Despite concrete delays, light rail extension on schedule for 2024 opening, Sound Transit tells Lynnwood council

Erik Ashlie-Vinke talks about the recent five-month concrete strike.

Despite a recent five-month concrete drivers’ strike, Sound Transit’s Lynnwood Link light rail project is expected to be completed on schedule in 2024, the Lynnwood City Council learned during its April 18 business meeting.

The update from Sound Transit officials was among several agenda items the council covered during its Monday meeting.

In addition to extending North Corridor light rail from 22 miles to 62 miles, the Lynnwood Link extension project is also set to bring more housing opportunities to the city.

Mara D’Angelo, a manager at Sound Transit, announced that the agency had purchased a 1.5-acre parcel of land within 10-15 minutes’ walking distance of the future Lynnwood light rail station. This land is considered Transit-Oriented Development (TOD), purchased to benefit local light rail riders.

According to D’Angelo, Sound Transit is looking to develop one or two buildings on the land, which will add around 400 new housing units to Lynnwood.

Councilmember Jim Smith voiced his frustration at the number of small businesses that were uprooted to accommodate the TOD project. According to Smith, those businesses were more important to Lynnwood than shorter walking distances to the light rail.

“We really think carefully about displacement and how our TOD projects can help serve community needs and [we are addressing] concerns about displacement,” D’Angelo replied.

Sound Transit is also working with the displaced small businesses to help them relocate if they desire. According to Erik Ashlie-Vinke, Sound Transit’s government and community relations manager, many of those businesses decided they did not want to reopen their doors and have opted to permanently close.

Right now, the project is in its “due diligence” phase, D’Angelo said. If all goes as planned, the housing units will be completed in 2027.

Ashlie-Vinke also commented on the setbacks the Lynnwood Link light rail extension project has encountered due to the concrete strike. Over 49,000 cubic feet of concrete deliveries were missed during this strike. Put into perspective, Ashlie-Vinke said that’s the distance of concrete trucks placed bumper-to-bumper from Lynnwood’s City Center to Sea-Tac Airport.

“Luckily the [concrete workers] came to an agreement to come back to work just a few weeks ago,” Ashlie-Vinke said.

Right now, the project is still on track to be completed by 2024, despite the concrete delays.

Many councilmembers voiced safety concerns about the project, and asked how Sound Transit would address incidents of damage or misbehavior on the light rail.

“Safety is always at the top of our priorities,” Ashlie-Vinke said. “If you’re on a bus or a light rail, text our safety line because we’re right there waiting for you. We want to stop these people that are not doing the right thing, because essentially this is just a means to get people from here to there. We want that to represent who lives in the community.”

In other business, the council received an annual report from the Snohomish Health District. Director of Prevention Services Katie Curtis gave an update regarding health concerns in the county from 2020 to 2021.

Curtis said the district’s top priority is transparency with its citizens.

“We want to advance clean, honest and open communication with everybody,” she said. “We are building toward the future.”

According to health experts, the county has seen a significant rise in syphilis cases in the past year. Curtis said this is likely because individuals either don’t have, or don’t notice, extreme symptoms and don’t realize they need to seek medical attention before they’ve spread the disease to others.

The number of opioid overdoses have remained relatively flat, without significant increases or declines over the past year.

On a more positive note, Snohomish County has seen a significant decrease in youth suicide from 2020 to 2021. The district will continue to closely monitor those numbers as children are moving out of quarantine and returning to normal school settings.

Snohomish County has seen a steady rise in syphilis cases from 2020 to 2021.

Curtis said county health experts are continuing to watch the number of hospitalizations regarding COVID-19 patients as well as preparing for the time when vaccinations become readily available to younger children. 

The district will also be updating its Community Health Assessment, which it does every three to five years. In its last assessment, in 2018, the biggest issues the county focused on were suicide prevention and mental health, substance use and housing issues.

The council also heard from Lynnwood Planning Manager Ashley Winchell and Planner Kirk Rappe regarding Lynnwood Municipal Code (LMC) updates.

According to Winchell, the information packets given to councilmembers are hefty, due mostly to the fact that much of the information is being given twice. 

“We have to essentially show you the full amount of text even if we’re changing one word,” she said. “If it happens to be one word in a piece of code that’s five paragraphs, we have to show you all five paragraphs.”

A few of the amendments listed include adjustments such as changing the word “church” to phrases like “religious institution or place of worship,” and removing restrictions on the number of individuals allowed to live in a house or apartment. 

Previously, an LMC clause stated only five people were allowed per house, but the city is proposing to remove that due to increased family sizes and people opting to have numerous roommates due to rising housing costs. Now, having too many people in a house will no longer be a zoning code violation – only a potential building code violation due to fire safety laws.

Given the large size of the information packet provided to councilmembers, a hearing for this issue will take place in three weeks, during the May 9 business meeting, to give the council ample time to read through and understand all the details.

In addition, the council was introduced to three new applicants for various city board and commission positions – Planning Commission candidate Matt Cail, Board of Ethics applicant Rick Michels, and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion candidate Arra Rael.

The candidates briefly introduced themselves and then answered questions from councilmembers.

Councilmember Shannon Sessions asked Cail how he plans to handle conflict and differing opinions on the commission.

“I try to never take things personally,” he said. “You’re not attacking me; you’re disagreeing with maybe something that I think is a good idea, or not [a good idea]. Beyond that, I do think a lot of it comes down to discussion. And also understanding that not everyone is going to agree on everything, and [understanding] that that’s okay.”

When asked how he would fit into the Board of Ethics, Michels answered he wanted to be there for the people of Lynnwood above anything else.

“I kind of see myself as a citizen’s advocate for whatever issues [arise] that bring up ethics problems,” he said.

Rael said she wanted to help move the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Board forward and use her voice to better the city in any way possible.

“I want to get in, see where we are and then I want to see how we can grow,” she said.

After a nearly three-hour-long meeting, Councilmember Smith made a motion to adjourn before the discussion of the council’s yearly summit in June. The motion passed 5-1, with Council President George Hurst voting no. The discussion will be postponed until an unspecified later meeting date.

— By Lauren Reichenbach


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