The Sound Transit Board has approved a motion to make a “shifted north” alternative the preferred route for a future light rail station in Seattle’s Denny Triangle.
The “Denny Westlake Shifted North” route is expected to cost an additional $170 million more than the “DT-1” alternative south of Denny Way. The total increase over the financial plan is now $510 million, with Sound Transit expecting additional funding will be required in the future.
The motion mentioned that the shifted north alternative relies on a commitment by the City of Seattle and Sound Transit to acquire property needed for construction near the Denny Triangle area to accommodate off-street construction staging.
The two parties would also explore redevelopment of that property “in a manner that maximizes the value of the surplus property not needed after construction to allow the value of the surplus property to be recaptured by the project,” according to Motion M2023-57.
Sound Transit is going against Amazon’s recommendation of the “Denny Station Shifted West” option. The company stated that this new location, which is in the same block as the current plan, would allow for better access to the Denny Triangle neighborhood during the several years of construction and have less of an impact on the surrounding businesses.
“As the city’s largest private employer, we want and support new light rail stations in Denny Regrade and South Lake Union,” Amazon staff said in a statement. “However, we also know that the last three years have been particularly challenging for the small businesses located in and around the neighborhood and downtown core.”
Motion M2023-57 is sponsored by Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell, who emphasized that the main goal was to keep activity in the proposed construction area.
“In terms of the impacts on small businesses [and] large businesses . . . we think this is about as good as it can get and we’ll look at the alternatives,” Harrell said at the Sound Transit board meeting on July 27.
Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers proposed an amendment that adds the Denny Station Shifted West option into the study of the light rail extension. Somers voiced his concern that there were no available funds for the additional $170 million needed for the shifted north route, saying it would “paint ourselves into a bit of a corner.”
“Shifted West has broad support by the business community, it avoids the impacts to traffic and businesses there, and it potentially comes with the benefit of saving $400 million, which frankly we need in this system by consolidating stations,” Somers said.
This amendment was approved by the board, with notable board members King County Executive Dow Constantine, Washington State Transportation Secretary Roger Millar and Harrell opposing the Denny Station Shifted West station being built in Seattle’s South Lake Union District.
Westlake Avenue would expect to see four years of lane reductions if the shifted north alternative route is followed through.
The Denny Station is part of the West Seattle Link Extension and Ballard Link Extension projects that was first approved for funding by voters in the region in 2016. The current cost estimates for the West Seattle and Ballard Link extensions project total $15.1 billion in 2023 dollars.
The Ballard extension will operate from downtown Seattle to the Ballard District’s Market Street area with nine stations, including the Denny Station. The link extension will eventually connect with the Tacoma Dome’s separate link extension.