Expect tree removal as early light rail work begins, Sound Transit tells MLT City Council

Sound Transit’s Rod Kempkes, right, speaks to the Mountlake Terrace City Council Jan. 17. (Photo courtesy City of Mountlake Terrace)

As Lynnwood Link light rail construction gets underway, officials from Sound Transit appeared at the Mountlake Terrace City Council’s Jan. 17 work/study session to update the council and citizens what to expect. A major impact: The agency must remove more than 4,000 trees to accommodate the 8.5-mile light rail extension.

“Primarily the trees are located in the WSDOT (Washington State Department of Transportation) right of way,” explained Rod Kempkes, Lynnwood Link executive director. “The good new is, we are going to be replanting many more trees back than we remove.”

Graphic courtesy Sound Transit

Generally, it’s a 4-1 or 5-1 ratio of trees replanted for those removed, he said. To increase the survivability rate of those replacement trees, Sound Transit will plant larger saplings than WSDOT would do in a typical highway project, he added, and has a 13-year contract with WSDOT to maintain the new plantings.

Sound Transit is moving ahead with construction now that a $1.17 billion grant funding agreement from the federal government — approved in December 2018 — is in place, Kempkes said. Total cost of the Lynnwood Link Project is $2.77 billion, and it is scheduled to open no later than July 17, 2024, he said.

In 2019, Sound Transit will begin what it describes as “early work” in the construction process — in addition to tree clearing, that includes utility work and building demolition.

The main phase of the work — building the elevated tracks (commonly referred to a guideways) and stations — will start in mid-2019 and continue through early 2022, Kempkes explained. At that point, the majority of the guideway will be complete and the track will be in. Then, the project will be turned over the systems contractor, which handles the track power that runs the trains, and the signaling and communications systems, he said.

“That overlaps with some of the completion of the station work and then we start our systems testing,” he said.

A parking garage will open at the Lynnwood light rail station earlier than 2024 to replace parking that will be eliminated at the existing Lynnwood Transit Center during construction, Kempkes said. The existing garage at the Mountlake Terrace Transit Center will remain open throughout the light rail construction, although surface commuter parking located east of the garage will be removed to allow for construction staging.

Sound Transit has applied for an interim parking permit to allow the agency to use the Roger’s Marketplace site to replace the 220 surface parking spaces eliminated during construction of the light rail station over 236th Street Southwest. The agency is entering into a lease agreement with the Roger’s owners to use the parking lot. The former grocery store building will be razed — which Kempkes estimates will happen “soon” — and Sound Transit will then pave the lot and re-stripe it for commuter parking.

Eventually, Sound Transit will build a temporary parking lot adjacent to the current transit center, on 59th Place West, which will replace the surface parking stalls unavailable during light rail construction and will also include a temporary bus loop. Sound Transit still is working to purchase eight properties on the 59th Avenue Place cul-de-sac so that lot can be built, Kempkes said.

Once the 59th Place West lot is complete, Sound Transit will no longer use the Roger’s site, he added.

In terms of construction timing for both lots, Kempkes estimates that the Roger’s parking lot will be ready for commuter use in May 2019. The 59th Place West lot will be ready approximately a year later, he said.

Sound Transit has also submitted to the city an application for a conditional use permit. In addition, city staff is concurrently reviewing building permits for the project, he said. The City of Mountlake Terrace is holding a public open house Wednesday, Jan. 23 on the conditions of that permit application, prior to the.permit’s consideration by the city hearing examiner. You can learn more about that meeting here.

Next steps for construction include demolition of both commercial and residential structures along the guideway alignment. “Wet” utilities — sewer and water — will be relocated by Sound Transit contractors while “dry” utilities such a power will be done by Snohomish County PUD.

Other expected work during the next several months include:

– Demolition of both commercial and residential structures along the guideway alignment. “Wet” utilities — sewer and water — will be relocated by Sound Transit contractors while “dry” utilities such a power will be performed by Snohomish County PUD.

Example of a temporary noise fence. (Image courtesy Sound Transit)

– Removal of existing WSDOT noise walls that conflict with the guideway alignment. Eventually those noise walls will be reinstalled along the guideway to mitigate noise from both the highway and the light rail trains, he said. Before removing any noise walls, contractors will install temporary noise fences — chain link fences with noise-insulating blankets on them. Sound Transit also will have a backup “toolkit” of temporary noise mitigation measures available in case those noise fences aren’t effective, which includes additional blankets on the windows of homes or white noise machines.

– Construction of access roads to access the rail work. “All the elevated guideways, we’ve got to get to the areas where we put in the drilled shaft foundations for the columns and then get to the areas where we have retaining walls,” Kempkes said. “This allows the heavy equipment to get into those tight areas.” Temporary erosion and sediment control measures will also be in place for the duration of the work. After the aerial guideways are put in, contractors will regrade the slopes back to their original contours, he said.

The Lynnwood Link extension was originally scheduled to open in 2023. It was delayed when projections showed the project was over budget by about $500 million, forcing the agency to revisit design of the stations and guideways to find cost savings.

Responding to questions from councilmembers, Kempkes assured the council that these cost savings were focused on construction efficiencies that won’t impact the construction quality. As an example, he pointed to a decision to use finished concrete rather than tile in the Lynnwood Link stations — “less expensive but still very durable, very long-lasting and we think it will be aesthetically equivalent to the tile,” he said.

Kempkes also said that Sound Transit has committed to providing three elements the city requested for the MLT light rail station: A transparent noise wall, additional coverage over some station seating areas, and additional screening on the south stair tower.

Also at the Jan. 17 meeting, the council received an update from Assistant City Manager Stephen Clifton on the Civic Campus redevelopment project.

Clifton explained that cost containment has been a primary focus of the work by the city and ARC Architects, especially given the rising cost of construction in the Puget Sound area. When the project was approved in 2017, construction costs were estimated at approximately $350 per square foot, and today those costs are $400 per square foot, Clifton said. Tariffs at the national level are also increasing the cost of procuring materials, he added.

To help lower construction costs, the foundation will be “squared out” to ensure a more efficient floor layout, the roof structure design will be changed to reduce the amount of wall/siding area, and fiberglass and vinyl windows will be used instead of aluminum storefront windows. City staff is also working with furniture vendors to find cost savings, including possibly purchasing slightly used furniture at reduced rates, Clifton said.

In addition, the council on Jan. 17 discussed next steps for appointing a councilmember to fill the seat left vacant by the death of Mayor Jerry Smith in December. City Manager Scott Hugill told the council that six citizens so far have applied for the vacant seat; the deadline for applying is 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 22.

Depending on the number of applications received, the council will hold interviews either as part of its Monday, Feb. 4 business meeting or on Saturday, Feb. 9.

— By Teresa Wippel


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