Sound Transit updates MLT Council on light rail corridor plans

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By Doug Petrowski

Sound Transit updated members of the Mountlake Terrace City Council on its plan to bring light rail to the I-5 corridor through north King County and south Snohomish County at the council’s work/study session on Sept. 27.

Sound Transit representatives Matt Shelden and Michelle Ginder told councilmembers that the project is currently moving ahead with the Environment Impact Statement (EIS) for the proposed lines and stations in the Lynnwood link from downtown Seattle to the Lynnwood Park & Ride.

The agency hopes to begin light rail service from downtown Seattle to the University of Washington campus in 2016, then to Northgate in 2021, and ultimately service to the Lynnwood Park and Ride by 2023. The link to Lynnwood would include a line through Mountlake Terrace along I-5 with at least one, and possibly two, stations within the city.

Although the ST Lynnwood link will follow I-5’s footprint, the line may need to access what is now some private property. “There will be property impacts; we just can’t avoid them,” Shelden said. “But we are doing our best to really minimize the amount of private property that we need for this infrastructure.”

Sheldon said that home and business owners impacted by the agency’s plans in Mountlake Terrace will be contacted by Sound Transit during the process of drafting the EIS, and then again “a month or two” before formal publication of the document, expected in the spring of 2013.

The proposed line through Mountlake Terrace crosses the county line at 244th Street Southwest along the east side of I-5 and continues north to the Transit Center at 236th Street Southwest. A station is planned for the Transit Center, either in the freeway center median in the current bus flyer station, or elevated above 236th Street near the vehicle entrance to the Transit Center.

The final placement of a light rail station in the Mountlake Terrace Transit Center will be based, at least in part, on available space. A light rail station needs to be 400 feet long — the length of four train cars. “That will be a pretty big structure,” Shelden admitted, and would require extending the current freeway flyer station, and probably adding another pedestrian bridge to the freeway’s center median.

“Right now the bus platform is 130 feet long,” Shelden added.

With plenty of room for new construction across the top of 236th Street Southwest south into the property of the former Evergreen Elementary School, the southern edge of the Transit Center may ultimately be chosen by default as to the preferred location for a light rail station.

From a new station, the light rail line would continue north to Lynnwood either in the center median of I-5, or along the west side of the freeway. If the west side option is chosen, a station may be built at the site of the former Melody Hill School at 220th Street Southwest and I-5.

The Sound Transit Board is expected to decide on a preferred line and station locations during the summer of 2013. Final designs aren’t expected until 2017, with construction is scheduled to begin in 2018.

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