MLT City Council gets preview of Sound Transit light rail extension impact statement

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Sound Transit logoLight rail train service through Mountlake Terrace is still at least 10 years away, but city officials were told earlier this week that planning for the Sound Transit service is on schedule and about to pass a significant milepost.

Michelle Ginder, the Lynnwood Link Project Manager for Sound Transit, gave the Mountlake Terrace City Council a preview on Monday of the regional transportation agency’s first environmental report on a light rail extension from Northgate Mall to Lynnwood.

“We’re at a big milestone in the Lynnwood Link extension project and that is we are just about to publish our Draft Environmental Impact Statement,” Ginder said. “We’re looking at July 26 for that publishing date.”

“The ST Board will weigh the findings of the DEIS, along with public comment after that is published, to identify which alternative they prefer later this year, probably October or November,” Ginder stated. “And then, once that decision is made this fall we will advance the engineering for the project for that preferred alternative and complete the environmental review process. Then 2015 through 2017 we will begin final design and property acquisition, and construction beginning in 2018 and start of service in 2023.”

Following the publishing of the draft EIS, Sound Transit will begin accepting public comment on the document. The agency will also hold four open houses for the purpose of gathering input from the public; one open house will take place in Mountlake Terrace on Aug. 14, 5:30-8 p.m. at the Nile Shriners Golf Course.

The initial plans for the light rail line are to closely follow the route of I-5 north from Northgate Mall to the Lynnwood Transit Center near 200th Street Southwest. Mountlake Terrace city officials have had a strong interest in the segment of line running through the city limits between 244th and 212th Streets Southwest.

The draft EIS will show four alternatives for the light rail line; all four show the rail alignment along the east side of I-5 from the King-Snohomish County line to the Mountlake Terrace Transit Center. Sound Transit then shows two options for stations; one that “would straddle 236th Street right at the transit center,” Ginder explained, and the second option “would reuse the existing Mountlake Terrace Freeway Station for a station there.”

From wherever the 236th Street light rail station is located, Sound Transit would continue the line north along either the west side of I-5 or in the freeway center median. If the west side of I-5 option is chosen the agency may place a station in Department of Transportation right-of-way at 200th Street Southwest. Ginder noted that Sound Transit has no plans on using Edmonds School District property near the freeway interchange in Mountlake Terrace for a station site.

The light rail extension will end at the Lynnwood Transit Center; there will be an elevated station in one of three possible sites: alongside 220th Street Southwest, next to the transit center, or along the south edge of the Lynnwood Park and Ride.

Sound Transit estimates total costs for the light rail extension to range from $1.230 to $1.510 billion in 2012 dollars. The agency would find some cost savings in the Mountlake Terrace line and station options. Retrofitting the Mountlake Terrace Freeway Station would save the agency between $20 and $30 million over building a new station at 236th Street Southwest; adding a station at 220th Street Southwest would cost $30-$50 million; and running the rail line along the west side of I-5 in Mountlake Terrace as opposed to in the center median adds about $50 million to the project price tag.

Sound Transit estimates the Lynnwood Link will have 60,000-70,000 daily riders in the year 2035. Rider numbers for potential Mountlake Terrace stations range from 1,800 at a 220th Street Southwest station to 4,600 at a Mountlake Terrace Transit Center station along 236th Street Southwest.

Mountlake Terrace Mayor Jerry Smith noted that parking at the Mountlake Terrace Transit Center is already tight. “You can go by our transit station in the morning at 9 and the signs are on ‘full’,” he said. Smith hinted that an expansion of the existing parking garage, or a complete second structure, may be necessary when light rail is operating beginning in 2023.

— By Doug Petrowski

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