Friday, February 26, 1999 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Rail Route Creates Hard Feelings -- Northern Cities, Rainier Valley, Tukwila Feel Slighted

Seattle Times Staff Reporter

Although the Sound Transit board has chosen a preferred route for the light-rail line that is to be built in the Seattle area, regional disputes continue to leave some communities feeling ill-treated or left out.

And new questions about the impact of the light-rail route arise as details of the route become public.

The Sound Transit board yesterday adopted with only minor changes its staff members' recommended route from the University District in Seattle to the SeaTac area.

The light-rail system is part of a $3.9 billion transit plan approved in 1996. Adoption of a preferred route is far from final, but it was described by Sound Transit's executive director, Bob White, as "an important intermediate step."

The plan faces further environmental studies and approval by the Federal Transit Administration. The FTA's blessing is necessary for the plan to get major federal funding.

Local taxes will pay for most of the system, but Sound Transit is hoping to get $70 million to $100 million a year from the federal government for the next dozen years.

The route approved yesterday calls for a tunnel under First Hill and Capitol Hill in Seattle. The trains will use the downtown bus tunnel, travel south past the new sports stadiums to South Lander Street, then go in a tunnel under Beacon Hill to South McClellan Street. They will then travel on surface streets along Martin Luther King Jr. Way in Rainier Valley, and along Highway 99 through Tukwila to SeaTac.

But those disappointed by the decision include:

-- The city of SeaTac. Although the trains are to have stations at South 154th Street, a new airport terminal and South 200th Street, SeaTac officials had hoped for an additional station near its city center. Sound Transit officials said that many stations weren't needed.

-- Tukwila officials. They failed to persuade the board to reroute the trains to Southcenter.

-- Cities in North King County. Officials from Kenmore, Bothell, Shoreline and Lake Forest Park protested that since the trains weren't going to go as far north as Northgate, their citizens weren't getting anything for their tax money. They complained that they were being left out because they didn't have direct representation on the board.

-- Rainier Valley residents hoping for a tunnel instead of surface trains. Although there was public testimony about a tunnel, the board didn't bring it up. "There is not one elected official willing to fight for our community," protested Michael Washington, a Rainier Valley dentist.

Several attempts to amend the transit plan yesterday displayed the kinds of regional differences that have in the past stymied efforts to build a regional system.

Yesterday, King County Executive Ron Sims and Metropolitan King County Council members Greg Nickels, Cynthia Sullivan and Rob McKenna - tried to get the board to adopt the Southcenter route. They were outvoted by representatives from Pierce and Snohomish counties. Pierce County is eager to extend the line south to Federal Way and Tacoma in the future, and objected to the extra cost and travel time of going to Southcenter.

The five board members who live in Seattle, plus Sims, Nickels and Sullivan, won board approval for a $50 million fund to make the train route more palatable in South Seattle. But they lost a proposed amendment to add an extra station on Capitol Hill.

Copyright (c) 1999 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.


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