Seattle Sound Transit Board Members Propose Improvements to ST3 Package

SEATTLE – Sound Transit Board members Mayor Ed Murray and City Councilmember Rob Johnson introduced amendments to the Sound Transit 3 (ST3) plan during today’s Board meeting in conjunction with other board members around the region.  The amendments effectively expand light rail and other transit services throughout the region.

“These changes are big wins for West Seattle, Ballard, and the neighborhoods near Graham Street and North 130th Street,” said Mayor Murray. “The public told us we need more light rail connections and we want them sooner. This expanded service and shorter timelines will help Seattle grow more sustainably and affordably.”

“As a daily transit rider, I’m proud to have worked with my fellow board members to deliver more transit to Seattle residents in a faster timeline than originally proposed – all while incorporating important public feedback on lines in West Seattle and Ballard, and infill stations at Graham Street, Boeing Access Road, and N 130th Street,” said Johnson, who also chairs the City Council’s Planning, Land Use and Zoning committee.

Murray and Johnson, joined by King County Councilmember Joe McDermott, put forward changes today that are consistent with the stated priorities of the City of Seattle:

  • Fully grade- separated light rail to West Seattle and Ballard three years sooner than the initial plan;
  • Improve access to existing or previous planned routes with new stations at Graham Street, Boeing Access Road, and N. 130th Street; and,
  • Address immediate transit needs with investments in the RapidRide C and D Lines and Madison Street Bus Rapid Transit.

“Today’s decision to expedite the Graham Street Station by five years demonstrates our commitment to social equity and investments in District 2,” said Council President Bruce Harrell, District 2 (South Seattle). “The station will serve approximately 81% of minorities living within half-a-mile of the station. This will significantly enhance access for our seniors, walkability and transit use. I am thankful for the support the community has shown for this project. If it wasn’t for them this wouldn’t have been possible.”

“ST3 is a once in-a-generation opportunity we must not take lightly,” said Councilmember Sally Bagshaw, District 7 (Pioneer Square to Magnolia).  “Our Ballard, Magnolia and Queen Anne neighbors deserve a grade-separated alignment to keep cars, freight, transit and commuters predictably moving.”

“As a city-wide representative and West Seattle resident I am incredibly pleased with the accelerated timelines, commitment to city-wide stations and the expanded service of Rapidride lines in the interim,” said Councilmember M. Lorena González, Position 9 (Citywide).

“I’m thrilled that Sound Transit has found a way to reduce the projected timeline by 3 years to deliver light rail to WS. Additional funding for near-term C line improvements is also a welcome improvement,” said Councilmember Lisa Herbold, District 1 (West Seattle).

“With full grade separation and an accelerated timeline to Ballard, I am happy to see that the ST3 package reflects what I’m hearing from Ballard, Crown Hill, Fremont, Greenwood, Green Lake and Phinney Ridge,” said Councilmember Mike O’Brien, District 6 (Northwest Seattle). “The draft plan remains flexible enough that if our communities continue to be united, I am confident we can make significant improvements even after the passage of ST3, in the years to come.”

The Sound Transit Board is scheduled to adopt these and other sub-area amendments at special meeting Thursday, June 2nd, and send a complete package to voters on June 23rd.  More information about Sound Transit is available online: soundtransit.org

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Seattle City Council meetings are cablecast live on Seattle Channel 21, HD Channels 321 Comcast, 721 Wave and on the City Council’s website. Copies of legislation, Council meeting calendar, and archives of news releases can be found on the City Council website. Follow the Council on Twitter and on Facebook.

Seattle Sound Transit Board Members Propose Improvements to ST3 Package

SEATTLE – Sound Transit Board members Mayor Ed Murray and City Councilmember Rob Johnson introduced amendments to the Sound Transit 3 (ST3) plan during today’s Board meeting in conjunction with other board members around the region.  The amendments effectively expand light rail and other transit services throughout the region.

