development to progress quickly.

While the City Council doesn’t give an explicit thumbs-down to any projects, they did relegate several to an appendix of low-priority projects. Those include:

  • extending the West Seattle light rail line to Burien;
  • extending the Ballard light rail line to Ballard High School;
  • the proposed east-west Ballard to University District light rail line;
  • improvements to the existing downtown transit tunnel to add capacity;
  • funding grants for improved access around light rail stations;
  • research into transit technologies;
  • various studies for farther out light rail extensions.

The Sound Transit board expect to issue a draft recommendation for ST3 in March, followed by three months of gathering feedback from citizens, with a final plan that can be placed on the ballot this fall.