West Seattle and Ballard light rail extensions project: City of Seattle elevates Seattle community interests in our formal comments to Sound Transit, as part of the planning and environmental review process.

People get on and off an existing Sound Transit light rail train in Seattle. Photo credit: SDOT

Editor’s Note (June 8, 2022): We presented to the Seattle City Council on June 7 regarding the City’s draft recommendations.

Recommended next steps include additional environmental analysis, continued community engagement, and other refinements to help minimize project impacts and promote system access for communities throughout the project corridor.

To learn more, please visit our website or view the slides from the June 7 Council meeting. For the latest project information, please visit Sound Transit’s West Seattle and Ballard Link Extensions project website.


While the Sound Transit Link light rail system extensions to West Seattle and Ballard may be years away, important conversations about the planning of future routes and station locations are happening now.

Sound Transit’s West Seattle and Ballard Link Extensions (WSBLE) project is the largest transit infrastructure investment in Seattle history, with a project budget of roughly $12 billion. It is a generational investment that will transform how people get around our region. This Sound Transit light rail system expansion project brings transformative opportunities to advance the City of Seattle and regional goals to expand equitable access to communities and job centers, support thriving neighborhoods and economic prosperity, and continue to provide a wide range of sustainable and climate-friendly transportation options.

At the same time, the many miles of new light rail track and multiple stations which will be constructed through Seattle neighborhoods will impact Seattle residents and everyone who travels through our city. The City of Seattle supports Sound Transit’s overall effort with the WSBLE project, and City staff identified many areas where the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) analysis could be to strengthened to ensure it adequately assesses the potential impacts of the project and needed mitigation.

In 2019, the Sound Transit Board identified a range of light rail alignments and station locations (called alternatives) to study in the project’s Draft EIS. Since then, Sound Transit has developed these alternatives and prepared an in-depth analysis of their anticipated impacts and potential mitigations. The comment period on the Draft EIS was open to the public and other agency partners (including the City of Seattle) for 90 days. The comment period recently closed on Thursday, April 28.

A summary of the City’s comments on the Draft EIS is available on the City’s website.

Over the past 90 days, a team of about 100 subject matter experts from 17 departments at the City of Seattle reviewed the WSBLE Draft EIS and submitted around 1,500 comments to Sound Transit.

People walk along the sidewalk in West Seattle and one person crosses the street at marked crosswalk. Cars and buildings are visible in the background.
The West Seattle Junction will see a new light rail station as part of the project. Photo credit: SDOT

Community values guide us

The future light rail routes will travel to and through numerous communities in Seattle – including West Seattle, Delridge, SODO, Chinatown-International District, South Lake Union, Seattle Center, Interbay, and Ballard. The City’s comments strive to strengthen the analysis and ensure it adequately assesses the potential impacts of the project and identify what should be done to help Seattle’s communities during construction. This will help save time later in Sound Transit’s project planning and design process and help to minimize surprises or delays in the permitting of the project down the road.

While reviewing the Draft EIS alternatives, City staff used guiding principles and core values to show where comments could reflect what Seattle residents and businesses wanted from the project. Community members prioritized these principles and values in a public survey.

Guiding principles for the City of Seattle regarding this program:

  • Dependable Transit: Support efficient and reliable light rail service to your neighborhood that gets you where you need to go.
  • Equity: Race and social justice is the foundation for City decision-making on light rail expansion.
  • Climate Action: Reduce our dependence on cars and give communities real, clean energy alternatives for transportation that reduces our impact on the changing climate.
  • Vibrant Communities: Create opportunities for affordable housing and businesses located near stations that support your diverse community with more places for you to live, work, and shop.

Core values for the City of Seattle for this review:

  • Racial Equity: Promote equitable benefits and avoid disparate impacts to community members, especially in Racial Equity Toolkit-identified communities.
  • Safety + User Experience: Locate and design stations for safe access and circulation that minimizes pedestrian risk, creates a sense of belonging, and leads to greater ridership.
  • Community: Minimize residential and business displacement and impacts to existing neighborhood assets and maximize opportunities to further equitable transit-oriented development and other community-identified priorities.
  • Environmental Protection: Minimize impacts to sensitive environmental areas.
  • Stewardship: Facilitate responsible stewardship of taxpayer dollars by seeking highest benefit for dollars spent and helping keep project on time and under budget.
People gather at the Seattle Center playground near the Museum of Popular Culture (MoPop) on sunny day in Seattle. Kids play on the playground while adults sit on benches and walk along a pathway.
People gather at the Seattle Center playground near the Museum of Popular Culture (MoPop) on sunny day in Seattle. Photo credit: SDOT

Project overview:

The West Seattle and Ballard Link Extensions will provide fast, reliable light rail connections to dense residential and job centers throughout the region. In addition, a new downtown Seattle light rail tunnel will provide capacity for the entire regional system to operate efficiently. These two separate Link extensions are part of the regional transit system expansion approved by voters in November 2016.