“These changes are big wins for West Seattle, Ballard, and the neighborhoods near Graham Street and North 130th Street,” said Mayor Murray. “The public told us we need more light rail connections and we want them sooner. This expanded service and shorter timelines will help Seattle grow more sustainably and affordably.”

“As a daily transit rider, I’m proud to have worked with my fellow board members to deliver more transit to Seattle residents in a faster timeline than originally proposed – all while incorporating important public feedback on lines in West Seattle and Ballard, and infill stations at Graham Street, Boeing Access Road, and N 130th Street,” said Johnson, who also chairs the City Council’s Planning, Land Use and Zoning committee.

Murray and Johnson, joined by King County Councilmember Joe McDermott, put forward changes today that are consistent with the stated priorities of the City of Seattle:

  • Fully grade- separated light rail to West Seattle and Ballard three years sooner than the initial plan;
  • Improve access to existing or previous planned routes with new stations at Graham Street, Boeing Access Road, and N. 130th Street; and,
  • Address immediate transit needs with investments in the RapidRide C and D Lines and Madison Street Bus Rapid Transit.

“Today’s decision to expedite the Graham Street Station by five years demonstrates our commitment to social equity and investments in District 2,” said Council President Bruce Harrell, District 2 (South Seattle). “The station will serve approximately 81% of minorities living within half-a-mile of the station. This will significantly enhance access for our seniors, walkability and transit use. I am thankful for the support the community has shown for this project. If it wasn’t for them this wouldn’t have been possible.”

“ST3 is a once in-a-generation opportunity we must not take lightly,” said Councilmember Sally Bagshaw, District 7 (Pioneer Square to Magnolia).  “Our Ballard, Magnolia and Queen Anne neighbors deserve a grade-separated alignment to keep cars, freight, transit and commuters predictably moving.”

“As a city-wide representative and West Seattle resident I am incredibly pleased with the accelerated timelines, commitment to city-wide stations and the expanded service of Rapidride lines in the interim,” said Councilmember M. Lorena González, Position 9 (Citywide).

“I’m thrilled that Sound Transit has found a way to reduce the projected timeline by 3 years to deliver light rail to WS. Additional funding for near-term C line improvements is also a welcome improvement,” said Councilmember Lisa Herbold, District 1 (West Seattle).

“With full grade separation and an accelerated timeline to Ballard, I am happy to see that the ST3 package reflects what I’m hearing from Ballard, Crown Hill, Fremont, Greenwood, Green Lake and Phinney Ridge,” said Councilmember Mike O’Brien, District 6 (Northwest Seattle). “The draft plan remains flexible enough that if our communities continue to be united, I am confident we can make significant improvements even after the passage of ST3, in the years to come.”

The Sound Transit Board is scheduled to adopt these and other sub-area amendments at special meeting Thursday, June 2nd, and send a complete package to voters on June 23rd.  More information about Sound Transit is available online: soundtransit.org

# # #

Seattle City Council meetings are cablecast live on Seattle Channel 21, HD Channels 321 Comcast, 721 Wave and on the City Council’s website. Copies of legislation, Council meeting calendar, and archives of news releases can be found on the City Council website. Follow the Council on Twitter and on Facebook.

Improved ST3 Plan Announced

As a daily transit rider I feel a strong responsibility to ensure that the decisions we make on the Sound Transit board will be in the best interests of our current and future riders. To that end, I am incredibly proud of the work that our staff and board have accomplished with our updated Sound Transit 3 plan. Through rigorous financial analysis from both within the agency and from leading financial experts, we’ve been able to modestly increase the bonding capacity by approximately 8 percent, or $4 billion. We’ve leveraged that bonding capacity to respond to the public request to deliver more projects, and to deliver projects more quickly.

