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.