UW News

February 26, 2004

Comments on Sound Transit route due March 11

News and Information

Sound Transit is about to consider another option for a light rail tunnel on or near campus, and the University is poised to provide its opinion.

In December of last year, Regent Sally Jewell sent a letter to Sound Transit asking that they study an alignment on the east side of campus, near Montlake Boulevard, which the University believed would have fewer impacts on research facilities in the core of campus. The Modified Montlake Alignment addendum issued on Feb. 11 is the result of that request.

Gathering comments on the addendum is the next phase in a consultative process that has gone on for at least the past two years, says Theresa Doherty, assistant vice president for regional affairs.

“The University’s goals, in reviewing all of the of Sound Transit alignments, are twofold: First, to protect the University’s activities from disruption during construction and operation; and second, to preserve as much of the campus environment as possible, so that our options for future development and research remain open. The biggest concern to our research community is caused by the trains vibrational and electrical systems impact on research.”

The current options for tunnels include one important alternative added since last fall, called the Modified Montlake alignment. This alignment is on the east side of the campus, near Montlake Boulevard, and would have impacts on some research facilities, but UW officials believe that those impacts would be less than for the original Montlake alignment, Doherty says. A campus Sound Transit Advisory Committee, composed of 40 members from University departments likely to be affected by the tunnels, has been reviewing these options to see which alternatives are most reasonable from the point of view of UW activities including research. They are currently reviewing the addendum.

The letter from Regent Jewell concluded that the West Tunnel two-station alignment, which would bring trains under Brooklyn Ave. NE, would have isolated impacts on research that could be remedied or mitigated, Doherty says. The letter also noted that the Modified Montlake alignment looked “promising” and that more study of this alignment would be informative. The Modified Montlake alignment addendum issued on Feb. 11 is the document that more carefully reviews the issues around the modified alignment.

“No alignment is free of problems,” Doherty says. “We’re looking for ways that we can work together to bring light rail to the University District and beyond, while minimizing the impact on research that occurs here now and could occur in the future.”

The chief impacts that concern the University are from low-frequency vibrations caused by the trains and electromagnetic interference resulting from the trains’ power systems.

Information about the Sound Transit alignments under consideration is at http://www.soundtransit.org/linkrail/central/construct/North/ClNKNorth.htm.  The Montlake alignment is described in a document available at http://www.soundtransit.org/linkrail/central/construct/North/MMRAddendum2-6-04.pdf. UW comments on the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact (DSEIS), which includes comments on the other alignments, including the West Tunnel Brooklyn two station option, are available at the Regional Affairs Web site, http://www.washington.edu/community.

UW comments to Sound Transit focusing on the Montlake alignment will be completed by March 11. Questions or comments should be sent to Theresa Doherty, assistant vice president for regional affairs, tdoherty@u.washington.edu.