Council prepares its feedback on ST3

The Council is running out of time to give its feedback to the Sound Transit board on the proposed Sound Transit 3 plan, so Council member Mike O’Brien, chair of the Sustainability and Transportation Committee, is racing to complete a resolution summarizing their feedback in time for a vote on Monday afternoon.

The draft resolution, discussed at yesterday’s committee meeting, has no big surprises — especially if you have been listening to Council member Debora Juarez over the pat month. The infill light rail station at NE 130th Street, which isn’t officially part of the draft ST3 plan, got the strong support from the Council and top billing in their list of recommendations along with another infill station at South Graham Street.

The light rail extensions to Ballard and West Seattle also received strong support, including preserving the flexibility to grade-separate the lines rather than run them at street level. Yesterday O’Brien asked for the language to be strengthened to make clear that grade-separation is the preferred approach, as is tunneling under the Ship Canal for the Ballard route.

Several other items also made the list of supported items:

  • a “robust transit-oriented development package;
  • the Madison Street Bus Rapid Transit line, and improvements to the RapidRide C and D lines;
  • planning for future extensions of light rail from West Seattle to Burien and Ballard to the University District.

The resolution also encourages Sound Transit to solicit funds from state and federal sources as well as the private sector to extend and/or enhance the voter-approved plan.

In the spirit of trying to speed up delivery, the Council pledges to develop and agreement with Sound Transit to streamline permitting and other regulatory red tape.  Andrew Glass-Hastings of SDOT noted that the agency would work with Sound Transit between June and October to turn that into a detailed list of actions. Council member Herbold asked that along with that list come an estimate of how much time would be saved, because she is concerned that the same people who are asking for the process to go faster will have concerns when corners are cut. Glass-Hastings gave a ballpark estimate that streamlining will save 1-2 years but it’s unlikely to save more than that. He and the Council are clearly cognizant that some might interpret efforts to expedite the process as an attempt to “railroad” the process through, so they will aim to make it more of finding the right balance between speed and city oversight.

Finally, the Council’s resolution gives a shout-out to Sound Transit for their progressive labor practices. Council member O’Brien noted that he would love to see ST3 adopt the Priority Hire program as well.

Expect to see a final version of the resolution Monday afternoon.