If the standing-room-only crowd at Sound Transit’s open house Wednesday in Redmond was any indication, Eastside residents are passionate the future of mass transit in the area. The open house, held at the Old Redmond Schoolhouse Community Center in combination with a King County Metro Long-Range plan public meeting, was one of seven such meetings being held throughout the Puget Sound Region as East Link rail construction begins, and a vote on the $50 billion Sound Transit 3 expansion package looms.
The combined meetings are intentional. “We are striving very, very hard to truly integrate the (Sound Transit and Metro) services” so they feed into each other, Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff said. For example, Seattle bus routes were reconfigured to work smoothly with the new light rail stations at Capitol Hill and University of Washington, and Metro will do something similar when light rail comes to Bellevue and Redmond in 2023.
The population in the greater Seattle area is expected to grow by one million people by 2040, and Sound Transit is trying to build infrastructure to accommodate the future population. Rogoff did his best to deflect audience comments about expensive transit construction and the long construction timeline. Residents voiced concerns about giving transit a “blank check” without seeing immediate returns.
“Our goal is to build for that future so it doesn’t completely overwhelm us,” Rogoff said.
The final light rail stations proposed in the Sound Transit 3 plan, to be reviewed by voters this November, include extending the Bellevue line into downtown Redmond, and eventually building a line to Issaquah, which would be completed in 2041. The downtown Redmond station, however, still is planned for 2028, and is the first among the 11 stations to be completed during the 2028–2033 span.
Meanwhile, some Kirkland residents are upset that their city is being left out of ST3 light rail expansion proposal. In response, Rogoff discussed plans for bus rapid transit along Interstate 405, which would include new freeway stations, separate bus lanes along some stretches, and an option for buses to drive on the shoulder to bypass congestion.
Part of the Kirkland contingent stood out from the crowd Wednesday in bright green “Save our Trails” T-shirts proclaiming, “Keep mass transit on I-405 and not on our trail.” The protesters were miffed about the possibility of running a transit line along the Cross Kirkland Corridor.
Renton also would receive minimal additions in the ST3 plan. If voters pass the measure as-is in November, Renton would receive only more express bus lines, not service by light rail, a detail Renton councilmembers and citizens have complained about at previous Sound Transit hearings.
Sound Transit currently is conducting a public survey on the ST3 draft plan. Sound Transit will consider community input received through April 29; its ST3 plan will be finalized by June, and a ballot measure will be on the November ballot.