Upthegrove: ‘Sound Transit route should align with I-5’ through Des Moines

King County Councilmember Dave Upthegrove said on Friday (April 10) that “the future of light rail in the City of Des Moines (should be) along Interstate 5.”

Upthegrove, a member of the Sound Transit Board, submitted public comments to Sound Transit voicing his support for an alignment along I-5 from Angle Lake to the Kent/Des Moines Station as the best choice for extending light rail south of SeaTac.

“It’s an option where everyone benefits,” Upthegrove said. “The I-5 alignment is cheaper than running the tracks down Highway 99 and travel times would essentially be the same.”

The Federal Way Link Extension project will extend light rail from the future Angle Lake Station at South 200th in SeaTac, which is under construction, to Kent/Des Moines by 2023.

In his comments, Upthegrove points out that an alignment along Interstate 5 through the city of Des Moines is cost effective and respects the City of Des Moines long-term economic development plans.

Upthegrove also states that using the I-5 alignment would maintain estimated ridership levels while still encouraging economic and transit oriented development along the light rail line.


18 Responses to “Upthegrove: ‘Sound Transit route should align with I-5’ through Des Moines”
  1. Brian Athers says:

    I appreciate Dave’s post. The train will be nicely tucked out of view and resurface beautifully to serve our community down the 509 then I 5 corridor. it doesn’t hurt that it is also over $300,000,000 cheaper along this path as well.

    Maybe we can use the money saved for other worthwhile projects or extend the transit further south. I am sure Tacoma would like to eventually get into the mix.

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  2. Dave Kaplan says:

    Thank you Dave! Your early support for our perspective is greatly appreciated.

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  3. MIke Smith says:

    I agree with Dave. The I-5 corridor is already a recognized transit route. The Federaly Way Transit Center is already quite close to I-5 and there is room to spread the station to the I-5. The disruption to traffic on Pac. Hwy will also be in estimable. Thanks Dave.

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  4. Emily says:

    It is unfortunate that our leaders our so shortsighted on the benefits of bringing the light rail closer to the PEOPLE of Des Moines. Not just making it a commuter line to get to Seattle. how about making it a route where people can make Des Moines a destination. What a thought!? so sad. Bring it to 99 and allow for REAL TOD development. The I-5 alignment will do nothing, just look at Tukwila.

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    • BirchCreek says:

      I agree. Wouldn’t having it run down 99 with access to Highline College make more sense? Doesn’t it already run down 99 south of the airport?

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    • Mathew Renner says:

      The I-5 station is better because the Pacific Highway station would cause more house, apartments and businesses to be torn down.

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  5. John Riley says:

    Development will happen where the stations are located. If they are placed along I-5 development opportunities will be limited. While it will hurt Des Moines business during the construction and displace homes/businesses, Des Moines after this is completed will be a much stronger location to develop and prosper.

    As for the Red Line, I would imagine that would go away/reapportioned as the Light Rail will serve that route. Same as Light Rail replaced the old 174/ route that went down International all the way into Seattle Downtown.

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    • Greg Wright says:

      While I agree with the theory, reality doesn’t bear out the premise. The nearest public-access Link station to us is at 154th St. It’s always packed, to the point where it’s difficult to find parking. So it’s getting massive use, and has since it opened — what, six years ago now? There has been zero development in that area.

      Why? I suspect it’s because that mass of drivers just wants to get the heck in and out and gone. They don’t seem to patronize businesses there — at least not enough for entrepreneurs to want to develop there.

      I suspect the same is true at other major Link stations.

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    • Emily says:

      Not necessarily. Development does not always follow light rail stations. You still need to have the foresight to put regulations and economic development incentives in place to encourage the kind of development you want in your community.

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  6. Dave Upthegrove says:

    John- I don’t think anyone is suggesting a station by I-5. I’m suggesting that having the TRACKS between the two stations (both of which will be on/near 99) is the prudent choice. Tracks don’t bring development…stations do. In fact, tracks can harm economic development opportunities. It is extremely unlikely that we will see an ADDITIONAL station built in our lifetime between these two planned stations. We don’t have the money and there is huge regional demand on the system. If a future generation wants to add a station, the I-5 alignment still is so close to SR 99 (4 blocks away at 216th for example) that a station could still be built in a developed area to accommodate transit oriented development, density, connections to other transit modes, etc.

    Emily- Where the TRACKS are located doesn’t impact how close transit access is to the people (like me) who live in downtown Des Moines. What matters is where the STATIONS are located. The Angle Lake and the Kent/Des Moines stations will be on/near SR 99 regardless of whether the tracks between them run a few blocks East of SR 99 in the I-5 right-of-way or whether they run down 99. The preliminary analysis does NOT show less TOD potential with a track alignment along I-5.

