Back at Northwest Catholic!

I know that I have been remiss with providing new content lately, but I assure you that I have been writing. I have started a new novel that I am over 20K words into, and I started writing again back in the spring for Northwest Catholic.

My latest article is about two students at Christ the King school who were part of a team that developed an award-winning anti-bullying video game.

I have updated my Northwest Catholic portfolio page that has links to all of my articles that I should have been letting you know about when they were first published. Rest assured that I will let you know when I have any new articles published in the future!

Back in business

Hello everyone! The site was down for a few weeks because, well, it was hacked. How and why, I’m not sure (yet). Rest assured, this brief interlude has made me aware of a) how much I missed this site, and b) how much more I need to learn about my own online security. This is one of the subjects I will be expounding upon now that I have my virtual soapbox up and running again.

My Ballard light rail letter was published in the Seattle Times!

While I was at Fred Meyer on Monday, I noticed that the front page story of the Seattle Times was about the Ballard to West Seattle light rail line. The title (“Call to add light-rail tunnels would boost light-rail costs”) and the summary (“Ballard to West Seattle | Neighborhood groups and politicians say tunnels would be less disruptive that elevated routes, but no one has yet identified funding sources for them.”) hinted at potential NIMBYism on the part of those who were suggesting the tunnel options. Desperately wanting to know, I eagerly paid for a copy of the newspaper (I’m not a Seattle Times subscriber at the moment, but I do buy a copy at least once a week) .

After reading the article I was disappointed to discover that the vast majority of it was devoted to the potential effects on West Seattle. I don’t mean to suggest that their concerns aren’t valid, and indeed I wanted to know what was happening there, but the article hardly mentioned Ballard at all. Inspired, incensed, or perhaps a bit of both, I wrote a letter to the editor and sent it off.

To my surprise and delight, they published my letter in the April 4, 2019 print and digital editions of the Seattle Times:

Coming soon to microfiche…? My Letter to the Editor in the 4/4/2019 edition of the Seattle Times.

The letter has received a few comments thus far. I will go over them after the comments close in a few days.

Ballard Light Rail Comments to Sound Transit

I did manage to send in my comments to Sound Transit before the April 2nd deadline. Here is what I sent:

To Whom It May Concern,

I am writing to you in regards to the plans for the Level 3 Alternatives in Interbay/Ballard for Salmon Bay Crossing and Ballard Station. I want to express my strong preference for the “Tunnel crossing/Tunnel station at 15th” option. The two options for 14th will result in lower ridership. The 15th option, while the most costly, is the one that will make the most sense for Ballard in the near future as well as for extending the line in the long term.

My family and I attended the Open House at Ballard High School on 2/28/19. We appreciated the informative presentation and that there were Sound Transit engineers and other experts on hand to answer questions. I was very concerned when I saw that two of the three plans being actively considered would be on 14th Ave NW. We live near 14th Ave NW and we use it every day to get around Ballard, get groceries, and go to church. The “Fixed bridge crossing/ Elevated station at 14th” option, which includes tail tracks, would adversely affect the quality of life in the East Ballard neighborhood. The bridge would be massively out of scale and would also negatively affect the remaining businesses in the industrial area on 14th.

One of the most concerning things we heard, however, was when we asked an engineer how the light rail line would be extended if the elevated station was built on 14th. He replied that when it was extended to Crown Hill it would probably have to go underground before Ballard High School at NW 65th St. This would make 14th Ave NW from NW 58th St to NW 65th St a tunnel mouth. If the long-term plan is to build a tunnel, why not do the right thing for Ballard from the beginning and put the tunnel and station on 15th where everyone expects it to be?

Ballard has borne more than our fair share of development in the past decade. Affordable housing has been torn down and replaced by overpriced, oversized structures while those who can’t afford the rent in Seattle anymore live among us in tents and vans. Densifying Ballard before mass transit was in place has resulted in severe congestion.

Most of this densification has taken place to the west of 15th Ave NW and NW Market St., which now takes several minutes for a pedestrian to cross. If people can just go underground at the intersection to the station it will have much higher ridership. Forcing people to walk that extra block to 14th may make them consider other options. While I know that East Ballard has been upzoned/rezoned as part of the HALA legislation, it will not be as dense even by 2030 to the extent that the area west of 15th already is.

I support light rail to Ballard- I just want it to be done right. 15th and Market is where everyone expects the station will be. I also understand that this option is more expensive, but the benefits of placing the tunnel and station at the optimal location for current and future growth will more than justify the investment. It would be even more costly to terraform our neighborhood to build an underused light rail line.

Ballard light rail comments deadline is April 2nd!

I wanted to remind everyone in Ballard/East Ballard/West Woodland/Frelard that the deadline for submitting comments to Sound Transit regarding the options for the Salmon Bay Crossing and Ballard Station is Tuesday, April 2nd. Please use this link to submit your comments. I haven’t submitted my comments yet, but will post a copy after I submit them.

