Sound Transit light rail open house draws standing-room-only crowd to Mountlake Terrace

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    A crowd of more than 100 interested citizens filled the Mountlake Terrace Community Senior Center on Wednesday evening for the first chance to hear from city officials and project staff about the impending arrival of light rail in the community. The room was lined with poster boards illustrating everything from artists’ renderings of the finished project to maps to timelines to benches, tiles and other design features, prompting a host of questions and comments before the meeting even got underway.

    A major project that will bring years of construction activity and related challenges including traffic delays, parking realignment, tree removal and new plantings, it promises to bring big changes along the I-5 corridor and surrounding neighborhoods.

    Christy Osborn, City of Mountlake Terrace Community and Economic Development Director, opened the meeting by providing an overview of the project permitting schedule and what to expect in the future.

    “Tonight’s open house is aimed at giving you a clear idea of where we are and where we’re going,” she began. “With all permit applications now in the mill, we’re looking to get lots of public input, questions and comments on all segments of the project,” she said, as she pointed out a stack of comment forms in the back of the room, and invited additional comments via the project website.

    This chart outlines permitting activities through the end of 2019.

    She then provided a quick snapshot (see timeline chart above) of the permitting process that will play out this year, pointing to the several milestones leading up to the planned end-of-year submittal of final construction permit applications.

    Responding to an audience question about transit center parking during construction, Osborn detailed plans to provide interim temporary parking at Roger’s Market during those times when the current transit center surface parking will be unavailable and before new temporary parking is created to accommodate traffic.

    Osborn then turned the program over to project manager Chad Oxford of Otak, who walked the audience through more than a dozen maps, renderings, site plans and charts covering the various sections and phases of the project as it moves toward a planned 2024 start of rail service.

    This aerial view shows the route of the ST Light Rail line through Mountlake Terrace between Ballinger Way and 212th Street Southwest.

    Beginning with a large overview of the project covering the area between Ballinger Way and 212th Street Southwest, Oxford pointed out how the light rail route traces the I-5 corridor with a series of elevated and at-grade sections of “guideway,” the term used for the tracks and associated features over which the trains will travel.

    This diagram pinpointed a series of sites along the proposed route, which were covered in greater detail on additional boards.  Explaining these one by one, Oxford illustrated an array of project details, including plans for temporary parking and staging areas for use during construction, cross sections showing the guideway traversing various types of terrain, construction materials, finishing materials, and plans for sound walls and landscaping.

    Oxford then opened up the session to audience comments.

    Questions predominantly focuses on neighborhood concerns about impacts during and after construction including parking, traffic, noise and street closures.

    Parking was an area of particular concern to attendees, with one participant requesting that street upgrades be included in the project, relating how passing bus traffic comes so close to parked cars on her street that they not infrequently hit and break off side mirrors.

    With construction activity being able to operate within the city’s established quiet hours of 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., several citizens who live close to the project area expressed concern about noise, with one saying “how do you expect us to sleep,” as she related how she works an odd schedule and needs to sleep during construction hours.

    Pointing out that measures including construction sound barriers will be put in place to mitigate these effects, Sound Transit’s Government Relations Manager Patrice Hardy said that the agency will also offer personal noise mitigation tool kits including earplugs to any citizens who ask.

    Another group of questions focused on the parcels of land such as the one at 59th Place West that will be used for temporary parking during project construction, but surplussed after completion. In an email to MLTnews, Sound Transit spokesperson John Gallagher said that these decisions are still down the road and “will be consistent with local land use and zoning laws. The agency does expect it will dispose of the area of surplus property on 59th Place consistent with the zoning regulations that the city has adopted,” he said.

    The meeting closed with Christy Osborn again reminding participants of the opportunity to submit comments, questions and suggestions in writing to the City of Mountlake Terrace, attn. Christy Osborn, by email to [email protected], or by phone at 425-563-8687.

    Updated information is available on the project website, including a complete set of demonstration boards from Wednesday’s open house. The website will be continually updated as the project moves forward.

    You can also learn more about early construction work in our previous story here.

    — Story and photos by Larry Vogel

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