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Friday, January 28, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Transit board OKs Roosevelt light-rail site

Seattle Times staff reporter

The Sound Transit board voted yesterday to build a future light-rail station in Roosevelt under the heart of the North Seattle neighborhood's business district.

Less than a year ago, the board was torn over whether to pick that site, under 12th Avenue Northeast between Northeast 65th and 67th streets, or build a cheaper, elevated station several blocks away, at Interstate 5 and 65th.

Yesterday's vote, however, was unanimous. At least two things changed over the past few months:

• The cost differential between the two alternatives shrank.

• Roosevelt neighborhood leaders waged a sophisticated grassroots campaign for the 12th Avenue site. They adopted the slogan "Yes in my front yard," a play on the "Not in my back yard" sentiments that neighbors often voice when confronted with big projects.

"In this case, we have a community clamoring for a light-rail station and embracing the density that comes with it," said Metropolitan King County Councilman Dwight Pelz, a Sound Transit board member.

Jim O'Halloran, president of the Roosevelt Neighborhood Association, called the vote "a legacy decision with 100-year implications."

But he said the community now must face the "sober reality" that Sound Transit lacks money to extend light rail north from downtown through Roosevelt to Northgate. Sound Transit officials have acknowledged it will cost more than the $2.44 billion the agency is spending on the 14-mile line now under construction between downtown and Tukwila.

A new tax proposal could be on the ballot next year.

Sound Transit originally estimated an underground station at 12th would cost $60 million to $80 million more in 2002 dollars than an elevated station at I-5. But recent changes in both station proposals dropped the difference to $35 million to $40 million.

And Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg, Sound Transit's board chairman, said the agency could sell some of the 12th Avenue property after construction to recoup part of the additional expense.

The only less-than-enthusiastic remarks about 12th came from QFC, which operates a grocery in Roosevelt, and Tacoma City Councilman Kevin Phelps, perhaps the Sound Transit board's biggest budget hawk.

William Low, QFC's real-estate director, said the station would force the company to vacate the store it has occupied for 50 years. He asked for help relocating.

While Phelps supported the 12th Avenue plan, he said he feared the public would see the more expensive choice as a return to the way Sound Transit operated four or five years ago, when cost overruns forced it to mothball its original light-rail plan.

Forty million dollars is half of what Sound Transit spent for its Tacoma light-rail line, he noted.

In other action, the board approved a fare increase for Sound Transit's 18 express-bus routes, to take effect in June. Most one-way adult fares will increase 50 cents.

Metropolitan King County Councilwoman Julia Patterson said the boost is needed to keep pace with inflation. But agency critics John Niles and Will Knedlik said higher fares will depress ridership and worsen congestion.

Eric Pryne: 206-464-2231

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company

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