Sound Transit says it will work to avoid displacing Lynnwood church; council hears about justice center cost overruns

The Lynnwood City Council spent its March 6 work session hearing presentations about plans for the Everett light rail extension, construction costs for the upcoming Community Justice Center and a legislative event that leadership attended in February. The council also interviewed a Lynnwood Arts Commission applicant.

Sound Transit representatives presented plans and route alternatives to the council, looking to update councilmembers and solicit feedback. According to Project Director Eric Widstrand, over 1,600 people showed up to the public meeting March 1 to share their input about future light rail plans. Sound Transit officials said they are considering multiple viable options to avoid displacing Alderwood Community Church after church members shared their concerns about a possible route option that could force the church to relocate

“It was pretty eye-opening to see such a passionate group show up in full force, said Sound Transit Government and Community Relations Director Erik Ashlie-Vinke. “Really, because that’s how much this community cares about their church. Council President Shannon Sessions, who is part of the Alderwood Community Church congregation, thanked Sound Transit for their receptiveness during conversations with church members. Sound Transit will continue to collect community feedback through March 10.

After collecting and evaluating comments, a Sound Transit community advisory and elected leadership group will make recommendations to the agency’s board, which will instruct project planners to study alternatives in depth so they can draft an Environmental Impact Statement for 2024-2025. Several aspects of each alternative will be considered, including the level of residential/business displacement, environment, accessibility and cost. Trade-offs and displacement are unavoidable, but Sound Transit will seek to minimize this, representatives said. 

The Everett Link Extension is planned to be a 16-mile stretch of light rail that would include six or seven stations. It would begin service between 2037 and 2041, depending on available funding. The Everett and Mariner stations would build more parking after light rail begins service in their area.

Councilmember George Hurst asked if the upcoming Poplar Way Bridge was considered during Sound Transit light-rail planning. Widstrand confirmed that city and Sound Transit staff were already considering plans with the bridge in mind. 

Of the stations presented, two stations will be in Lynnwood– Ash Way and West Alderwood. 

At the Ash Way location, one option would be elevated and run along the west side of I-5. The other would be located just below street level and run across the east side of Intersate 5. Snohomish County is planning a new multimodal crossing of I-5, which will make the station more accessible regardless, although that project is currently only partially funded.

West Alderwood Station will have an elevated platform. There are three alternatives for this site, all of which will be located near the mall itself. Option D and F run the same route with different station locations– one west of the mall and the other north. Option B would go through the mall parking lot.

Sound Transit also plans to open an Operations and Maintenance Facility North, which would support over 450 high-skill jobs and contain over 150 light rail vehicles when it opens in 2034. The facility requires 60-70 acres of land close to the light rail system itself, so siting will be a challenge. Ashlie-Vinke said this industrial center is unlike many others because it will be a clean and quiet area. 

In other business, Deputy Chuck Steichen, who is the project manager for Lynnwood’s Community Justice Center construction, presented a change order in the amount of $677,453. The funding request follows several unanticipated construction cost increases, including  existing asphalt being more expensive than established, the need for fireproofed window frames and a recommendation that a vault be waterproofed. 

Councilmember George Hurst inquires about increases in the community justice center construction budget

Hurst asked why a fire evacuation system flaw had not been considered during initial planning.  “The more simplistic answer to that question is that design teams miss things,” responded Steichen, adding that construction projects average about 5% over total cost due to “misses that the design team doesn’t catch.” Hurst replied that the city shouldn’t have to cover the cost of design flaws as there was no error on Lynnwood’s part. 

When combined with previous change orders and sales tax, the project is $5,183,979.72 over its initial contract amount of $56,380,704.52, about 9.19%. Steichen said that city staff and construction company Forma have discussed the project’s budget and progress at length since last summer.

Councilmember Patrick Decker echoed Hurst’s dismay and asked if the waterproofing measures were really necessary. Steichen said he would ask and provide an answer later. Sessions stated that waterproofing was important in that location so she hoped it would be approved. 

The council then discussed its activities at the recent Association of Washington Cities’ (AWC) City Action Days event. The conference with state legislators in Olympia was attended by Mayor Christine Frizzell, Assistant City Administrator Julie Moore, Sessions, Council Vice President Julieta Altamirano-Crosby and Councilmembers Shirley Sutton and Josh Binda. Binda was absent from Monday night’s meeting and did not present.

City officials attended a legislative conference in February.

Activities included an AWC debrief on advocating for your city, a fireside chat with Gov. Jay Inslee, informational breakout sessions on current topics such as affordable housing and equity, and meetings with Lt. Gov. Denny Heck and 32nd District Sen. Jesse Salomon and Reps. Cindy Ryu and Lauren Davis. City representatives described the conference as informative and useful. 

The last major item on the agenda was an interview with Arts Commission applicant Katie Zeitler. Zeitler’s resume lists her experience working in arts education, community outreach and volunteering.

— By Jasmine Contreras-Lewis

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