Just four days after the Mountlake Terrace City Council decided to drag its collective feet and delay an agreement that allows light rail construction in city-owned right of way, representatives of Sound Transit made an appearance at the council’s June 19 business meeting to provide an update on light rail station planning at 236th Street Southwest.
After listening to the Sound Transit presentation, described as a preview of what will be shared during a Mountlake Terrace Station Design open house on Wednesday, June 28, Councilmember Bryan Wahl said the council is “committed and excited about delivering the project through Mountlake Terrace,”
“This is the gateway to Snohomish County, so it’s really important to take this opportunity to do it right the first time,” Wahl added.
Wahl and other councilmembers have been vocal in criticizing what they view as Sound Transit’s lack of responsiveness on a range of issues. At the June 15 meeting, Wahl had suggested that the council “drag our feet a little bit” on approving the agency’s request for a right-of-way agreement in hopes of prompting a quicker transit agency response to the city’s concerns.
As a result, City Manager Scott Hugill pulled the agreement off the June 19 agenda.
Among the councilmembers’ concerns: Mitigation for trees lost during construction and the city’s need for additional parking, since the Mountlake Terrace Transit Center parking garage at 236th Street Southwest, which has 900 stalls, is already full by 7 a.m. each weekday.
Wahl reiterated those points following the June 19 Sound Transit presentation. “We are very anxious to resolve a number of issues, including parking, recognizing that many years from now, things may change and people will relying on other modes of transportation,” Wahl said, referring to Sound Transit’s position that it won’t be expanding parking when light rail comes to Mountlake Terrace in 2023. While transit officials have said they hope that commuters will instead take advantage of connecting bus routes to get to the light rail station, Wahl noted that “currently, to be able to make transit work, we’re relying on people to drive their cars to get there and park there and so for the time being, we need more parking stalls.”
Responding to questions from Mountlake Terrace Mayor Jerry Smith, Lynnwood Link Project Manager Gwen McCullough reaffirmed that the agency won’t be providing any additional parking for the new light rail station.
During construction, McCullough said, the 236 surface parking stalls at the Transit Center will be temporarily removed, but Sound Transit will restore them once the project is complete. The agency also will provide temporary parking nearby to make up for the stalls lost during construction, she said. However, once the light rail station opens, “there will not be any additional stalls,” she added.
Wahl encouraged Sound Transit to “think outside the box” in looking for solutions, including possible public-private partnerships with the nearby Gateway development, which will border the light rail station on the south, to create additional parking. Eventually, Wahl said, as society no longer relies on single-occupancy vehicles, it may be possible to transition parking garages into other types of commercial and retail development.
Answering a related question from Councilmember Seaun Richards, project manager McCullough said that Sound Transit officials plan to meet soon with Steve Cox, president of West Ridge Land Corp., which is spearheading the mixed-use development on the nearly 17-acre Gateway site.
“It’s going to be a very busy intersection of multiple construction projects for a few years,” McCullough said, “so we want to make sure we understand and get a better update on the developments associated with construction at Gateway.”
Another worry of councilmembers is the replacement of Mountlake Terrace trees that will be removed during light rail construction. That issue was addressed by Fred Wilhelm, deputy project director of Sound Transit’s Lynnwood Link Extension.
“We understand that trees throughout the corridor are a big concern,” Wilhelm said. “We are going to replace a tremendous amount of the trees we are going to take out.” He added that the agency is working with five different jurisdictions and each one of those jurisdictions has different requirements for tree replacement.
Wilhelm said that the exact numbers of trees to be removed and replaced will be shared during the June 28 open house, but “we are going to remove somewhere around 250-some trees in Mountlake Terrace,” he said. “We are required to plant almost 500 trees” as a replacement, he said.
The light rail station at Mountlake Terrace station is at the 60 percent design phase and construction management staff are now focused on pre-construction issues, Wilhelm said.
The agency will be working with the city to obtain a conditional use permit, which is expected to be completed in November. It is critical that the agency secures all appropriate permits and agreements from involved jurisdictions — including the conditional use permit and the now-delayed right of way agreement from Mountlake Terrace — so it can apply for $1.1 billion in project funding from the Federal Transportation Administration, Wilhelm said. That funding application is scheduled to be submitted in November, and is expected to be awarded in May 2018.
Wilhelm also provided a preview of the Sound Transit station design so far (see the link to the June 19 Power Point presentation here), which will be explained in greater detail during the June 28 open house. It will run from 6-8 p.m. at the Nile Shrine Country Club, 6601 244th St. S.W., Mountlake Terrace, with a brief presentation starting at 6:10 p.m.)
Among the highlights from Wilhelm’s preview:
– Sound Transit has received from the public more than 3,000 name suggestions for all of the stations being planned for Lynnwood Link extension. The name being considered for Mountlake Terrace is simple: Mountlake Terrace Station. The Sound Transit Board, made up of Puget Sound-area elected officials, will make the final decision on station names in July.
– Wilhelm shared an artistic rendering of the light rail site plan, which includes a bus loop and a path that connects the station east to Veterans Park. While station architects will go into greater detail during the open house, Wilhelm spoke about the incorporation of “brows,” which he defined as “sweeping vistas of the city to the north and the south,” into the site plan.
– Renderings were also shared regarding color schemes, including the dominant use of green, representing grass (there are plans for green-tinted concrete, he said), and blue, representing sky in the station design.
– And there were images of what the station entry ways, lobby, platform and plaza areas would look like
Wahl responded that he has concerns about the type of sound barrier that will be used for the station, adding it is “an issue of importance to the community,” and one that Sound Transit hasn’t yet addressed. “I want to make sure we don’t have big concrete blocks that people are coming up (to) and it just becomes daunting,” Wahl said.
“We are anxious to come to resolution on the issues on 236th so we can start to move forward to the rest of the way down to Lynnwood,” Wahl added.
— By Teresa Wippel