  • West Seattle to downtown
    • Adds 4.7 miles of light rail service from downtown Seattle to West Seattle’s Alaska Junction neighborhood.
    • Includes 4 new stations between SODO and Alaska Junction.
  • Ballard to downtown
    • Adds 7.1 miles of light rail service from downtown Seattle to Ballard, including a new downtown Seattle rail-only tunnel.
    • Includes 9 new stations between Chinatown-International District and Market Street.
Map of the Sound Transit’s West Seattle and Ballard Link Extensions project.
Overview map of Sound Transit’s West Seattle and Ballard Link Extensions project. Graphic credit: City of Seattle & Sound Transit

Meaningful community engagement is essential

Through the City’s partnership with Sound Transit, staff have engaged with communities along the entire WSBLE alignment during the Draft EIS comment period. We listened through a range of opportunities including community advisory group meetings, outreach to community organizations and small groups like seniors, childcare centers, and through the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods Community Liaisons program.

The City recognizes that Seattle’s communities each need their own engagement approach, so staff have been responding to community needs as they have arisen, such as:

  • In Chinatown-International District, the City worked with Sound Transit and community members to conduct three station-focused workshops to understand community concerns about project impacts and needs around a process to determine potential mitigation. The City conducted a fourth discussion with King County Metro Transit and community members on draft Draft EIS comments to truth-check before submitting those comments formally.
  • In Delridge, the City and Sound Transit offered a workshop, then adapted the outreach approach based on community feedback to engage community organizations directly and through e-mail blasts. The City, working inter-departmentally and with community is working to build long-term community capacity.
  • As the primary property owner at the future Seattle Center station, the City has helped convene resident organizations and community stakeholders to discuss the project and respond to common concerns.

This important work is continuing. With Sound Transit, we will support further community and stakeholder engagement to inform our position on the preferred alternative and the project. We look forward to partnering in this engagement work, through both the development process and the update to the Racial Equity Toolkit for this project.

People cross the street in the Chinatown-International District neighborhood.
People cross the street in the Chinatown-International District neighborhood. Photo credit: SDOT

Next steps

Using the information we collected through our Draft EIS review and our community engagement, the City will share our recommendations on alignments and station alternatives, support for some existing proposals, the request for more time to do additional analysis, and our ask for some modifications. These recommendations will advance into the Final EIS.

We will be discussing a draft of the ‘Locally Preferred Alternative’ at a Seattle City Council’s Transportation and Seattle Public Utilities Committee meeting by this summer.

Mayor Harrell and Seattle City Council President Juarez represent the City on the Sound Transit Board. They will engage in Sound Transit Board discussions in the coming months around the preferred alternative and additional alternatives or refinements to be advanced for study in the Final EIS.

Ultimately, that is a decision made by the Sound Transit Board. After Sound Transit identifies the final station locations, City staff will work with communities to:

  • Plan walking, biking, and bus improvements to help you get to stations.
  • Identify opportunities for housing, shopping, and open spaces to create affordable, livable neighborhoods around new stations.
  • The City will pay special attention to impacts to communities of color whose neighborhoods often bear the burden of large infrastructure projects.

The City appreciates its ongoing partnership with Sound Transit. Staff are committed to working with them to clarify comments as needed, resolve any issues in partnership, and support the work ahead on a Final EIS.

An aerial view of the ship canal with the Ballard Bridge in the distance surrounded by Seattle neighborhoods.
An aerial view of the ship canal with the Ballard Bridge in the distance surrounded by Seattle neighborhoods. Photo credit: SDOT

How to stay engaged

Learn about the City’s upcoming community meetings and sign up for updates at www.seattle.gov/lightrail.

For more information about this project, please visit Sound Transit’s website at https://wsblink.participate.online/.