When we asked the public for feedback, we heard many things, including that the draft plan took too long to deliver important projects, especially the added lines to Ballard and West Seattle. And we heard that infill stations like the 130th St. and Graham St. stations needed to be permanent, not provisional, and needed to be delivered faster. With that feedback, here is how we are going to use this $4 billion in bonding capacity to improve upon the Sound Transit 3 draft plan.

First, additional funding allows us to speed up the delivery of new lines to Ballard and West Seattle. The Ballard line, originally scheduled for delivery in 22 years, will now be completed in 19 years. The West Seattle line, originally expected in 17 years, is now scheduled for completion in 14 years. We’re building the Graham St., Boeing Access Road, and 130th St. stations as part of the ST3 plan in year 15.  We’ve also increased funding in early years to help Ballard, Capitol/First Hill, and West Seattle bus riders have more frequent and reliable bus service.

In addition to the projects and timelines released today, Sound Transit’s staff and board are still working on important policy language to be included in the final plan including statements and principles on transit oriented development, project delivery, and station access amongst other issues. In collaboration with my colleagues on the City Council, I worked to pass a resolution earlier this week which outlined Seattle’s project and policy priorities for ST3 and included a commitment from the city of Seattle to continue to work with Sound Transit on ways we can collaborate on permitting, alignment/station location preferences, and project delivery.

I also want to be clear that while the size of this package is increasing from $50 billion to $54 billion, the tax burden is unchanged. This additional funding does not come from new taxes, but rather from improved financial leveraging of Sound Transit’s debt capacity. The recently completed financial work confirmed the feasibility of moving up and modestly increasing the issuance of bonds while remaining fully consistent with the agency’s conservative debt policies, maintaining the agency’s current high ratings and minimizing borrowing costs to taxpayers. The updated results have been verified by three separate financial teams; Sound Transit’s investment banking team, PB Consulting, and Ben Porter & Associates.

Sound Transit 3 will dramatically improve mobility across our region and help us keep up with our rapid population and employment growth. With these critical investments, I believe that the Sound Transit 3 plan represents a huge opportunity to expand access to reliable, high speed transit, while creating tens of thousands of jobs and making our region more affordable. These investments will open doors of opportunity, improve equity, and advance regional connectivity for generations to come.

Let’s Talk About Road Safety

I was upset to learn about the two bicycle-car accidents in District 4 last week – one along NE 65th Street and the other along 20th Ave NE. First and foremost, I wish a quick and healthy recovery to the bike riders who were both transported to Harborview as a result of their respective accidents.  It is clear that critical road safety improvements need to be made quickly across our city to ensure street safety for all – no matter your age, ability, or mode of transportation.

This is now the second serious bike collision on NE 65th Street within one year; with last year’s death and the two current bike riders in critical condition, it serves as a terrible reminder that safety improvements along this arterial are far past due. As I stated last year on the campaign trail after Andy Hulslander’s death, even my young daughters know that this street is fast and dangerous: they argue over who gets to hold my hand as we walk along NE 65th everyday so they can stay as far away from the street as possible. I also mentioned then that we need to fix NE 65th Street before someone else is killed or seriously injured; we have unfortunately missed that mark and simply can’t continue to have tragedy dictate our neighborhood’s safety improvement investments.

My vision to address these safety concerns is to install a fully protected bike lane on 65th Street, along the entire length from Magnuson to Greenlake, connecting projects that already exist or are in development, such as Ravenna Boulevard, Roosevelt Way, the 39th Ave NE Neighborhood Greenway, and Burke Gilman Trail. At the very least, we should install Protected Bike Lanes, from Ravenna to 20th Ave NE along NE 65th Street (as well as the two planned Neighborhood Greenways adjacent to 25th Ave NE that run on 24th Ave NE north of NE 65th Street and on 27th Ave NE south of 65th Street).

