FILE – Seattle Chinatown

Pedestrians walk near the main entrance to Seattle's Chinatown-International District Thursday, March 18, 2021. The area has seen increased police patrols due to recent episodes of violence and bias against Asians in Seattle and nationwide. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

(The Center Square) – Sound Transit has confirmed preferred routes and station locations for light rail extensions, but not in Seattle’s Chinatown International District where residents say construction could hurt the community.

The routes are a part of Sound Transit’s West Seattle Ballard Link Extension project that has a current cost estimate of $14.1 billion, according to the agency. The project started in 2017 and has a delivery target of 2037. But members of the Chinatown community feel that the agency is moving too fast in planning the light rail extension.

When Sound Transit announced its analysis from the Draft Environmental Impact Statement in April, both the SCID Preservation and Development Authority and the SCID-based supermarket, Uwajimaya, publicly announced opposition to specific routes that Sound Transit has kept as options for future construction.

The alternative light rail routes are a 4th Avenue route with an at-grade alignment east of the existing light rail line that would be under 4th Avenue heading northwest; a 4th Avenue Deep Station option that would be similar to the previous choice but would require the 4th Avenue South Viaduct to be demolished and reconstructed to accommodate the new station; A 5th Avenue choice with an at-grade alignment east of the existing light rail line; and a 5th Avenue Deep Station option that is similar to the same alternative on 4th Avenue.

The SCID Preservation and Development Authority submitted a letter to Sound Transit in late April that described the impacts and challenges that would be caused by these routes.

For the 5th Avenue shallow option specifically, the authority states that construction on that street would close nearby streets that are key to commercial and cultural activity. The construction noise and visual impacts are also mentioned as hindrances to small communal gatherings within the area.

The authority does not believe either of the alternatives on 4th Avenue are great either, saying that the traffic pattern changes as a result of the construction would be damaging due to higher traffic congestion.

“The DEIS assessment fails to account for the environmental health impacts that this increased traffic congestion would have on the neighborhood,” the authority wrote in a letter.

Uwajimaya, located on 5th Avenue in the SCID, sent a 10 page letter to Sound Transit in response to the plans. The company notes that the SCID station is the only station area densely populated by communities of color in the WSBLE project.

“Although we maintain the DEIS does not adequately analyze the environmental impacts of any of the SCID Alternatives, the information provided to date confirms the 5th Avenue Alternative options would once again marginalize this important minority community,” the company wrote.

Members of the Sound Transit Board said last Friday that they  are continuing to study and further engage with the SCID community, along with communities in Ballard and Interbay.

"We recognize the impact this project will have on the Chinatown-International District, and we will continue our conversations with community members to gather information and fully understand their concerns," Sound Transit Board Chair Kent Keel said in a statement. "At the same time, moving forward with a preferred alternative for West Seattle allows us to continue making progress on light rail expansions that will provide a hub for the entire region."

The Center Square reached out to Uwajimaya and the SCID Preservation and Development Authority to inquire if they plan to propose alternative routes to Sound Transit in the near future but received no responses by press time.

Staff Reporter

Spencer Pauley reports on Seattle and the King County area of Washington. He was previously an independent filmmaker and worked on "The Clinton Affair," a documentary series investigating the impeachment proceedings of former President Bill Clinton.