    AGAIN, the issue on which I am advocating a position, is where the TRACKS will run between the two stations. The Angle Lake station is already well into construction, and is on SR 99. The location of the Kent/Des Moines station is yet to be decided, but I have heard nobody suggesting an I-5 location for the station. The serious options under consideration are (correctly) on SR 99. By running the tracks in the I-5 right of way, we save money, avoid both temporary and permanent economic disruption to hundreds of small businesses, yet maintain the same level of ridership, travel time, and opportunities for transit oriented development.

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    • Emily says:

      I know how all of this works and I know the potential for a station at 216th. However, there IS the potential in my lifetime. And it is desperately needed at 216th, where there is a large low income population cluster and a HUGE potential for the business park/employment center along 216th (AND amazing TOD). Running the tracks to and along I-5 eliminates this potential altogether. I am not ready to give that up just yet. Maybe you are, but I think it would sad to see the citizens of Des Moines roll over and not fight for a future station at 216th so early in the game. The light rail system is far from complete and additional stations will continue to be built for YEARS to come.

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  7. Dave Upthegrove says:

    Emily- I like your optimism. If you can convince my fellow board members to spend an additional $50 million to squeeze an additional station in-between the two planned stations, when the analysis indicates it will not increase ridership, and when we don’t have the money to even keep our commitment to the voters to get to Federal Way, then I’m happy to vote for it. I spent a year exploring the feasibility of that (I’d love an additional station), and concluded it is not going to happen. I certainly didn’t dismiss it out of hand. If there is future funding secured (ST3), the regional demands on the system are so great that I don’t think the funding priorities will be station infilling on the current line. There is a desire to expand the system…to get to Tacoma and Everett– and to Ballard and West Seattle– and Redmond.

    Also, I disagree that the I-5 alignment precludes a future station at 216th. The station would simply be 4 blocks over– in an area that is developed and prime for future development. It could accommodate density, transit oriented development, and easy connections to additional transit.

    And some of it is just a judgment call, where we all can have slightly different priorities, and I certainly respect that some people will disagree. I’m personally not willing to support the level of business displacement, the level of economic harm to all of the corridor businesses during construction, the impacts to the city’s tax base, and the costs and delays associated with a fight with the city government, when the only benefit that anyone has identified in return is that a very hypothetical future station could be sited four blocks closer to 99.

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    • Emily says:

      Now you sound like a politician! I love it.

      Des Moines never thinks about what could be. It only thinks about how to maintain what is. Its unfortunate, so much potential and so little desire from the elected officials to think beyond the tiny box they have put themselves in to.

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      • Dave Kaplan says:

        Sorry Emily, you must not live in our community. If you did you’d have heard from residents who have made clear that our number one priority into the future is for a sound, sustainable economic base to fund city services. You would have also heard from potential future businesses that buying already undersized lots with a trench for light rail running through it doesn’t work. You would have heard from those already investing in properties in the east side of Pacific Hwy S. that having at 35′ high rail running past their third and fourth floors of what they intend to build (both in terms of sight and noise impacts) wipes out the benefit that the City Council provided in upzoning that area some 15 years ago.

        The fact is that an alignment on Pacific Hwy S does NOTHING positive for Des Moines economically or for its residents; it only has impacts.

        The pipe-dream of a future station on Hwy 99 at S. 216th will never happen. Know why? Because then Link becomes only a slightly faster version of Rapid Ride A. Setting aside that they don’t have $80 million for an additional station (let alone the $120 million required to trench such a station with that alignment … for a total of $200 million MORE), the concept of a station at S. 260th suffers the same issues. Besides, Sound Transit will not spend money on a S. 216th station until they build what the voters told them to in the vicinity of Highline College and S. 272nd.

        There are a number of considerations that go into choosing the best alignment for the City of Des Moines and its residents, and we’re committed to the one with the least amount of impacts, for the most amount of future gain.

        Dave Kaplan
        Mayor & Councilmember
        City of Des Moines, WA

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        • BirchCreek says:

          Mayor Kaplan, So is there going to be a station by the college? I’m not getting a clear read on this from the conversation. Seems like that would be a brilliant idea to promote the college!

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          • Ian says:

            Hi BirchCreek,

            Yes, all of the different options put a station at or within a football field of the college.


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        • EH says:

          You have not listened to the people yet., actually. That is on Thursday. Listen to the people first, Mayor!

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  8. Ian says:

    I agree with the I 5 alignment. It allows for stations placed near both 99 and I5 and doesn’t leave us with a huge track eye sore running down the side or center destroying our businesses existing.

    I lived in Chicago for a number of years. Where the tracks are elevated, the business’ deteriorate under them. Please get the tracks out of site yet have the stations available!


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