More than 100 Ballard, Magnolia, Queen Anne and West Seattle residents came to discuss the future possibilities of Sound Transit’s ST3 Light Rail project during a meeting at Ballard High School on Thursday, Feb. 28.

During the two-hour open house, Sound Transit employees explained the project and presented large maps and diagrams for residents to view. Residents then had a chance to speak with Sound Transit staff, ask questions and submit official comments to Sound Transit on provided laptops.

Sound Transit began a 30-day comment period in February to help it scope its options for the West Seattle and Ballard Link Extension. March 18 is the last day to provide comment.

There are three options on the table for ST3. For Ballard residents, the big question is how to cross Salmon Bay in an efficient way. The first option — ST3’s representative option — would include a drawbridge over Salmon Bay west of Ballard Bridge, which would continue onto 15th Avenue West. The second option includes a taller, fixed bridge east of the Ballard Bridge, which would then end on 14th Avenue Northwest in Ballard. The final option includes a tunnel under the bay east of the Ballard Bridge that could end either at 15th Avenue Northwest or 14th Avenue Northwest near Ballard High School.

While the most popular option among the group on Thursday was a tunnel under the bay, many worried about the price tag.

“I think (ST3) is good and we are excited to see the plans,” said Ballard resident John Chestnut. “I like the idea of not doing a tunnel because it’s so expensive. I mean, tunnels are nice but I’m leaning towards the fixed bridge. I’m not a fan of a movable bridge.”

“I can understand why at a gut level a lot of people would prefer a tunnel; I am very concerned about using a drawbridge,” said Fremont resident Matthew Thompson. “It also seems like it will be expensive to get a tunnel. And if it’s $350 million to do a tunnel, what else can we do with that money? Maybe we can extend further into North Seattle or create a spur into Fremont.”

Supporters of the tunnel said it would create minimal impact on local businesses and residents, have better predictability and would not affect maritime business on Salmon Bay.

“I think the tunnel would be best,” said Interbay resident Mary Hinderliter. “Even though I admit it would be the most expensive.”

Other residents told Sound Transit employees they preferred the alternatives that had routes through the west portion of Interbay.

“West is best,” said Interbay resident Eric Zoeckler. “We love the light rail, we are not against it in any way shape or form. But people will still be driving, and 15th Avenue West is such a thoroughfare.”

Zoeckler and Hinderliter said they were concerned about the possibility of having the ST3 extension built above 15th Avenue West, as outlined in the ST3 representative option. The other two options show the extension west of the Interbay Golf Center and Athletic Complex, parallel to the BNSF railroad. 

Sound Transit published a Level 3 draft evaluation matrices in January that assesses all three proposed alternatives, including reliability, travel times, connectivity, capacity, demand, feasibility, service, economic impacts, sustainability and modal integration.

Spoken comments can be made at 833-972-2666. Written comments can be mailed to: West Seattle and Ballard Link Extensions, Lauren Swift, Sound Transit, 401 S. Jackson St. Seattle, WA 98104.