Sound Transit provided the Bothell City Council an update on the Sound Transit 3 project, which was passed by the public in 2016, during a special meeting on Aug. 13.
The overarching plan entails 62 miles of new light rail and an additional 37 stations, creating a 116-mile system regional system. The proposed plan would expand the Link light rail north to Everett via Paine Field, south to Federal Way and Tacoma, east to downtown Redmond from South Kirkland to Bellevue and Issaquah and west to West Seattle and Ballard via South Lake Union.
The presentation focused on the I-405 Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and the State Route 522 BRT, which are most relevant to the Bothell area. The I-405 plans seek to connect communities around I-405 and SR 518 from Lynnwood to Burien, with its buses running about every 10 minutes.
It would additionally include a new south Renton center and 11 BRT stations, and connect to the Link light rail at Tukwila, Lynnwood and Bellevue, resulting in faster travel.
The SR 522 BRT connects to the Link light rail at Shoreline South and 145th and includes nine stations. Extra parking would be available at Lake Forest Park, Bothell and Kenmore; other transit opportunities would be provided collaboratively by King County Metro, Community Transit and Sound Transit.
The latter project, however, eventually became the crux of most of the meeting, as plans for one of its proposed renovations might detrimentally impact the Yakima Fruit Market, a legacy business considered a Bothell community staple.
According to preliminary plans, bus lanes would cut into the front of the market as well as most of its parking lot.
Paul Cornish, Sound Transit’s director of bus rapid transit, said that the projects are still in the “planning” phases, which began in 2016 and will continue on until 2020. Cornish said the plans are currently about five percent “level.”
He added that the agency has been reaching out to property owners and tenants in close proximity to project routes and obtaining rights of entry, which are documents that ask property owners potentially impacted by Sound Transit 3 if they can come onto a property to do survey work.
“It’s completely voluntary,” Cornish said. “You don’t have to let us do that.”
In its field work, Sound Transit performs tasks “specific to the site,” like wetland delineation, geotechnical borings and noise and vibration monitoring.
Ongoing one-on-one conversations have begun in coordination with city staff; recently, Sound Transit had a booth at Sustainamania, a city event focused on informing the public about ways to effectively live sustainably.
Corridor-wide outreach is set to continue into the fall.
“We’ll continue it on all the way through our design process,” Cornish said.
Cornish said that the agency has been cognizant about submitted feedback from community members as well. He said Sound Transit has received and taken into consideration the several emails and postcards it has received.
Many of them have been focused on the Yakima Fruit Market.
“We are listening to that,” Cornish said. “We take that very seriously. That’s why we like to have not only the public meetings but the one-on-one meetings.”
Sound Transit is next looking to finish environmental documentation by the middle of next year, at which time the agency aims to see 10 percent completion. Preliminary engineering should begin in 2020.
Final route design, station and public art design and obtaining land use and construction permits are scheduled to occur between 2020 and 2023. Ground breaking, construction updates and mitigation and construction of roadway improvements, parking and stations are slated to start in 2023, with service beginning for both the SR 522 and I-405 BRTs in 2024.
Though both the council and the public voiced an appreciation for the update, the main talking point of the meeting proved to be the Yakima Fruit Market and how it might be impacted by the SR 522 project. The family owned business, which opened in 1938, is famous for its locally culled produce.
Councilmember Tom Agnew urged Sound Transit to take community feedback seriously.
“If you take away what you’re suggesting to take away, that would have a huge impact on that business,” he said. “Please, you know, listen — you said you’re going on outreach. Listen to what the people are saying.”
Councilmember James McNeal’s echoed Agnew’s advice.
“I think community outreach is most important and making sure you’re keeping the community updated on the progress going on,” McNeal said.
The public comment portion of the meeting almost entirely comprised testimonials regarding the Yakima Fruit Market. Karin Poage, who has co-owned the market with her husband since they bought it from his parents in 1970, spoke passionately to the council.
Poage said she received a “generic” letter from Sound Transit about the bus lane project about five weeks ago, which gave an informational overview. Two weeks ago, there was a 20-minute meet and greet with the agency, where she said no solid information was made available “other than that their shovels will be in our ground in 2023.”
“That’s our ground that’s already been usurped twice before for road enlargements,” she added. “We’ve given and given and now we need to ask for the giving in return. My family and I are begging you to help our market remain in place and count down to its 100th anniversary.”
Poage said that she and her family understand that the bus lane is a “done deal.” In a recent Seattle Times article, for instance, the Poages said they hoped that Sound Transit would pay for both the land being used and the remodel of the market needed to buttress the bus lane, not prevent construction.
Poage implored the council and the agency to reflect on the market’s importance to Bothell.
“We certainly don’t believe you can preserve the character and charm of a town by wiping an 81-year-old heritage business off the map,” she said.
Poage concluded her testimonial by begging the council to reconsider.
“Council, we’ve asked — we’re begging you: Please help us,” she said. “Your grandkids and your great-grandkids are going to need summer jobs at the Yakima Fruit Market to pay for their jet packs.”
Monica Bagnell, who has worked at the market since she was 6 and has recently become its safety manager, also offered her thoughts.
“I’ll try not to get too teared up here,” she said, adding that her work at the market is her “first and longest-running job.”
Bagnell said that she wants the council to scrutinize the pros and cons of the project further. She said that she knows that the bus lane needs to happen, but she wants the agency and the council to examine the effects on the community, particularly the loss of jobs and long-standing collaborations with regional farmers.
“I’m just asking that you weigh those pros and those cons,” Bagnell said. “’Cause there seems to be more cons than pros at this point.”