Kristin Doll’s flyer on telephone pole at 14th Ave NW and NW 60th St., 3/28/19

If you want to read a well-researched analysis of the three options that includes tons of great pictures and Sound Transit diagrams to put everything in perspective, please check out Kristin Doll’s blog post. Kristin is a neighbor who lives much closer to 14th Ave NW than we do and lays out a compelling case for why Sound Transit should go with the “Tunnel crossing/ Tunnel station at 15th” option. If you agree with her analysis (and I do) but you don’t have time to write a letter to Sound Transit, she has helpfully provided a form letter to use.

Kristin has done a great job promoting her post in the area around 14th. I can only hope that enough of our neighbors grasp what is happening right now and submit their comments in time. Will you?

Light Rail Plans and the Possible Impacts on East Ballard

On Thursday, February 28th, my family and I attended the Open House about the West Seattle and Ballard Light Rail lines. Sound Transit has completed three main design options for getting across the water as well as the Ballard station and is presenting them for public comment. There are three options: 1) a tunnel with an underground station on 15th Ave NW, 2) a tunnel with an underground station on 14th Ave NW, or 3) a fixed high (130’ or about as high as the Aurora Bridge) bridge over the Ship Canal and an elevated light rail station on 14th. From what we saw and the questions we asked about the station, two of these options are going to have a HUGE impact on 14th Ave NW. I am going to focus on sharing what we learned about the options, their impacts on 14th, and strongly urge you to investigate on your own and submit your comments before the end of the comment period which has been extended to April 2nd.

-The Facts (as we saw them- I strongly urge you to check out the plans online):
This is a design that shows both station options the elevated option on 14th and 15th. In the original plans, they considered a movable bridge over Salmon Bay near Fisherman’s Terminal with an elevated station at 15th, but that is apparently no longer under consideration due to the effects on the maritime community:

The elevated station would be located at Market and 14th. The additional tracks past the station are referred to as “tail tracks” and would extend in between NW 57th and NW 58th on 14th. The columns will be 45’ high. The tail tracks are where the light rail cars would be switching or turning around. The engineer said that the light rail cars on the tail tracks would be going 5 MPH or less on that part and they would use the latest sound dampening technology. Even so, but they will still be noisy.

Here is another look at the design for the elevated station on 14th Ave NW:

In order to get over Salmon Bay and/ or the Ship Canal to Ballard, they are still actively considering 1) a fixed high (130’ or about as high as the Aurora Bridge) bridge over the Ship Canal on 14th, or 2) a tunnel underneath the Ship Canal with a station either on 14th or 15th. With the tunnel options I assume (but haven’t confirmed) that the stations would be underground, but the fixed bridge would end at an elevated station. Their current estimates are that the fixed bridge will cost $100M more, and the tunnel would cost $350M more. Of course, it will end up costing way more than that.

Regardless of whether 14th or 15th is chosen, the engineer we talked to said that they are planning with the consideration of expanding service in the future to Crown Hill and beyond, which makes complete sense. We asked how the line would be extended if they build the elevated line on 14th. The engineer said they would probably have to make a tunnel at that point, and the entrance would be on 14th before Ballard High School. There might be a stop at NW 65th, but the convenience to the neighborhood would be offset by the noise created by the light rail entering and exiting the tunnel on 14th.

In the sketches, the columns appear to be in the roadway on 14th. When I asked the engineer if 14th was still going to be open to vehicles, he said that was only a rendering and the placements could change depending on what they decide to do. He couldn’t confirm if 14th would still be open to vehicles, but that is still open to debate.

The bottom line is, whichever option is chosen, it will have a massive and permanent impact on the area along 14th or 15th. If you want to get an idea of what an elevated station and support columns will look like, go visit 1st Ave NE from NE 92nd St. to the Northgate Mall. Take a look at the impact construction has had on that area. Imagine how much more infrastructure will be needed to create and support tracks with a sharp enough incline to ascend up to a 130’ tall bridge. Or a tunnel that goes to Crown Hill.

The Sound Transit site with all the information on the project is available here.
Check out all the plans but the ones that are relevant to our neighborhood are called:
West Seattle Elevated/C-ID 5th Ave/Downtown 6th Ave/Ballard Elevated
West Seattle Tunnel/C-ID 4th Ave/Downtown 5th Ave/Ballard Tunnel

Personally, having a tunnel and underground station on 15th would be the least disruptive option for the neighborhood. I don’t think, however, that Sound Transit will subject 15th to this much construction. If they are going to have to build a tunnel in order to eventually extend the service, they will probably do it on 14th, and they might as well do it now. Having a bridge and elevated station on 14th that would eventually have to enter a tunnel before 65th would permanently destroy the neighborhood.

I highly urge everyone to conduct your own research, decide which option you prefer, and submit your comments to Sound Transit before April 2nd. Please tell everyone that you know who would be affected by this. This is the opportunity to make your opinions known while they are in the early stages of conducting the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). While it will be great to have light rail service in Ballard, the majority of the impact on the construction and the permanent infrastructure will be borne by the East Ballard neighborhood, and everyone who lives in the area should be aware of what this actually means.