The following press release is from Seattle Subway, a Washington State non-profit dedicated to a city and region fully connected by fast, reliable high capacity transit:
Rail option could provide direct connection linking Ballard, Fremont, U District, Children’s Hospital, Kirkland, Redmond and the Microsoft Campus
In July, Seattle Subway published stories advocating for Sound Transit to study a direct rail corridor connecting North Seattle to the Eastside via a crossing of Lake Washington (published here and here). This Sand Point Crossing would connect Ballard, the University District, and Children’s Hospital with Kirkland, Redmond, and the Microsoft campus. Seattle Subway organized its supporters to submit public comments in favor of this option. On September 25th, Sound Transit unveiled its Long Range Plan Supplemental EIS study corridors which included the Sand Point Crossing as outlined by Seattle Subway
Between now and December, Sound Transit will be studying the costs and ridership potential of a future rail expansion across Lake Washington. This corridor represents a direct route from the major population and employment centers of Ballard, Fremont, the UW, and Children’s Hospital on the Westside to Kirkland, Microsoft/Redmond and Bellevue on the Eastside. The Sand Point crossing offers tremendous time savings and ridership advantages over rail crossing a retrofitted 520 as analyzed in the existing Sound Transit study (available here). The option already studied requires detouring south to a new Montlake bridge, crossing a retrofitted 520 and then detouring north to Kirkland. By skipping this southern detour, the Sand Point crossing saves time, increases ridership, and offers the potential to beat vehicular travel times between major population centers not only at rush hour, but at all hours.
This is not the first time this corridor has been studied. The Washington State Department of Transportation studied the corridor in 1998, prior to the 520 replacement project. Although not suitable for a highway crossing, the department concluded that a rail link in this corridor was a concept “to be further evaluated” and that service between the two urban centers “would clearly have good ridership potential.” This needed further evaluation is what Seattle Subway had advocated for in its public comments and what Sound Transit now plans to undertake.!
“This is a win for Seattle and the region. This means taking a serious look at a fast route between very high density residential and work areas—including the UW, Children’s, and Microsoft,” said Jonathan Hopkins, Seattle Subway’s political director. “These areas already have an overwhelmed transit system and suffer from our region’s most clogged roadways.” Hopkins also notes that the metro region is growing at a rapid pace. “Building sufficient transit makes it possible for companies to bring more jobs to the region, in addition to the 100,000 jobs that Sound Transit construction has directly created since it was formed.”
Sound Transit’s board will decide in December which corridors to add to the agency’s Long Range Plan (which is a financially unconstrained menu of what Sound Transit will consider building in the future as funding becomes available). That said, this is one step closer to building the type of transportation network that this rapidly growing metro region urgently needs. And the public agrees. A survey of residents throughout the Sound Transit area shows that an overwhelming 85% of residents want expanded transit options. In East King Country, 65% of respondents “strongly support” increased transit options. The case for expanding transit, and studying exciting options such as the Sand Point crossing, is clear.