Keeping on track: Roosevelt neighborhood coalition pushes for light rail along 12th Ave.

Bundled up in wool coats, mittens and hats, a group of community advocates, transit officials and politicians gathered in front of the Roosevelt Square Starbucks on Dec. 16 for a chilly walking tour of the neighborhood.

More than ordinary sightseeing, the event brought to focus Sound Transit's plans for a light-rail station in the Roosevelt neighorhood.

On Jan. 27, the Sound Transit Board will decide on the exact location of the station. There are two proposed sites: an elevated station alongside Interstate 5 above the park-and-ride lot on Eighth Avenue Northeast, or an underground station in the Roosevelt business district at 12th Avenue Northeast.

The purpose of the walking tour was "to see firsthand the areas of the Roosevelt community affected by potential North Link alignments," activist Jim O'Halloran stated in an e-mail.

"Transit is more than about moving people; it's about building communities," said O'Halloran, who chairs the North Link Neighborhoods for 12th (NLN12), a coalition of neighborhood groups, commercial developers and urban planning experts who oppose the proposed Eighth Avenue station.

According to NLN12's website, they support 12th Avenue because it "complements the Roosevelt Neighborhood Plan, which calls for a town center with a transit hub in the core." They maintain that "Eighth [Avenue] fragments the neighborhood and bypasses the core, where population density is increasing." Furthermore, the design for Eighth Avenue calls for a massive overhead structure stretching more than eight blocks along the freeway.

Conversely, they say the underground 12th Avenue route will have minimal visual and acoustic impacts and will preserve affordable family housing.

A neighborhood blight?

Led by O'Halloran, the tour started at the corner of 12th Avenue and Northeast 65th Street, the proposed site for the southern entrance of the 12th Avenue station. Transit board and Metropolitan King County Councilmembers Dwight Pelz, Larry Phillips and Julia Patterson were among those attending.

During the walk, planners pointed out that several buildings, including the QFC, spanning the two-block distance from 65th to 67th would need to be removed to make way for the 12th Avenue station.

The 12th Avenue underground station would span two blocks, or 400 to 500 feet in length.

In contrast, they indicated that the Eighth Avenue station and alignment might require the removal of an estimated 30 single-family homes, many of which are located along its route.

"This doesn't seem like the sort of neighborhood that would hold that sort of development," said tour participant Corinne Cook, who owns one of the endangered homes along Eighth Avenue.

Cook's neighbor Jennifer Keys said that she was "surprised to learn that the Eighth Avenue station was still on the table" despite strong opposition.

"Putting the station on 12th Avenue clearly makes more economic sense," said Keys, who co-chairs the NLN12 coalition.

Tour participant and community activist Tad Bigelow agreed, saying, Sound Transit's plan should offer a "seamless system that integrates with Metro, the business core and the neighborhood."

"[Twelfth Avenue] beautifully serves the Roosevelt Urban Village; Eighth [Avenue] poorly serves everybody. It will be a blight for everyone that lives there," Bigelow proclaimed.

Cost issues

The NLN12 hope to influence the Sound Transit board to select the 12th Avenue alignment before it make its final decision in January. For board members Pelz and Phillips, the walking tour reaffirmed their support of the 12th Avenue alignment.

"I think 12th [Avenue] makes more sense," Phillips said during the walk. "The tour helps arm us for more discussions for avoiding Eighth [Avenue] and incorporating 12th into the urban center."

In a Seattle Times op-ed piece, Pelz acknowledged that they "must control cost, but also build a system that will support functional, creative urban design." He added that "putting a station at 12th Avenue provides greater opportunities for vibrant and successful development than a station next to the freeway."

Despite the support of some, the NLN12 is still fighting to keep 12th on the table.

"It appears to us that most, if not all, of the board members would like to accommodate the community's preference for 12th, but that cost is a major consideration," O'Halloran stated in an e-mail.

He added that they are urging the board to consider not just the short-term costs of construction, but also the long-term benefits of a centralized station.

Earlier cost figures, O'Halloran said, estimated a difference of $30 million to $80 million between the two routes. But these figures are now "in flux," continued O'Halloran, who hopes that adjustments made to the original designs will significantly reduce the cost differential, making 12th a more attractive alternative.

Sound Transit's updated figures, he added, will be presented at the next community meeting on Jan. 25, two days before the board's final vote.

"There's a real risk to an expedient solution," O'Halloran stated after the tour ended. "It is important that they are fully informed before they make a decision, which will affect our community for generations to come."

As of Dec. 27, the Seattle City Council officially voiced its support of the North Link station/alignment along 12th Avenue. The Sound Transit board will make the final decision.

The NLN12 welcomes those who would like to help its cause; for more information, visit

The next community meeting on the proposed Roosevelt light-rail station and alignment will take place at the Calvary Temple, 6801 Eighth Ave. N.E., on Jan. 25, starting at 7 p.m.

[[In-content Ad]]