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Sound Transit Looks at Moving Planned New Station in Ballard Link Extension Project in Seattle

Sound Transit, Seattle, Ballard Link Extension, South Lake Union, Chinatown-International District, SoDo, Alaska Junction, Puget Sound

By Kate Snyder

As the Sound Transit refines the plans for the Ballard Link Extension Project in Seattle, officials recently voted to approve the allocation of more funds to study potentially shifting the station proposed for Denny Way and Westlake Avenue. In order to mitigate the impact on traffic during construction, the Sound Transit Board of Directors is looking into moving the planned station either to the north or west.

During a meeting on Aug. 24, board members voted to amend the 2023 budget for the project with a $32.8 million funding increase, bringing the total from $630.6 million to $663.4 million. The funds are slated to accommodate the additional study regarding the Denny Way station’s location. Board members initially voted in favor of the further study during a meeting in July.

In those meetings, board members discussed the two potential alternatives for the station, known as Denny Westlake Shifted North and Denny Westlake Shifted West. The Denny Westlake Shifted North station option would allow the construction staging to be on private land at the corner of Denny and Westlake, allowing for Westlake Avenue to be partially decked during construction to mitigate the traffic impacts, city records show. The Denny Westlake Shifted West station option would move the station completely out of the public right-of-way, thereby avoiding impacts to Westlake Avenue. However, if shifted west, the station’s resulting proximity to the South Lake Union station would likely require consideration of a consolidated station due to geometric and technical constraints. 

Amazon previously came out in favor of the west option. In a company blog post, the firm argued that the current plan for a new station would shut down a main artery in downtown Seattle for at least four full years, which the company relies on to operate. The post further stated that the shifted west location, which is in the same block as the current plan, would allow for better access to the neighborhood during the several years of construction.

“As the city’s largest private employer, we want and support new Light Rail stations in Denny Regrade and South Lake Union,” the post states. “However, we also know that the last three years have been particularly challenging for the small businesses located in and around the neighborhood and downtown core….As we’ve all started to see our city, foot traffic, and businesses begin to bounce back, we’re mindful that now we cannot lose that momentum.”

Overall, the Ballard Link Extension Project calls for the addition of 7.1 miles of light rail service from downtown Seattle to Ballard, according to Sound Transit records. The plan also includes a new downtown Seattle rail-only tunnel, as well as new stations between Chinatown-International District and Market Street. It is one part of Sound Transit’s plans for expansion. The other portion is the West Seattle Extension Project, which would add 4.7 miles of light rail service from downtown Seattle to west Seattle’s Alaska Junction neighborhood and include four new stations between SoDo and Alaska Junction.