Each of these improvements – which could have been a factor in preventing these accidents – can be found in the city’s Bicycle Mater Plan Northeast Sector Map (pdf), but have yet to make it into any revenue dedicated plans such as the “2016 – 2020 Implementation Plan” or the Move Seattle Levy. We need to begin making concrete steps towards Seattle’s vision for a fully connected, safe cycle network and I will work to ensure that we find the funds to move these improvements up the list of priorities.

At this Tuesday’s Sustainability and Transportation Committee meeting, SDOT will be coming in to talk about the Bike Master Plan. I plan on vocalizing my own concerns that were highlighted by the two accidents last week – and would encourage residents from District 4 and across the city to do the same through public testimony.

These incidents bring to the fore the necessary urgency of our actions to make our city streets safer for all users, and we must emphasize investments in critical road safety projects to prevent the next tragedy from occurring.

 

Let’s Take the First Step to Bring Back the Sonics

Today, I voted in support of vacating Occidental Avenue South in order to build an arena that would enhance the City’s image as a world‐class venue for sports and recreation. As with any issue of this magnitude that comes through Council, we have heard from many constituents on both sides of this issue and we have also received numerous briefings to ensure we are well informed. In light of this, I wanted to share my reasoning behind voting in support of the vacation.

I grew up an avid Sonics fan and like so many others in this city, my upbringing is punctuated by different Sonics milestones: listening to stories about the ’79 championship team, being at the Key for the ’96 finals against that legendary Bulls team, and watching Kevin Durant’s last game in Sonics green and gold just over a decade later. In addition to my own love of the game, I believe that similar to Seattle’s arts and cultural institutions, sports teams help knit together the social fabric of a community and play a huge part in a city’s vibrancy and civic pride. Our vote today brings Seattle one step closer to a return of the Sonics.

It’s important to clarify that at this point in the process, however, the scope of our upcoming vote is limited to deciding on the feasibility of vacating one block of Occidental Avenue South – a decision that I explored much more through my urban planning lens than that of my love of basketball and the Sonics. As such, the questions that I have continually asked myself throughout this process have been twofold: is the vacation in the public interest and will the public will receive a long‐term benefit? I believe the answer to both questions is yes.

First, I believe vacating one block of Occidental for the proposed arena will not have as significantly negative impacts on parking and traffic as many constituents have voiced. Analysis shows that ample parking opportunities in the area exist to absorb impacts of vacating this block. And with 30% of Seattle’s total land paved over for roads, I believe that vacating one quarter mile stretch of one street won’t have the magnitude of negative traffic implications opponents suggest.

Analysis also shows that as compared to nearby north‐south avenues, Occidental Avenue S does not carry much traffic and is primarily used as a diversion route during times of congestion at nearby intersections. Any potential negative ramifications on traffic due to the vacation have been addressed through plans in the building proposal. Ultimately, with the Mariners, Seahawks, and Arena Co coming to an agreement on event timing and scheduling, plus the existing and expanding Sound Transit light rail and Sounder service, I feel confident that the SoDo neighborhood will continue to be able to accommodate the projected flow of people and goods.

Second, the list of public benefit projects incorporated into the proposed area plans are extensive and go well above and beyond requirements outlined in SDOT’s Code and Street Improvement manual. Through providing open space, innovative environmental design, enhancing streetscapes along right of ways, installing public art projects, and improving pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure, the arena will provide long term benefits to the entire community, not just sports fans and arena visitors. You can read the full spectrum of the arena’s proposed public benefits here.

Many have suggested Key Arena as viable alternative; while we need to be thinking creatively as a city how to encourage and sustain increased vitality of the Key and Seattle Center as a whole, this legislation and my vote today is not a referendum on the Key Arena. Discussion around Key Arena as an alternative isn’t feasible at this point since no investors have expressed an interest.

Lastly, having a potential NBA and NHL team will help provide vital economic activity in the region during the winter months, ensuring year-round economic development for countless restaurants, hotels, and other businesses and their employees.

For these reasons I voted yes to vacate this stretch of Occidental Street. Let’s take the first step to bring back the Sonics!