LETTER | Sound Transit Needs to Hear from Kirkland

Sound Transit is seeking public input as it moves forward with system planning before a 2016 vote. An Open House is scheduled for Tuesday June 23, 5.30–7.30 PM at the Redmond Marriott. A survey is open until July 8 at http://soundtransit3.org. Comments can also be sent to soundtransit3@soundtransit.org.


Sound Transit has heard from thousands of citizens in other cities, and needs to hear from more Kirkland residents.


The public input is about a Draft Project Priority List. This is the first step in whittling down a very long list of possible projects into something that might fit the revenue authority granted by the Legislature (if indeed Olympia gets around to doing that. The bill is tied up by the haggling over the budget). If the Legislature grants taxing authority, then Sound Transit can ask voters to approve an ST3 plan.


What is Sound Transit planning for Kirkland and the Eastside? The agency studied a long list of candidate projects on the Eastside, but the public has been asked to comment on just three. However, you may ask for projects not on their list, and probably should!


The three projects are:

* Extending East Link to Redmond. With construction about to begin on the line to Overlake, a Redmond extension is the Eastside’s highest priority and sure to be in any plan.

* I-405 Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). This would be a high-quality bus service serving commuters along I-405 from Lynnwood to Seatac, with stops at freeway stations. It's a valuable project to commuters from each end of I-405 to Bellevue, and has been endorsed by regional leaders. But it may do little for Kirkland. The only stop in Kirkland might be at 128th St, which would glancingly serve the Totem Lake neighborhood.

* Light Rail from Totem Lake to Issaquah via Bellevue on the Eastside Rail Corridor and I-90. This is included for long-term planning purposes only. It’s unaffordable once the other two projects are included.


For Kirkland, this is a disappointing list. What should Kirklanders who take the survey ask for?


(1)  Bus Rapid Transit on the Cross-Kirkland Corridor to Bellevue and Seattle. Even though it was left off the preliminary draft list, it would get high-quality transit closer to more Kirkland riders than any other option. Sound Transit’s own studies show that it is feasible and affordable within the expected ST3 package. It would serve trips to Seattle as well as Bellevue. The trail would remain and might be improved at Sound Transit’s expense as it would be improving access to transit. Buses to parts of Kirkland not near the corridor could use the busway for part of their journey. For instance, a bus to Juanita could use the busway to skip traffic between downtown and SR 520.


(2)  Make I-405 BRT better. I-405 BRT isn’t a great solution for Kirkland because few people live near a likely stop. But it's likely to happen anyway, so we want to make the best of it. This means investments in highway stations at NE 85th or NE 70th St, and in Park-and-Rides. If you would use such a station, you may want to speak up for this option and let Sound Transit know where you would like to see more stops.


(3)  Invest in regional express service on SR 520, including in Montlake. Although Metro has deferred plans to reroute the 255 for now, it’s likely that Eastside buses will access Link Light Rail at UW station in future. Many Eastsiders reasonably worry about congestion and delays connecting at UW. Investing in bus infrastructure to make this connection work better will benefit many Eastside bus-riders.


(4)   Spend Eastside revenues to benefit the Eastside. In previous rounds, Sound Transit has followed "subarea equity", so tax revenue in one area must benefit people in that area. That may not happen this time. Snohomish County has an expensive agenda that would require a lot of Eastside tax revenue. Sound Transit needs to hear from Eastside voters that we will not subsidize rail to Everett while there are unmet needs locally. The greatest number of Eastside projects need to be on the Project Priority list.

Dan Ryan